Media covers megachurches superficially
Sarah Pineda argues that focusing on the fashion of churches misrepresents their purpose. | Photo Illustration by Jordan Wright/THE CHIMES
Megachurches throughout Southern California act as modern-day Christianity’s most prominent icons, however the way the media portrays these churches may not be accurate.
A Gathering of the Hottest
Harper’s Bazaar published an article describing multiple Hillsong churches as the “most fashionable church[es] ever,” perceiving the megachurch through a materialistic view. Hillsong churches were founded in Australia by Brian and Bobbie Houston, who later started establishing Hillsong churches throughout the world including two in the United States located in New York City and Los Angeles.
The writer of the article, Bennett Marcus, focuses on the idea that Hillsong church serves as a gathering for all the hottest celebrities, models and athletes to enjoy church, giving special attention to what the celebrities and other church attendees are wearing. I found this very disturbing as a Christian who has also attended Hillsong L.A., because the clothes churchgoers have on their backs have no association with their spiritual life. Walking into Hillsong L.A. I did notice the well-dressed young adults around me, but it was not the reason I came to the church. I came because I wanted to worship God and be in a communal setting with others who loved God.
Devaluing the Meaning of Church
Labeled as a fashion magazine, it would make sense for Harper’s Bazaar to write a story focusing on fashion. However, I disagree with how it focuses on the fashion within a church body. Church is a sacred place where worship and teaching take place and it should not matter how churchgoers come. Since big time celebrities such as Justin Bieber and Hailey Baldwin attend Hillsong NYC and display it on their social media, this becomes the focus of what churches are known for. When fashion journalists attend the church merely to judge the outfits of others, they implicitly devalue the meaning of church.
The writer of the article goes on to discuss the lead pastor at Hillsong NYC and his relations with Rich Wilkerson Jr., the pastor of Vous Church in Miami. She talks about Rich Wilkerson Jr.’s fame as the Kardashian pastor who appears on their reality show and officiated Kim and Kanye West’s wedding.
Although I am glad Rich Wilkerson Jr. receives the attention of mainstream media, it saddens me that he acts as one of the few representations of Christianity in modern-day culture.
The First Evangelical Free Church of Fullerton, a megachurch located in Orange County and my home church when I lived on campus, welcomes many different people from different backgrounds. There is no distinction of a certain group, such as the youth, dominating the church. With its close proximity to Biola, many students attend the church. Since no celebrities attend the church, it is not in the media.
No matter how big or small a church, materialistic viewpoints on churches as exemplified in mainstream media poorly represent Christianity in modern-day culture.