Baylor University Survey on Church

I just read this article about a national survey that Baylor University did on religion in America. They had some interesting findings on what really goes on in megachurches. This really flies in the face of the false perceptions and attacks that many people try to use against larger churches. Here is what the article said specifically about megachurches…

Megachurches are more than a mile wide and an inch deep.

“None of the things we all believe about the megachurch is true,” said Dr. Rodney Stark, Distinguished Professor of the Social Sciences at Baylor and co-director of the ISR.

Even with congregations of more than 1,000 members, the Baylor Religion Survey found that megachurches surprisingly are more intimate communities than small congregations of less than 100 members (Ch. 5, “Megachurches: Supersizing the Faith”). Megachurch growth is mostly due to their members, who tend to witness to their friends, bringing them into the group, and witness to strangers, much more often than members of small churches.

When compared to small congregations, the survey found that megachurch members display a higher level of personal commitment by attending services and a Bible study group and tithing. They also are more likely to accept that heaven “absolutely” exists and that God rewards the faithful with major successes, are more convinced of the reality of evil, are far more given to having religious and mystical experiences, are significantly younger in age and are remarkably active in volunteer work (as much or more so than tiny churches).

“We think of them as these great, huge, cold religious gatherings with a symphony orchestra and a paid choir and a lot of hoopla and a lot of good tidings but no bad tidings,” Stark said. “It’s not true that it’s all happy talk. These people are as interested in evil and sin as anybody in any of the churches. Their levels of satisfaction are high, their volunteerism in community service is very high and their outreach efforts are absolutely phenomenal.”

“I’ve heard stories when you go to some of the megachurches that you have to get tickets and parking like it’s a football game,” said Dr. Carson Mencken, professor of sociology at Baylor. “You go to a football game, you sit next to people you don’t know very well, and so I figured that’s exactly what megachurches are going to be like. The survey reveals the megachurches are not like that at all. These people do know each other, and they’re networked into the church through their friends and friends of friends.”

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