04 November 2016
Megachurches and the power to transform society
A research team at the University of Birmingham seeks to investigate the nature of social engagement among megachurches in London and to interpret the significance of such civic participation for public theology.
Earlier this week I attended a day conference, Megachurches and Social Engagement in London, which had been organised by a research team at the University of Birmingham. The aim of the project is "to investigate the nature of social engagement among megachurches in London and to interpret the significance of such civic participation for public theology".
The team were presenting their research of five megachurches in London – Anglican churches Holy Trinity Brompton (HTB) and All Souls Langham Place, and black majority churches Jesus House, New Wine London and Kingsway International Christian Centre.
Key findings from the research included the centrality of relationships, both between people and with God, to social engagement; the belief in, and action towards, both societal and personal transformation; and the multi-scale and diffuse nature of their social engagement and impact.
The results had interesting implications both for churches, but also for external bodies such as charities and local government, seeking to engage with these churches. There was much discussion of the motivation, both individual and corporate, behind social engagement, and the gap between the reality of Church social engagement and common social conceptions.
From a public leadership perspective, perhaps the most telling comment of the day was a note that individuals at some of the churches studied understood the link between larger societal or policy changes and the effect on those using their welfare services, but "had no sense of wanting to be an activist".
The Public Leadership team at the Evangelical Alliance calls on Christians to step up and speak out wherever they are, to be voices for good and God in their community. Read more on the distinction between social engagement to public leadership.
Find out more
You can find out more about the megachurch project on their website. The team has just released a policy paper, helping policy makers understand how they can better engage with megachurches' social engagement projects. The project will also release a handbook to help large (not mega) churches "to enhance or develop their own practices of social engagement", based on the projects findings.