Change is coming to American megachurches — those behemoths for believers that now dot the religious landscape.
There are more participants in megachurch worship than ever.
“Last weekend 1 in 10 adults and children who went to a Protestant church went to a megachurch — about 5 million people,” said Warren Bird, director of research for Leadership Network and co-author of a megachurch study released Dec. 2.
But individual attendance is down to once or twice a month — or less.
Actor David Oyelowo, who played the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., in Selma, turns to a dramatically different role in Captive, where he portrays Atlanta murderer and kidnapper Brian Nichols. In the movie, which premieres Sept. 18 and is based on a true story, Nichols’ captive reads him portions of Rick Warren’s book The Purpose Driven Life.
Oyelowo, 39, a British-born son of Nigerian parents, talked to Religion News Service about his Christian faith and his varied acting roles.
The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: You spoke of feeling called to portray the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma. How do you compare saying yes to that role and accepting the role of murderer and kidnapper Brian Nichols?
A: One is a man who is about peace and who is about justice. The other is about a man who has committed a heinous injustice against other people. But the reason I felt called to both is that both films, both characters in a sense, show the power of the grace of God. In terms of Dr. King, this is a man who professed love in the face of hatred, and in terms of Brian Nichols, this is a man that, even though he operates in a very dark way, God still used him, especially in the life of Ashley Smith, who partly attributes her salvation from drugs and a very dark life to Brian Nichols, who took her hostage that night.
U.S. religious congregations are marching to their own drums now more than ever.
- Open their doors to gays and lesbians in active membership and in leadership.
- Show racial and ethnic diversity in the pews.
- Encourage hand-waving, amen-shouting, and dancing-in-the-aisles during worship.
- Disconnect from denominational ties doctrines and rules that might slow or block change.
The study, released Thursday (Sept. 11), draws on interviews with leaders at 1,331 nationally representative congregations and updates data from 1998 and 2006 studies. Non-Christian congregations were included in the study but there are too few for statistical analysis by topics.
The number of congregations that host worship services at more than one physical location has grown to more than 5,000 in the last decade, according to a new report.
Researchers say these "multisite" churches, which may share worshippers across town or many miles apart, are growing at a much larger pace than traditional megachurches.
Without the burden of additional expensive buildings, congregations find they grow faster in new places, said Warren Bird, research director of Leadership Network, who announced his conclusions on Tuesday.
“It’s a combination of both evangelism and saying, `People may not come to this particular building. How can we take where we are to where they are?'” he told Religion News Service.