The Megachurch and the Mainline: Remaking Religious Tradition in the Twenty-first Century

Front Cover
University of Chicago Press, 2007 - Religion - 251 pages

Religious traditions provide the stories and rituals that define the core values of church members. Yet modern life in America can make those customs seem undesirable, even impractical. As a result, many congregations refashion church traditions so they may remain powerful and salient. How do these transformations occur? How do clergy and worshipers negotiate which aspects should be preserved or discarded?

Focusing on the innovations of several mainline Protestant churches in the San Francisco Bay Area, Stephen Ellingson’s The Megachurch and the Mainline provides new understandings of the transformation of spiritual traditions. For Ellingson, these particular congregations typify a new type of Lutheranism—one which combines the evangelical approaches that are embodied in the growing legion of megachurches with American society’s emphasis on pragmatism and consumerism. Here Ellingson provides vivid descriptions of congregations as they sacrifice hymns in favor of rock music and scrap traditional white robes and stoles for Hawaiian shirts, while also making readers aware of the long history of similar attempts to Americanize the Lutheran tradition.

This is an important examination of a religion in flux—one that speaks to the growing popularity of evangelicalism in America.


What people are saying - Write a review

We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.


1 The Restructuring of American Religious Traditions
2 The Trouble with Tradition
3 Constructing the Catalysts of Change
4 Reframing the Tradition
5 In the Image of Evangelicalism
6 Conflict Compromise and Consensus
7 Tradition and Change in the American Religious Landscape
A Note on Data and Methods

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2007)

Stephen Ellingson is assistant professor of sociology at Hamilton College. He is a coeditor of The Sexual Organization of the City, also published by the University of Chicago Press.

Bibliographic information