The Barna Group recently ran a survey on the cities that had the highest percentage of churchgoers who attended mega churches.
The national average was 10%. So in cities that have mega churches, 10% of the people who attend church go to a mega church.
Now I have reported before that Dallas, Texas is the mega church capital of the world, which means that there are more mega churches per capita than anywhere else in the world, but interestingly, Dallas only came in fourth place for mega church attendance by percentage of people who attend church.
What city got the #1 Spot?
Las Vegas, Nevada . Yes, Sin City.
In Las Vegas, 29% of church attenders attend a mega church.
I am not sure why this is, though it would be interesting for someone to do a follow-up study and see.
But I have a sneaking suspicion that is a connection between the things that Las Vegas is known for, and the things that mega churches do so well.
No, not gambling and prostitution!
I have been critical of mega churches in the past, but have not gone that far! There are three parallels between mega churches and Sin City.
1. Glitz, Glamour, and Celebrities
One thing that Las Vegas is known for, it is glitz, glamour, and celebrities. And mega churches are known for putting on a good show, which is full of glitz, glamour, and celebrities. Some churches even give away jackpot prizes like cars and free vacations for people who attend on certain occasions. Kind of sounds like a casino…
Also, city slogan of Las Vegas tourism, “What happens here, stays here” can also be true of the church. We often compartmentalize our church activity with the rest of our life. Many Christians feel that what happens on Sunday morning stays in the church building when they go home afterwards, and begin their work week on Monday.
This is especially true of mega churches, where the day-in-day-out and weekly interaction with other church members can easily be avoided and minimized.
Somewhat related to #2, Las Vegas allows people to act and behave in ways they never would if they were among their regular friends and neighbors back home. You can take on alternative personalities and behaviors at Las Vegas, and act out in ways that you could never do anywhere else. This same thing can happen in a church, and especially mega churches.
Mega churches are perfect places to put on a good show of being a follower of Jesus. You can shout, you can cry, you can dance, you can carry your Bible, and do all sorts of “Christian” things that have no connection with who you really are at home, at work, or among your friends. You can act our your spiritual life in a perfectly anonymous way. You can remain nameless in a church if you want to, fulfilling your “religious obligation” by walking through a door and sitting in a pew for an hour, without having to commit to other people or be accountable for your actions elsewhere.
These Things Happen in Small Churches Too
I am not saying the three things above do not happen in small churches, or even in house churches. They do. But it is much more difficult to put on a good show, to compartmentalize your life, and to remain anonymous.
Have you had experience in a mega church? I have, and to be honest, most of my experiences were actually quite positive. But tell us about your experiences in the comments below, and whether or not you think there is a connection between what Las Vegas is known for and what mega churches (often) do best.