Megachurches in the shadow of Sin City's strip

  • Pastor Paul Goulet during services at the International Church of Las Vegas (ICLV). The congregation totals about 10,000 members.
  • Services at the International Church of Las Vegas (ICLV). The congregation totals about 10,000 members.
  • Services at the International Church of Las Vegas (ICLV). The congregation totals about 10,000 members.
  • Services at the International Church of Las Vegas (ICLV). The congregation totals about 10,000 members.
  • Services at the International Church of Las Vegas (ICLV). The congregation totals about 10,000 members.
  • Pastor Paul Goulet during services at the International Church of Las Vegas (ICLV). The congregation totals about 10,000 members.
  • Services at the International Church of Las Vegas (ICLV). The congregation totals about 10,000 members.
  • Services at the International Church of Las Vegas (ICLV). The congregation totals about 10,000 members.
  • Services at the International Church of Las Vegas (ICLV). The congregation totals about 10,000 members.
  • Services at the International Church of Las Vegas (ICLV). The congregation totals about 10,000 members.
  • Services at the International Church of Las Vegas (ICLV). The congregation totals about 10,000 members.
  • Pastor Paul Goulet during services at the International Church of Las Vegas (ICLV). The congregation totals about 10,000 members.
  • Services at the International Church of Las Vegas (ICLV). The congregation totals about 10,000 members.
  • Services at the International Church of Las Vegas (ICLV). The congregation totals about 10,000 members.
  • Services at the International Church of Las Vegas (ICLV). The congregation totals about 10,000 members.
  • Services at the International Church of Las Vegas (ICLV). The congregation totals about 10,000 members.
  • Pastor Paul Goulet, Lead Pastors at the International Church of Las Vegas. The ICLV is one church with four different locations in the Las Vegas valley and an online campus that streams services around the world. Our desire as pastors is to see people in Las Vegas and around the world partner with Heaven for radical change in their communities.
  • A sign showing “God’s Ten Commandments” in downtown Las Vegas.
  • Members of the International Church of Las Vegas (ICLV), Francisea Sanchez (left) and Ashley Gurgess (right) perform “healing touch” during a church outreach to homeless people in downtown Las Vegas.
  • Member of the International Church of Las Vegas (ICLV), Mike Davis performs a ‘healing touch” on a homeless man in downtown Las Vegas.
  • Members of the International Church of Las Vegas (ICLV), Ashley Gurgess (center) and Mike McQueen (right) during an out-reach event to help homeless people in downtown Las Vegas.
  • Calvary Downtown Outreach Saturday BBQ where volunteers feed the homeless and those in need of food. Although Calvary isn’t a megachurch, many of the volunteers attend megachurches in the Las Vegas area and arrive every week to cook and pass out food.
  • Calvary Downtown Outreach Saturday BBQ where volunteers feed the homeless and those in need of food each week.
  • “Happy Birthday Jesus” in Las Vegas.
  • Parking lot of the Evangelical Shadow Hills Church in Las Vegas which has over 4,000 members.
  • Members of the Shadow Hills Church at the 20-acre campus in Las Vegas.
  • Services at Shadow Hills Church in Las Vegas.
  • Service at Shadow Hills Church, a Southern Baptist, Evangelical megachurch in Las Vegas. The church was apparently using a social media to reach young people.
  • A member of the Mountaintop Faith Ministries in Las Vegas during services. With over 5,000 members and an 11.5-acre campus, the church is currently expanding to accommodate the congregations growth.
  • Service at Shadow Hills Church, a Southern Baptist, Evangelical megachurch in Las Vegas.
  • A member of the Mountaintop Faith Ministries in Las Vegas holds an arrangement of fans during services. With over 5,000 members and an 11.5-acre campus, the church is currently expanding to accommodate the congregations growth.
  • Services at The Crossing Christian Church in Las Vegas featuring live music performances and is newest megachurch in Las Vegas with some 3,000 members.
  • Services at The Crossing Christian Church in Las Vegas featuring live music performances.
  • Services at The Crossing Christian Church which is Las Vegas’ newest mega church with about 3,000 members.

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Exchanging rows of wooden pews for columns of stadium seating, robed choirs for full-scale bands with electric guitars, bass and drums, and long-winded sermons for telecast services, megachurches are charging forward with a super-sized model for modernizing the practice of faith.

Megachurches, which can draw crowds of more than 2,000 people in a single weekend, continue to multiply and expand even at a time when the American public’s religiosity is waning.

More than 1,650 churches across the country are considered “mega,” totaling nearly six million megachurch attendees each weekend.

Churches are franchising that success, building satellite branches just to keep up with the demand, and leading multiple services throughout the weekend. For church campuses hosting guest speakers or church leaders from out of town, live video monitors bring services to congregations sometimes held hundreds of miles away.

“Recent decades have seen a surge in the number Protestant churches with weekend worship attendances of 2,000 or more adults and children,” said Warren Bird, director of research at the religious leader consulting firm the Leadership Network. “They tend to be evangelical in theology, and marked by vibrant worship, Bible teaching made very practical and relevant, and strong ministries for children and youth.”

Photographer Mark Peterson has tracked the megachurch phenomenon, capturing a rapidly changing movement that is taking hold in many primarily white, suburban regions throughout the U.S.

In Las Vegas, home to the highest concentration of megachurch congregations in the country, thousands of people flock to services every weekend in the shadows of Sin City’s famous strip.

“It’s very much like a stage show,” Peterson said of the church proceedings throughout the Las Vegas region. “I really wanted to just try and show a vastness of space and the pageantry that was taking place.”

For more feature photography, go to msnbc.com/photography

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