Megachurches abroad now have the higher average attendance in the world, even though the vast majority of megachurches are still in the United States, reports the Washington Post (July 24). While there are 230 to 500 such churches elsewhere in the world, the Hartford Institute estimates that there are about three times more megachurches in the United States. In America, the median weekly attendance is about 2,750, while the median weekly in world megachurches is nearly 6,000. One factor behind the larger church sizes on other continents is a lack of alternatives for believers. “Outside the United States, it takes a large amount of charisma and capital to create a megachurch,” said Scott Thumma of the Hartford Institute. In the United States, however, competition among megachurches is more intense because it is easier to establish such communities. “It is harder to be massive here in U.S.,” Thumma adds, citing zoning laws, safety inspections, construction and property costs.
Attendance is particularly high in western and eastern Africa: At least 25 of the region’s churches are in Nigeria. The country’s population is set to reach about 900 million by 2100, likely contributing to a further evangelical growth. In demographically shrinking European countries, Protestant megachurches already seem to be fairly absent from the south of the continent where Catholicism still holds sway. Those in Africa, Asia and South America dwarf the sizes of northern European megachurches. “The spread of the megachurch model will continue in the developing regions of the globe,” Thumma says. “I expect the most rapid growth to be in Asian countries as they continue to develop and populations concentrate in massive urban areas from rural communities.” Such developments could be especially groundbreaking in China, which has so far restricted the growth of religious assemblies or communities.