Mega churches and large Pentecostal congregations have been springing up over the African continent fairly rapidly within the last few decades. To many Africans who are aware of this trend, it comes as no surprise to find out that the continent now hosts some of the world’s largest mega churches, and boasts some of the largest weekly attendances as well.
Recently, the Washington Post published a worldview article “How U.S.-style megachurches are taking over the world, in 5 maps and charts.” While we already knew of the impact and rapid growth of mega churches in Africa, these newly emerging empirical data points confirmed our observations in a much more quantifiable and conclusive way.
To begin, a mega church was defined by the Washington Post to refer to any church with a weekly attendance of over 2,000 people, among many other requirements which include having a charismatic and authoritative senior pastor. It’s immediately clear to those who are familiar with the “church scene” on the continent that these requirements easily qualify numerous African churches as mega churches.
One of the strongest inquiries in this piece was “why do non-U.S. Cities have the largest mega church attendance?” To understand this inquiry better, take a look at the fact that the city with the largest concentration of mega churches is in Houston, Texas, U.S.A., which is home to thirty-eight mega churches. This number, however, does not tell the entire story. Despite the large number of churches, Houston only comes in at 211,936 in weekly attendance rates, which is significantly lower than an estimated 346,500 weekly mega church attendees in Lagos, Nigeria. In Nairobi, Kenya, there is a weekly mega church attendance of 72,500, with about 60,000 of them being attendees of “Winner’s Chapel,” a branch of a large church headquartered in Nigeria.
The largest mega church in Africa, by attendance is Deeper Life Christian Ministry, which boasts a large weekly attendance of 75,000. Following behind with a tie at 60,000 are Winners Chapel Nairobi, and Jesus Celebration center in Mombasa, Kenya. At 50,000, Ministère du Combat Spirituel comes in next from Kinshasa, Congo.
The Washington post attributes the outpacing of U.S. mega churches in size to strict zoning laws and safety requirements of large constructions. Perhaps there is some truth to this, but the article does not mention how the counting works in the event of satellite campuses and remote locations of the church. Indeed, an African mega church dubbed “Synagogue Church of all Nations” with a weekly attendance of 15,000 suffered a structural failure which cost the lives of over a hundred attendees. There were also claims by some that the church building had not been properly approved prior to the commencement of shoddy construction.
So where is this trend taking us in the future? The Washington post predicts that the trend will continue in Western and Eastern Africa, of which Nigeria boasts 25 of the regions’ mega churches. One of the reasons is because Nigeria’s population is expected to grow to about 900 million by 2100, bringing up the number of churches along with it. Also, the potential growth is attributed to the unrestricted growth of religious assemblies, as is often the case in otherwise large countries like China. In Seoul, South Korea, where religion is much less restricted, the world’s largest mega church attendance can be found at 825,000.
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