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Beyond Megachurch Myths: What We Can Learn from America's Largest Churches

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Beyond Megachurch Myths: What We Can Learn from America's Largest Churches [Hardcover]

Scott Thumma , Dave Travis , Rick Warren
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

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Book Description

August 10, 2007
Drawing on extensive, broad-based, and well-designed research, as well as stories and anecdotes, Beyond Megachurch Myths dispels popluar myths about megachurches while highlighting the diversity within the megachurch phenomenon. Defining a megachurch as a Protestant church that averages at least 2000 total attendees in their weekend services, Scott Thumma and Dave Travis reveal what these churches are and are not, why they are thriving, what their members say about their experiences, and why they have many valuable lessons to teach smaller churches.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This data-driven description of American megachurches is aimed at leaders and members of smaller congregations who may harbor apprehensions about this growing phenomenon. Chapter by chapter, the authors tackle common misconceptions of churches with more than 2,000 attendees and suggest that they are simply Christian neighbors with a different-looking storefront who are here to stay a while and who have much to offer smaller churches willing to learn. However, the collaboration of the two writers (one an academic and the other a consultant for church leadership) is disjointed, with the applying what you have read sections at the end of each chapter feeling tacked on to the richer content of the main text. One of the strongest chapters confronts the myth that megachurches are akin to Wal-Mart in that they grow at the expense of existing congregations. The authors argue that megachurches feed a constant cycle of birth, growth, maturity and decline needed to help keep churches and religion in America strong and vital. Readers are reminded that Christianity comes in many different packages and that the market for religion can and should be tapped in a variety of ways. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"Crow is not my favorite dish to eat, but as this book points out, I've had to eat one of the myths so artfully debunked by Travis and Thumma. This book is the most definitive work done to date on the megachurch."
—Bill Easum, senior consultant, Easum, Bandy & Associates

"In this groundbreaking book, Scott Thumma and Dave Travis share their keen insight and unique understanding of the megachurch phenomena in one accessible volume. This book is a significant addition to the literature and knowledge of megachurch studies."
—Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., senior director and missiologist, Center for Missional Research, North American Mission Board

"Megachurches are here to stay and will attract continuing interest. Thumma and Travis have done us all a great service by setting the record straight."
—Robert Wuthnow, Gerhard R. Andlinger Professor of Social Sciences and director, Center for the Study of Religion, Princeton University

"This is the most thorough, insightful, and helpful book ever written on megachurches."
—Mark Driscoll, pastor, Mars Hill Church, Seattle, Washington

"One of the major transformations in American Christianity is the emergence of hundreds of megachurches in the latter part of the twentieth century. This is the first book to be published that is based on close empirical research and yet is written in a manner that is easily understood by individuals attempting to assess this trend."
—Donald E. Miller, professor of religion and executive director of the Center for Religion and Civic Culture, University of Southern California

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Jossey-Bass; 1st edition (August 10, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0787994677
  • ISBN-13: 978-0787994679
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.9 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #824,223 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews
15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Megachurches have their good side! October 1, 2007
Beyond Megachurch Myths offers a counterpoint to megachurch critics, using survey data to overturn nine myths about megachurches, including the charge that the megachurch era is quickly fading into history. Scott Thumma and Dave Travis believe that the data demonstrates that not only will megachurches be with us for the foreseeable future, but that they are a much more complex phenomenon than most of us give them credit for being.

To understand this phenomenon, we must first have a definition. According to Thumma and Travis, a megachurch is "a Protestant church that averages at least two thousand total attendees in their weekend services" (p. xviii). More than 1250 congregations fit this description.

The nine myths are as follows: They're all alike, they're just too big, they're based on personality cults, they're concerned only about themselves and their attendees, they water down the faith, are bad for other churches, are homogeneous in race, class, and political affiliation, grow because they entertain, and finally, that they're in the process of dying because young people don't like them. As with any stereotype there is truth to the critiques, but the very fact that the movement is extraordinarily diverse means that the stereotypes easily fall apart. Megachurches may not be for everyone, but many people find them just right - and for many different reasons. And, whether we're fans of them or not, they have left a significant footprint on American religious life.

Megachurches have been with us for some time, but their numbers are increasing rapidly - almost exponentially.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Research not opinions January 8, 2008
There are a lot of opinions about megachurches, but this is the first complete assessment of the megachurch phenomenon. It draws together extensive information and other available research to correct assumptions. It also includes practical questions and considerations for all pastors and church leaders. As a broad overview, it doesn't get better than this.

This book goes well with several others. I suggest Seeker Churches: Promoting Traditional Religion in a Nontraditional Way by Kimon Sargean, A Mosaic of Believers: Diversity and Innovation in a Multiethnic Church as well as Hollywood Faith: Holiness, Prosperity, and Ambition in a Los Angeles Church by Gerardo Marti, The Megachurch and the Mainline: Remaking Religious Tradition in the Twenty-first Century by Stephen Ellingson, When Church Became Theatre: The Transformation of Evangelical Architecture and Worship in Nineteenth-Century America by Jeanne Kilde, and Donald Miller's Reinventing American Protestantism: Christianity in the New Millennium.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Megachurches Can Be Mega Good! December 25, 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This was a very helpful book for me because it reminded me that megachurches are doing megagood things to bring people to Christ and to build them up in the faith. The authors contend that the research shows that megachurches are not what they have been stereotyped to be. Not all megachurches water down the faith, or are a turnoff to young people, or are ready to fall apart as soon as the founding pastor leaves. Many senior ministers and their staffs have thought long and hard about who succeeds them.

Also, the research confirms that many people are drawn to megachurches because of their outstanding forms of worship and for the many services they provide. The authors also deflate the myth that megachurches are not serving the communities they reside in, and they give many examples of churches that are actively involved with serving their city.

The authors also acknowledge the challnges megachurches face: a stumbling economy, the long drives many people have to make to get to the megachurch, the problem of filling the shoes of a beloved senior minister, the problem of people coming and going without getting involved, etc.

I was intrigued throughout. Great book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic December 25, 2007
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
For many years I am interested in a megachurch phenomenon and like to read different books on subject. This book is different. Drawn from a research and destroying the myths surrounding the megachurches, I found this volume worth all the money and highly informative and refreshing. A great study for all the pastors and leaders.

Even though I am not a pastor of megachurch myself (in my country there is no single church with over 500 people in attendance), I have learned a lot about the proccess and principles beyond the growth of the megachurches. I wish someone would do a similar study on world megachurches as well from different cultural tradition. That would be a great volume 2!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book November 2, 2007
I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is looking for tips and strategies that have helped make megachurches so successful.
While this book will not give you a direct strategy what it does is give you the data from surveys of both megachurches and small churches and then compares and contrasts the differences. It will help you to see what it is that megachurches have done differently.

It will also help to dispel many of the notions and myths that surround megachurches. Some of those myths include "megachurches only grow because of the show", "megachurches are bad for the community", and "The magachurch movement is dying down".

as I siad if you are intrested in learning what it is that magechurches are doing that smaller ones are not this is a MUST have book. It will offer some good insight that you can implement now.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great book, based on serious research, it covers most of our preconceived ideas about megachurches. Very enlightening.
Published 10 months ago by Ismael Lopez Medel
3.0 out of 5 stars Constant Updates Required
Have just read through Beyond Megachurch and Reveal, both from 2007, and wonder about the omissions in the former from the bombshells in the latter, particularly as they apply to... Read more
Published 23 months ago by Luceat
4.0 out of 5 stars A well substantiated book on megachurches
Thumma has been researching the Mega Church phenomena for some 15 years. This book is a result from this research (up to 2005) and deals with the myths about megachurches. Read more
Published on March 17, 2009 by Marc Volgers
4.0 out of 5 stars Mostly good
I think this piece adequately demonstrated that many of the popular negative impressions people hold of megachurches are false. I've believed that for a long time. Read more
Published on February 29, 2008 by Dennis McCallum
5.0 out of 5 stars An Inspiration to Church's of Any Size
This book is long on analysis and full of helpful lessons that any church can apply regardless of size. Read more
Published on January 18, 2008 by Kindle Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is a real asset for Christian leaders today
As a missionary who works with many churches, I found Beyond Megachurch Myths to be very helpful in increasing my understanding of the church today. Read more
Published on December 4, 2007 by J. Landis
5.0 out of 5 stars Great if you want to understand the megachurch movement in the U.S.
For what it attempts to do, which is give you a perspective on the megachurch movement in America, this book is a great choice. Read more
Published on November 27, 2007 by David Russell
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