Driving along through different parts of Houston, I’ll often pass large open fields among the cramped sprawl. And in the middle of those fields I usually see a building off in the distance, dwarfed to my eyes only because it sits so far away from the main road. There may be giant fountains at the entrance, multiple parking lots or adjacent sporting courts. But if I see something like this coming up, I always know it’s a church.
These are not just regular old churches either. They’re megachurches, none bigger than Joel and Victoria Osteen’s non-denominational Lakewood Church, the second largest in the United States with over 40,000 people attending each week. That’s a lot of praying. You’ve probably seen or heard of this one, since the Osteen sermons are broadcast in more than 100 countries, but this is just one of the many gigantic churches you’ll find in Texas.
I am not a church-goer but I find these places a bit fascinating. I’ve never driven by on a Sunday so it always looks a little funny to see these vast lots and buildings with hardly anybody on the grounds. The Hartford Institute of Religion Research defines a megachurch as one that has a weekly attendance of more than 2,000 people. Texas has over 200 of these. I imagine each one has a lot going on.
Apparently, like religion itself, the phenomenon of megachurches is a controversial one. But they are certainly popular, with many different denominations represented and more people choosing these larger churches over smaller ones. And with those huge congregations and all that land, I’m pretty sure these behemoths are here to stay.