A New IGSOR Research Initiative Funded by the John Templeton Foundation
It is now well known that in the past century, the geographical distribution of Christians has shifted dramatically. In its traditional centers in Europe and the United Stages the Christian religion has witnessed significant decline, but throughout the non-western world it has grown enormously, especially among Protestant Evangelicals and within the experientially oriented Pentecostal and Charismatic traditions.
Huge urban churches are the most significant symbols of this renewal and they are the subject of this project. Consider for example, the Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul, South Korea, or El Shaddai, the Catholic Charismatic movement in the Philippines, or the Redeemed Christian Church in Nigeria. While very different from one another, each of these churches has regular attendance figures of well over 500,000 congregants and a vast network of satellite congregations throughout the world. While these churches are almost incomprehensibly large, over the past half century hundreds of very large churches with congregations over 25,000 thousand attendees have erupted and continue to grow in urban areas throughout the global south, making megachurches the face of Christian renewal outside of the west.
This project, which is funded by the generosity of the John Templeton Foundation and administered by the Institute for the Global Study of Religion at Canisius (IGSOR) is the first comprehensive and interdisciplinary research project to describe, analyze, and account for the eruption of megachurches in the Global South. Led by IGSOR director, Dr. Timothy Wadkins and several other scholars from various parts of the world, this study will research several very diverse megachurches in ten countries of the Global South: South Korea, the Philippines, Indonesia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Brazil, Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, and India. Employing methods from the social sciences, history and theology the project will answer important questions about why these churches have grown so large, what congregants and leaders in these churches believe and how they practice their faith, and how these churches shape and are shaped by the world around them.
This study will greatly enhance our understanding of Christianity in the non-western world and we will widely disseminate its results: to the scholarly community through a video/audio archive, presentations at conferences, articles in journals, anthologies and books; and to the general public through videos, articles in popular journals, social media outlets, and especially through a major documentary film, produced in partnership with the Canisius University Video Institute.
In the coming months we invite you to check back on this website for articles and videos of this research as it progresses.