How California's Megachurches Changed Christian Culture

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Large churches have been around since the industrialization and urbanization of the U.S. in the 19th century. But it was only in the the mid-20th century that megachurches became a phenomenon. Beyond their large size, which can range from the threshold 2,000 regular weekly attenders up to 25,000 to 50,000 attenders at U.S. megachurches, it is the number of different activities, outreach programs and suburban locations that characterize these churches. In my view, the most important characteristic of megachurches is their ability to “appropriate” elements from the larger culture, be it popular music, performances or even dress styles. While they are found in major cities across the U.S. and globally, it is in California that megachurches led the way in merging larger cultural trends into people’s religious lives. Two important examples illustrate their impact.

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