I just returned from the world's largest worship gathering. And
I picked up some ideas for those who wish to grow their
congregations to epic proportions.
I witnessed an estimated 50 million faithful gather in one place
to seek the Almighty's favor, wash away their sins, and spend time
with their admired religious leaders.
This is Kumbh Mela. Hindus-and others-from throughout India and
neighboring countries flock to Allahabad, India, every 12 years for
a six-week festival of faith.
I've never experienced anything like it. It was breathtaking,
overwhelming, chaotic, confusing, and, at times, dangerous.
Stampedes claimed dozens of lives.
the main bathing days, endless streams of people crush toward the
Ganges and Yamuna Rivers before dawn. Thousands of police and
military personnel do their best to keep the chanting crowds
Along the way, I observed some logistical factors that may be of
interest to church leaders in other countries who aspire to attract
ever-larger throngs to their Sunday morning services. So, here's my
list of mega-big recommendations, direct from Kumbh Mela.
IF YOU WANT THE BIGGEST CONGREGATION . . .
1. Wear nothing but ashes. Even on cold
mornings, the most revered leaders bare all for the adoring
2. For obvious health reasons, make sure
to use swiftly moving water for what they call the Holy Dip. And
advise your favorite devotees to be first into the water.
3. Offer your attendees high-demand
ministry items in the campus store, such as musk, animal bones, and
4. Equip elders with poles and sticks-in
the event that visitors do not follow proper protocol. (I learned
this the hard way after standing in the wrong place.)
5. Forget parking lot attendants. Just
block all roads within five miles of the event and insist everyone
Seriously, though, I was awestruck with the spiritual hunger in
this place. So many people of all ages, all colors, and all walks
of life, going to elaborate lengths to appeal to their perceived
deities, to find freedom from their sins.
It was, in a way, an out-of-body glimpse of the entire world's
people. I wondered what the one true God was thinking.
I found myself thanking my Lord for finding me, loving me, and
redeeming me. And I prayed that he would also lead these millions
of pilgrims into his fold as well. Maybe he'll use you and me to
help. Not by attempting to create the largest single congregation.
But by creating the largest demonstration of his true love.