By Melissa Wuske
Growth of Megachurches—in the U.S. and Worldwide
Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, is still the largest single-site church in the U.S., bringing in 52,000 each week. Life.Church attracts 70,000 people a week to its 25 sites in seven states.
This report by Church Growth Today shows that megachurches continue to grow. “This newest research indicates that among the 100 largest churches, 60 percent are growing, 20 percent have plateaued, and only 11 percent have decreased in attendance during the past five years,” said John N. Vaughan, founder.
But megachurches in the U.S. lag behind large congregations worldwide: Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul, South Korea, has 180,000 attenders each week; Vision de Futuro in Santa Fe, Argentina, has 80,000; and Deeper Christian Life Ministry in Lagos, Nigeria, attracts 70,000.
“Africa is projected to be the most populated Christian continent by 2020. Africa already has more than 15 churches reporting more than 20,000 attendance,” according to the report. “What many American church leaders think of as unique recent American creativity and innovation has been known in other global megachurches as simply old school survival strategies for several decades.”
Minister Fights Russian Law
Donald Ossewaarde, an American Baptist missionary in Russia, has been charged with illegal missionary activity for hosting a worship gathering in his home. Under the nation’s recent antiterror, antievangelism law, Ossewaarde was fined 40,000 rubles, or a little over $600, but he is fighting the ruling through the court system—one appeal has already been rejected.
Andrew Kerr, International Christian Concern’s Russian Program Coordinator, sees value in Ossewaarde challenging the ruling. “He, like many other Christians and religious minorities, understands the importance of his case and that of others wrongfully accused under such an archaic law. . . . Diplomatic pressure will play a key role in helping to ensure that more do not fall prey to these atrocious laws.”
This situation highlights the current religious and political climate of Russia. “This new situation resembles the Soviet Union in 1929,” said Hannu Haukka, president of Great Commission Media Ministries. “At that time confession of faith was permitted only in church. Practically speaking, we are back in the same situation. These antiterrorist laws are some of the most restrictive laws in post-Soviet history.”
Help for Parents Grieving Infant Loss
When Sherokee Ilse’s son Brennan was stillborn, she got to hold her son, but she regrets not making a few more memories in their moments together. Out of her own grief, she made it her goal to help other families grieve, cofounding Baby Loss Family Advisors, which trains doulas to help families through the loss of a baby.
Ilse helped Melissa and Stephen Ziel through the loss of their baby Lydia. Based on Ilse’s advice the Ziels spent hours with Lydia after she died.
“You know, look at her eyes, see if she has any birthmarks, who does she look most like? And we all agreed she looked more like Steve,” Melissa said. “There can be blessings. There can be peace. There can be joy in the midst of difficult circumstances . . . no matter how hard they are, they’re also things to be able to celebrate.”
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Melissa Wuske is a freelance editor and writer. She and her husband, Shawn, live and minister in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. Find her work online (melissaannewuske.com).