Although there are few megachurches in France, they are influencing the broader evangelical movement in the country and possibly even the Catholic Church, according to a recent study by French researcher Sebastien Fath.
In a paper delivered at the August meeting of the ASR in Atlanta, Fath reported that there are only four genuine megachurches in France (which have at least 2,000 to 4,000 attenders). They are all charismatic or Pentecostal and three of them are in the Paris suburbs. There are also around 30 new evangelical Protestant communities that are experiencing fast growth, some of which are approaching 1,000 regular worshippers. Several younger evangelical churches that started in the 1990s and 2000s also take their cues from the megachurch “recipe for growth.” The trend in French Catholicism toward stressing its visibility, whether in pilgrimages or by building huge churches and cathedrals, may be related to the megachurch phenomenon.
Fath said that one bishop has even visited American megachurches. These new parishes embrace a pattern similar to the megachurch with their “emphasis on large attendance, modern equipment, multiple activities and a relatively high level of commitment from lay leaders and ordinary worshippers.” Fath finds that the French megachurches and the Protestant community in general are too much of a minority to become almost the “mini-towns” and allpurpose social centers—with schools, shops and media companies—that they are in America. But in varying degrees, they are in tension with wider French society and isolated from other Protestant churches, even if they maintain strong transnational ties with fellow believers, especially in Francophone countries and America.
The way in which these churches form a definite niche causes suspicion in French society, with its strong republican tradition, “which is hostile to intermediary communities” that pose a threat to “what is expected today of religious correctness, diversity, tolerance, pluralism and openness,” Fath notes.
(Fath’s paper can be downloaded from: http://frenchwindows.hautetfort.com)