The past three decades have been boom times for big churches. In the 1970s, only a handful of churches drew more than 2,000 people on Sundays. Now they number in the thousands.
But the collapse of the Crystal Cathedral near Los Angeles, which is being sold to pay off more than $40 million in debt, has prompted fears that the megachurch bubble may be about to burst.
Most megachurches – which earn that label around the 2,000-attendance level – are led by baby boomer pastors who soon will hit retirement age and without suitable replacements in the pipeline. And some fear the big-box worship centers with lots of individual programs no longer appeal to younger generations.