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Abstract

In an age in which the numbers of people attending churches in the UK has been falling consistently for several decades, a trend that applies across Europe and North America, there is a marked contrast in the burgeoning growth of Christian religious encounters - including church attendance - around the world, particularly in the Global South (Avis, 2007). Amongst the characteristics of this growth is the emergence of large-scale megaevents, commonly held across Africa and the Indian sub-continent, as well as smaller but significant events held around the world.

The emergence in the modern day of large-scale Christian events began in the UK with Billy Graham’s evangelistic crusades in 1954, attended by 1.3 million people over a period of three months. Thirty years later, over one million attended ‘Mission England’ mass rallies, held in football stadia. But whether these meetings were merely ‘public spectacles’ (Guest, 2007:25), or had any measurable impact in terms of numbers attending church, at the time they certainly achieved media coverage and public visibility. The original evangelistic events in the UK were able to build on knowledge that many children gained in school and at Sunday school, which, some would argue, has been eroded by secular influences on education and society in general (Savage, Collins-Mayo & Mayo, 2006:3).

This research seeks to develop an understanding of the emergence of different types of these large Christian events, focusing on the mega-events in Africa and India where preachers with a global reach, such as the German evangelist Reinhard Bonnke (www.cfan.org.uk) and American Joyce Meyer (www.joycemeyer.org) are joined by less well-known speakers. The growth of megachurches and global worship brands in Australia and the USA provide another strand for comparison. Warner (2015:121) concludes that ‘what is obvious about gatherings of Christians that attract large numbers is that the quality of worship is one of the drivers in sustaining and expanding their number’.

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