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please bear with me while I pick nits

Joe Carter at First Things comments on a recent update on the size of America’s largest megachurches [link] and gets nearly everything wrong. First of all he quotes a secondary source [link] rather than the primary source [link]. Then in an attempt to be cute he refers to the largest churches as “gigachurches.” I hesitate to mention here that the prefix mega- has an actual meaning [link], meaning a million of something. So far as I know there’s only one church that claims to have a million members [link] and it isn’t in the United States. The term megachurch refers to a Protestant church self-reporting 2000 in regular attendance, so it’s a coinage that doesn’t admit upscaling the way Carter does here. Even if it did a church running self-reporting 4000 in attendance wouldn’t be a gigachurch, since the prefix giga- has a literal meaning too [link]. It would be a neat trick to have a billion people show up for church one Sunday morning. I believe it could be done within the city limits of a moderate-sized American city, if they sat close together, but parking and similar logistics would be well nigh impossible.

Second, he misstates the content of the original article; the 100 largest churches didn’t double in size between 2000 and 2010. The churches listed 100th in the survey doubled in size, from roughly 4000 to roughly 8000. There are 12 of them.

The original source notes that there are 1.2 million people reported to attend the 103 churches in the top 100. This should be 1.176 million in 100, but you get the idea. The total for the top 100 in 2000 isn’t given, so the conclusion Carter draws can’t be drawn from the data given. Then again, at least one of the conclusion the original author draws:

Church lists are a trust and a living record of God’s mighty acts in our generation.

Can’t necessarily be drawn either.

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