The Rise and History of Black Megachurches

Team Members/Contributors

Julius H. Bailey University of Redlands Contact Me

About this sabbatical grant for researchers

The growth of black megachurches has altered the landscape of African American religions and Christianity with former department store buildings and basketball stadiums now becoming sacred spaces. Traditional pews have been replaced by theater seating. The fixed pulpit supplanted by movable stages and podiums. Rather than lengthy sermons and singing from hymnals, dramatic performances and retractable televisions convey the gospel message. Other black megachurches are simply larger versions of traditional churches and a plethora of others combine aspects of each approach. Some churches distance themselves from black theology and resist the label of a “Black Church,” emphasizing their universality as a church for all people. While often portrayed as an inherently unique contemporary occurrence, this project contextualizes and connects the megachurch phenomenon to an historical trajectory stretching back to the earliest black Christian congregations of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. By doing so, we move from a place where the challenges and dynamics of contemporary Christian communities are viewed as isolated and unprecedented to a contextualized analysis that grounds the megachurch phenomenon within a broader framework that nuances the issues and recovers the voices of African American leaders and laity that are too often absent from the conversation.