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Megachurches Research: Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church

Megachurches might be considered a relatively new but substantial religious phenomenon in terms of size and attendance. According to Hartford Seminary Institute for Religion Research, megachurches are “Protestant churches where more than 2000 people attend for the purpose of worship per week” (as cited in Cartledge et al., 2019, p. 43). Ellingson suggests that megachurches are “theologically conservative, largely Evangelical, use media technology, offer multiple worship services and other types of services, such as consumer goods” (as cited in Cartledge et al., 2019, p. 44). In the following essay, I will examine Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church as a typical example of a megachurch and identify its audience and the reasons behind its popularity and a large following.

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After watching several recorded services of Lakewood Church, I may distinguish its pros and cons, or attractive and unattractive features. On the one hand, the church seems to promote a healthy and spiritual lifestyle by sharing positive statements and ideas with its spectators. Joel Osteen often reaches out to his audience with inspirational messages about confidence and self-esteem, which many people might find helpful. The church also supports modern technology and offers a convenient and flexible way to attend its services via the Internet. There are options of weekly live-streamed services and archived recordings on the church’s website, which allow people to remotely attend a service anytime and anywhere.

On the other hand, Lakewood Church has many features that I find unattractive. As the church seems to associate religion with the entertainment industry, its services resemble popular concerts or shows by famous artists rather than traditional prayers. The services are accompanied by contemporary music, professional stage lighting, and comfortable seating. Additionally, the speeches of its charismatic leader and pastors may sound overly energetic and dramatic to the point of being unnatural or staged. Moreover, there is no means of personal interaction between the church leader and its attendees in contrast to some smaller traditional churches. Thus, members of the audience might feel like passive listeners rather than active participants. Finally, the leader of the church often emphasizes the need for donations, which are supposed to be the form of voluntary contribution that should not be imposed. All in all, I do not like Lakewood Church because of the drawbacks mentioned above.

I assume that the church is trying to appeal to people who are depressed or have personal issues, including marriage, financial, or health concerns. For instance, the website of the church offers financial classes to “encourage, equip and empower Lakewood members as well as our local community to live out Biblical financial principles” (Lakewood Church, 2020, “Financial Classes”). There are also marriage classes providing “powerful sources that help strengthen the relationships of those who are dating, engaged, or married,” as well as specialized classes for children, young adults, seniors, men, and women (Lakewood Church, 2020, “Marriage Classes”). Thus, the church aims to appeal to a significant number of different people, promising support and assistance.

Therefore, the popularity of Lakewood Church might be explained mainly by the charismatic character of its leader and the psychological tricks that Joel Osteen uses to influence his audience and create an atmosphere of support and understanding. Another reason for its popularity and large attendance might be its ability to entertain through the use of music (i.e., live bands, singers, or orchestra), stage lighting, and comfortable venues with appropriate seating capacity (i.e., concert halls or arenas). Having discussed its pros and cons, I believe that megachurches such as Lakewood Church are trying to entertain and subsequently raise donations from their audience rather than serve people or care about them. Thus, I do not like the concept of a megachurch in general and Lakewood Church in particular.

References

Cartledge, M. J., Dunlop, S. L. B., Buckingham, H., & Bremner, S. (2019). Megachurches and social engagement: Public theology in practice. Brill.

Lakewood Church. (2020). Ways to grow. Web.

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StudyCorgi. (2022, March 5). Megachurches Research: Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/megachurches-research-joel-osteens-lakewood-church/

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StudyCorgi. 2022. "Megachurches Research: Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church." March 5, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/megachurches-research-joel-osteens-lakewood-church/.

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StudyCorgi. (2022) 'Megachurches Research: Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church'. 5 March.

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