Via Media

A reflection on the megachurch, using T.D. Jakes as a starting point:

Obviously, Jakes himself can’t do what the preacher did when I was growing up: write and deliver every sermon and visit every elderly shut-in and preside at prayer meeting on Wednesday nights and counsel every struggling couple or wayward teenager who needed counseling and send every single one of the dearly departed to his or her reward. Potter’s House, like other megachurches, has a corporate organization chart: Below Jakes there are several pastors, and below the pastors a host of ministers.

Some megachurch congregations are mostly white, some mostly Latino and some, like Potter’s House, are mostly black. But Potter’s House doesn’t fit the traditional role of the black church in America as, at least in part, a political institution pushing for social change. "We walk in the shadow of those great ghosts" such as King and Abernathy, Jakes said, but he is resolutely nonpartisan: "I’ve never seen an eagle fly on one wing. I’ve got to be in the middle of the bird."

"The parishioner that we serve is vastly different … from 25 years ago, " Jakes said. "People interview you before they join your church." They’re looking for more than just spiritual guidance, and Potter’s House has to deliver: computer hookups under some pews, simultaneous translation for Spanish-speakers, a streaming Internet feed for those too ill to come to church, ample parking, a multitude of youth programs, a $4 million air- conditioning system. Black megachurches like his are just catching up to their white counterparts, Jakes said; the new trend is for deluxe amenities such as gymnasiums and food courts.

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