This starts my new thing on Evangelical church organization. If you’re not interested in American Evangelicals, you may be lost.
Megachurches are most highly liturgical of any church. Those with televised satellite churches are even more so.
Confused? Thought that megachurches eschewed liturgy for free and loose? Here’s why I say this.
Liturgy is the branding of the church of the middle ages. If you went to another town, you could be assured that the church there would be following the same procedures, same church service organization and the same words. There was really very little that was different. Homilies or sermons may be different but the readings, the songs, the chants, the refrains — all of this was the same.
If you think that “liturgy” means “incense and chants”, you’re mistaken. Liturgy means “a prescribed form or set of forms for public religious worship”. And if you think about it, you can see that the megachurch has the most prescribed forms for worship in modern American Protestantism.
When the megachurch has satellite churches, the liturgical nature becomes pronounced. Every church, no matter how far apart, sings the same songs. They make almost the same announcements. They read the same scriptures (if any). Even the sermons are prescribed, for what can be more prescribed than giving you a video transcription or live feed to use. What the main church decides should happen is then put upon the satellite churches, who have little to no input into this decision making.
People follow the leader in set forms. The lifting of hands, which is either allowed or tolerated in most of these, can only go so far. Speaking in tongues is at best frowned upon. Dancing is considered disturbing. You sit and stand in predetermined patterns. Kids are either allowed or not (usually not). It’s all really very tightly controlled and prescribed. You’d be hard pressed to find a set of Roman Catholic church that had as tight a worship program as a megachurch with satellite churches.
This isn’t a condemnation. Megachurches are successful for a lot of reasons. But the way that they get their success makes many people unwelcome. That’s true of anything that is really successful. I’m not talking about haters (some people refuse to like anything that lots of people like, because it’s not cool) but people who just aren’t going to fit into the model.
If you fit the megachurch audience, they are great in so many ways. And one of the ways that they achieve this is through tightly prescribed and proscribed worship programs; that is, through liturgy.
Next time, let’s look at how the megachurch really is the Knowledge Worker Christianity, and what that really means.
Also, I’m looking for pictures of various types of Protestant worship in America. If you have any that you would let me use, or if you would snap one this Sunday and let me use it, I’d appreciate it.
Image Credit: Manhattan Bridge under construction-1909. Library of Congress collection.