Topic #9 – Church Saturation

Posted: December 19, 2007 in church

I’ve sort of been a long time fan of the “megachurch” – typically defined as a church with 2000 or more attenders in a typical week. There are many who disagree, saying you lose that close knit family feeling, it’s too impersonal, you don’t know anyone. I’ve been a part of more than enough churches of 50-150 to say with confidence that I still never knew everyone – at least not by more than name. And, really, what is a megachurch? It’s a bunch of smaller groups of people who, when gathered together, make up a really large group of people.

However, this is not really the point of this post.

I’m simply wondering if there are too many churches in our nation, our region, our state, or even our city.

Here’s what my searching has uncovered. In the “Bible Belt”, it is estimated that there are typically about 15 churches for every 10,000 residents. This would be about 667 persons per church, if EVERY person went to church. But they don’t.

Various studies and research show that, on average, about 40-45% of Americans attend church regularly. However, most of these studies also qualify that 40-45% of Americans SAY they attend church regularly. So the true figures may be lower.

But, since we’re talking about the Bible Belt, let’s offer the benefit of the doubt, and say that 50% of the people actually do attend church. This would mean that there is a church for every 333 people who attend church. So, for the sake of balance, for every church with 50-100 attenders (of which there are many), there would be a church of 500-600. Or, which is more likely, for every 4-5 churches of 50-100, you’ve got one church of 1200-1500.

Now, are big churches better than small churches? No. Are small ones better than big ones? No. But this over-saturation of churches concerns me. It seems to speak to a greater & deeper division among Christians who, rather than coming together, pooling their gifts and resources, experiencing in the unifying power of large corporate worship, and living in dynamic faith communities, would rather build their own church with their own people who like to do things their own way.

And – at least to me – this just doesn’t seem healthy.

PS – Did I mention that most STATES in the Bible Belt each have over 100 different divisions/denominations of churches to choose from throughout the state? That’s amazing, but a totally different discussion for another day.

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