Rick Warren, author of the best-seller “The Purpose-Driven Life,” is expanding his Saddleback Church from the Los Angeles suburbs to 12 global cities. Last weekend, a campus in Los Angeles joined Buenos Aires, Hong Kong, Manila and Berlin. Moscow, Tokyo, and Accra are among those coming soon.
Scott Thumma, an expert on mega-churches from the Hartford Seminary, isn’t surprised: He says the megachurch is a global phenomenon. Of the world’s top 20 megachurches, only one is in the U.S.
“If you just look at it in the United States, you see it as a suburban reality,” he says. “It’s kind of recreating a kind of small-town connectedness with people who have like values and interests,” he says. Around the world, he says, that’s “what we’re all longing for, in the anonnymous urban setting.”
Seoul is the world leader in mega-churches. Its Yoido Full Gospel Church boasts almost a half-million churchgoers per week. And it’s not the only one.
Top 20 Megachurches, Worldwide
|1.||480,000||Yoido Full Gospel Church||Seoul||Korea|
|2.||75,000||Deeper Christian Life Ministry||Lagos||Nigeria|
|3.||75,000||Mision Cristiana Elim Internacional (Elim Central Church)||San Salvador||El Salvador|
|4.||70,000||New Life Church||Mumbai||India|
|5.||65,000||Onnuri (All Nations) Community Church||Seoul||Korea|
|6.||60,000||Pyungkang Cheil Presbyterian Church||Seoul||Korea|
|7.||55,000||Victory Metro Manila||Manila||Philippines|
|8.||50,000||Living Faith Church (Winner’s Chapel) – main campus||Lagos||Nigeria|
|9.||50,000||Apostolic Church||Lagos (Ketu)||Nigeria|
|10.||50,000||Yeshu Darbar (Royal Court of Jesus)||Allahabad||India|
|11.||50,000||Nambu Full Gospel Church||Anyang||Korea|
|12.||50,000||Bethany Church of God||Surabaya||Indonesia|
|13.||50,000||Igreja de Paz||Santarém||Brazil|
|14.||45,000||Evangelical Cathedral of Santiago (formerly Church of Jotabeche)||Santiago||Chile|
|16.||42,000||Comunidad Cristiana Agua Viva (Living Water Christian Community)||Lima||Peru|
|17.||40,000||Redeemed Christian Church of God||Lagos||Nigeria|
|18.||35,000||United Family International Church||Harare||Zimbabwe|
|19.||35,000||Kwanglim (Burning Bush) Methodist Church||Seoul||Korea|
|20.||35,000||Word of Hope Church||Quezon City||Philippines|
A lot of mega-churches now have multiple locations.
“You get to a point where it becomes a franchise model,” says Thumma. “It’s easier and more cost-effective to plant several campuses around town.”
Like McDonald’s, the experience is the same wherever you go, including a variety of more-intimate worship settings in a single campus, with the pastor beaming in his sermon via closed-circuit.
Warren has an advantage for someone growing a church: worldwide fame. His book has been translated into 85 languages.
Here’s a map of mega-churches in North America, based on a database Thumma has compiled.