Houston Tops List of Mega Churches - FOX 26 News | MyFoxHouston

Houston Tops List of Mega Churches

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Houston is the mega church capital of the country.

A new survey by Outreach Magazine ranks churches based on their weekly attendance.

Not surprisingly, Lakewood Church is an overwhelming number 1 with more than 43,000 people showing up each week.

Two other Houston churches made the top 10.

Second Baptist ranks 3rd in the country followed by Fellowship of The Woodlands at number 7.

Rounding out the top 100 is the Church Without Walls and First Baptist.

Mega churches have tech savvy services, stadium like seating, plenty of amenities and recreation.

But members say it's the feeling they get when walking inside that matters most.

"You'll get to know many people, and it's like a family here for me. I enjoy it. I really do," Andrea Como, a longtime member of Lakewood Church, said.

Mega churches have succeeded because as they've grown bigger they've broadened their appeal, Dr. Michael Lindsay, a religion expert at Rice University says.

"Mega churches are like the Home Depot of religion. They have an offering for everybody and bring folks along and have that big box feel," he said.

The pastor of First Baptist Church, Gregg Matte, says his church has built a sense of community with small groups and targeted ministries.

"Even this weekend we've got a seminar just for parents, so they're able in a large church to connect and learn things," he said.

Still with all their popularity, mega churches are often criticized.

"Those churches are very wide, but how deep?" one commenter on a Houston Chronicle blog writes.

"I don't think mega churches are alone in that religion in America can be called 3,000 miles wide but only three inches deep. Most Americans don't know what they believe or why. We see that at mega churches but also smaller churches," Dr. Lindsay said.

Because of their size, Lindsay says mega churches have the potential to be more impactful than any other institution.

"We want people to come in and soak it in, then go wring it out like a sponge so they're able to make a difference," Pastor Matte said.

He added his church does more than two dozen mission trips a year.

To succeed long term, Dr. Lindsay says mega churches will have to use their resources beyond the church's walls.

"There have been moments when mega churches have made a tremendous difference. I think the only mega churches that will survive over the long haul are ones that recognize they have to serve the community," he said.

The mega church survey coincides with a report on pastor salaries.

The average salary for a lead pastor of a mega church is $147,000, according to Leadership Network's Large Church Salary and Benefits Report.

The figure has stayed about the same the last few years even though attendance has climbed.

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