The word “megachurch” has been in the English-language lexicon for a while now, and it describes a church with a particularly large congregation. Writing for Hartford Institute for Religion Research, Scott Thumma notes that large congregations — more than a few dozen or couple hundred people — started becoming a thing in the 1800s. Although they’re much more prevalent now, the exact definition of what qualifies as a megachurch varies depends upon whom you ask. For example, USAChurches.org considers a congregation a “megachurch” if it has 2,000 or more people in average weekend attendance.
For some congregations — in the United States and elsewhere in the world — 2,000 congregants would barely be enough to fill one section of seats. There are churches that bring in thousands to tens of thousands of believers every Sunday, and one congregation has a reported membership approaching one million congregants.
Some churches in the U.S. have 20,000 or more members
Considering that Evangelical Christianity plays a large role in the lives of 25.4% of Americans (per Pew Research Center), it would stand to reason that the United States would be home to some megachurches with impressive attendance figures. And as it turns out, that’s true.
It bears noting, however, that attendance and membership are different things. Further, estimating attendance is largely a matter of self-reporting mixed with educated guesswork. Still, all things considered, the U.S. has its share of huge churches.
In 2018, CBS News compiled a list of the 30 largest megachurches in the U.S. at the time, and at the bottom of the list is World Changers Church International in College Park, Georgia. With an estimated weekly attendance of 15,000, it’s larger than several Georgia cities, per Georgia Demographics. Clocking in at nearly three times that size is the largest megachurch in the U.S. — Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church in Houston, with an estimated weekly attendance of 43,000.
USA's megachurches are small potatoes compared to some world megachurches
Perhaps surprisingly, the U.S. does not corner the market on megachurches. In fact, there are megachurches elsewhere in the world where weekly attendance dwarfs Osteen’s Houston church several times over.
In India, where Christians make up 2.3% of the population, is a church with a weekly attendance roughly on par with the population of Des Moines, Iowa, per Census India. According to Leadership Network, Calvary Temple (pictured above) in Hyderabad has a congregation of 225,000. Over in Africa, in Lagos, Nigeria, is the Living Faith Church, with 275,000 in attendance each week.
But the biggest single congregation in the world is almost certainly in South Korea, where only 29% of the population is Christian (per Pew Research Center). According to Public Radio International, an estimated 800,000 people worship at Yoido Full Gospel Church on a weekly basis. The website notes that not all 800,000 attended in the same building at the same time, with about 200,000 in attendance at the church’s main building each week.
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