Sunday, October 16, 2005

Mega Church Model: 'Em I Blendin', Baby?

The start page for today has a slide show entitled An Anatomy of Megachurches: The new look for places of worship. (posted Oct. 10, 2005; Witold Rybczynski). It is a very interesting discussion of the architecture styles used in building the Mega Churches of today.

The author seems to understand that there is a definite approach to designing the new Mega church buildings as compared to church buildings in the past. The author marvels that there are no overtly religious symbols used on the new Mega church buildings and in fact the new Mega church monoliths more resemble corporate centers or performing arts centers than churches.

The key statement made in this presentation that I find absolutely epitomizes the entire philosophy of the Purpose Driven Church/Schuller/Hybels/Warren mentality is this quote:

"The largest religious assembly space in the country is the recently completed Conference Center of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in downtown Salt Lake City. It was built to accommodate 21,000 people for the Semiannual General Conference of church members, but it also houses the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and is used for church pageants. The approach of the architects, Zimmer Gunsul Frasca of Portland, Ore., shows the influence megachurches have had on mainstream religions. The ecclesiastical imagery is confined to the giant pipe organ. The arena seating, the mainstream decor, the profusion of lighting and television broadcasting equipment, as well as the surrounding lobbies and vestibules, are distinctly secular. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

The exterior architecture of the Conference Center is more architecturally ambitious than most megachurches. It recalls Depression-era stripped classicism, the sort of thing that Paul Cret did—with much more conviction—in buildings such as the Folger Shakespeare Library and the Federal Reserve Board Building in Washington, D.C. What is remarkable about the Salt Lake City building, however, is the landscaped roof, which includes stairs, terraces, fountains, and reflecting pools. The design, by the Olin Partnership, is not historical and contains no religious symbols. Yet, like most parks, it has a contemplative, quasi-religious atmosphere. The central features are a three-acre alpine garden, dramatic views of the surrounding mountains, and the spires of the Salt Lake Temple. The landscaping, which steps down the walls of the building, shrouds it in a veil of greenery. And it provides an answer to the question of how to design a megachurch: Make it disappear."

I live in southwest Georgia. The folks here have a very unique and soothing southern drawl and my step-father is no exception. Due to physical limitations he is unable to turn his head any more that fifteen degrees in either direction. When he and my mom are out driving and enter a part of the street or highway where they must merge with oncoming traffic he will turn to my mom and ask:

"'Em I blendin', baybay?"

I think the mega church masters have stolen my step-dad's idea as it seems this is their goal as well with all this Purpose Driven madness: to blend until they disappear!

Whether they are cognizant or not, the mega maniacs, if followed, will accomplish their goal of "making the Church disappear" with their "blendin'" techniques and philosophy. What makes this doubly tragic is they are laughing all the way to bank with the millions they are making on the sales of all of their "Jesus Junk." (i.e. t-shirts, coffee mugs, book markers, Study Bibles, devotionals, fridge magnets, doilies, etc...etc...etc...)

What a marketing marvel the Purpose Driven Church movement is...! I wonder if Peter Drucker is proud?


Chris P. said...


Where have you been?

David C. Kanz said...


Trying to deal with the incarnation of the "blendin'" mentality amongst my own friends and brethren.

What a mess!

And finishing up my schooling online, (though it escapes me as to why I am doing this---) Rick Warren's books are texts at this university. You can imagine the response to my critiques.

Hopefully, I will be back on the trail soon. There is much to talk about.

Chris P. said...

God be with you.

Brandon Giromini said...

Just paying a visit as you were kind enough to post on my blog.

I agree, they are becoming so blended that very soon, you won't be able to tell the world from Churchianity. Once that happens, where do they go from there?

In Christ,

Brandon Giromini