…love them, hate them, or be ambivalent about them. According to Thom Ranier, head of LifeWay there are 177 of them in the SBC. That is, 177 churches that report on the Annual Church Profile an average primary worship attendance of at least 2,000 weekly and who give something to the Cooperative Program. Not all churches reported, so there’s probably a few missing from this list. Some that are on the list are probably only nominally SBC.
Some observations on the 177 megachurches:
About 0.4% of SBC churches are megachurches but on an average Lord’s Day of the 6.2 million people that attend worship in an SBC church, about ten percent of these are nestled in a megachurch.
If your worship is in one of the megachurches, you attend church on that given Sunday with about 3,500 other souls. You probably know very few of them and the pastor might but probably doesn’t know who you are.
If your worship is in a non-megachurch, you worship with about 120 other people on that Sunday. You probably know most of them, by name. Your pastor almost certainly knows you and calls you by name when you leave church and tell him what a great sermon he preached.
There are as many as or more SBC megachurches in California (9) than in any of these SBC legacy states: Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, or Kentucky.
Texas, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee have about 60% of all the megas in the SBC. Texas has by far the most but churches there are known to inflate their members just like ranchers there inflate their acreage and cattle. Georgians, however, are scrupulously honest.
You probably don’t recognize some of the top ten megachurches:
1. Second Baptist, Houston
2. Saddleback Valley Community Church, CA
3. Woodlands Church, TX
4. Prestonwood Baptist, TX
5. Thomas Road, VA
6. Potential, Ft. Lauderdale
7. NewSpring Church, SC
8. The Fountain of Praise, Houston
9. Lake Pointe Church, TX
10. Saint Matthews Baptist, NJ
I recognize only half of them.
How many pastors of these churches could you name? Well, Ed Young, Sr. I know; Rick Warren, I recognize, and Falwell the Younger can’t be missed. But the rest? Plodder may be deeply out of touch but he has never heard of several of the others.
Two of the top ten seem to be black churches.
Notably, only four of the ten feature ‘Baptist’ in their name.
Suppose you were fresh out of seminary, had a few years of a student pastorate under your belt and got a phone call that started,
“Brother Emdiv, this is Fred Smith. I’m chairman of the pastor search committee for Mud Creek Baptist in Hendersonville, NC. We like your resume and would like to talk to you.”
I know what you might think.
‘Ain’t no way I’m taking my wife to any Mud Creek church. They are probably wonderful folks and a wonderful little church, but I’m edumacated, ordained, and seasoned and am ready for a greater challenge.’ (‘Greater challenge’ is, of course, SBC preacher code language for a bigger church, bigger salary, and greater prestige.)
Better hold your tongue there, hotshot. Mud Creek is a megachurch. There are only three SBC churches in NC are larger than good ol’ Mud Creek.
Er, I’d be glad to talk to you.
Then again, you might not be ready for a megachurch.