Culture At Large

Korean Gigachurch

Chris Salzman

In an article titled Real megachurches the brilliant Iyov writes about the South Korean megachurch Yoido Full Gospel Church in South Korea. Yoido is home to more than 830,000 people. When one contrasts that ridiculous number with Mr. Joel Osteen's Lakewood attendance--which is around 50,000 depending on who is asked--it makes one wonder if the prefix "mega" needs an overhaul.

Each of the seven Sunday services at Yoido is a logistical challenge: apart from the 12,000 people in the main sanctuary, another 20,000 follow the service on television in overflow chapels scattered around neighboring buildings. Some 38,000 children go to Sunday school during the day. As one service begins and the next ends, around 60,000 comers and goers are ushered by white-jacketed traffic directors. If you want to attend one of the two services starring the church's founder, David Cho, you need to be an hour early or you won't get in.
If you're interested in the church's structure and history you can read about it here.

And here's another interesting bit from Iyov:

Women are crucial. Mr Cho's right-hand woman was his mother-in-law, Jashil Choi, a figure known as “Hallelujah Mama”. Today Yoido boasts 68,000 female deacons—twice the number of male ones...Christianity advanced from an obscure sect to the official religion of the Roman empire by focusing on women. Christians stressed fidelity and marriage, which attracted women to the faith, who then bore Christian babies.
I have had my gripes with megachurches in the past, and many of those were quelled by actually participating in them with a loving rather than critical mind; however, the numbers of Yoido aren't at all typical of what we deal with in the United States. I can imagine what would be a minor annoyance in the US (i.e. parking) could become a major issue at the Yoido Full Gospel Church.

Also, just for fun take a look at this listing of U.S. megachurches (Warning this page might take a while to load) from the Hartford Institute for Religious Study. Using their data (and assuming my excel skills are up to snuff), Yoido's attendance is still larger than the the top 60 U.S. churches combined!

I'd be interested if any of you have been to this church before, or even heard of it. Personally, I didn't know it existed until today. Do you think the U.S. could sustain, or should have, a church this size? Can you see any advantages or disadvantages?

Topics: Culture At Large, Theology & The Church, News & Politics, World