“God’s love becomes … such a drug that you can’t wait to come get your next hit. … You can’t wait to get involved to get the high from God.” Reported a megachurch worshiper in a new study on the affects of spiritual highs in megachurches.
The lights, the swaying induced music, the large crowd, and that celebrity pastor preaching to you. Ahh… the spiritual high.
According to a new study, that “spiritual high” could be a result of a chemical process in the brain. The estimated 10% of American Protestants, about 6 million worshipers, who regularly attend one of 1,600 mega churches could experience this chemical process. At an annual meeting of the American Sociological Association in Denver a team of researcher found that:
The upbeat modern music, cameras that scan the audience and project smiling, dancing, singing, or crying worshippers on large screens, and an extremely charismatic leader whose sermons touch individuals on an emotional level … serve to create these strong positive emotional experiences. We see this experience of unalloyed joy over and over again in megachurches. That’s why we say it’s like a drug.
The study showed that worshipers at megachurches experience a greater release of oxytocin, thought to add to a sense of euphoria. That would lead us to believe that these types of megachurch worship experiences can trigger a false sense of a spiritual high.
Adding to this sense of spiritual high, one of the study’s researcher said,
The reports out of Orange County, California have not been encouraging for the once mighty Crystal Cathedral. Robert Schuller founded the church and recently retired as the church’s senior pastor. In turn, the church never fully recovered from Schuller’s pastoral departure. Though he stayed on the church’s governing board, two of his children took a shot at pastoring the large church. Schuller’s son, Robert became the senior pastor and two years later resigned. Then, Sheila, daughter of the elder Schuller, became senior pastor. The church then filed for bankruptcy last year with $50 million in debt.
If this was not enough, reports of the the founder, Robert Schuller’s departure from the church’s governing board surfaced last week. However, his position on the board was moved from voting member to “honorary Chairman of the Board Emeritus” in order to free him up for more speaking engagements. Ah huh.
Membership and attendance have fallen since the founding pastor’s departure. Now with the debt issue over the church’s head, a few organizations have considering buying the church. The Catholic Diocese of Orange said it was considering buying the bankrupt church and converting it to a Catholic cathedral. Chapman University bid $46 million and would allow the church to lease back its core buildings.
With all of these issues surrounding the Crystal Cathedral, the question rolls around in many minds: Can “newly” planted mega churches survive when the founding pastor leaves?