The rise of the megachurch

The number of ‘megachurches’ – those with a congregation of 2,000 or more – is growing in the UK, despite a general decline in church attendance. Len Williams finds out why

<p>Despite appearances, this is not a pop concert</p>

Despite appearances, this is not a pop concert

I’m in a large, dark auditorium, watching a professional band playing an upbeat set of tunes. The lead singer, a handsome chap wearing a baseball cap and a baggy jumper, is supported by four backing vocalists spread out along the stage. At one point, they do a choreographed spin. There’s a light show, and a large screen above the drummer displays arty videos. A camera crew is filming the band, streaming live online. Around me, the audience (mainly in their twenties and thirties) sing along. Because this is the era of the smartphone, some people are, inevitably, filming the whole thing.

But, despite appearances, I’m not at a pop concert. It’s Sunday morning, and I’m at an event put on by a Hillsong church, which takes over the Dominion Theatre on central London’s Tottenham Court Road every week.

Hillsong churches were founded in Australia in the 1980s and are now present in several countries worldwide. The church has recently come under the spotlight for a series of leadership scandals. Still, this doesn’t seem to have affected numbers this week, and the stalls are packed.

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