Culture At Large

Are "Top 100" Churches Lists Useful?

Jerod Clark

I always have mixed emotions every year when Outreach Magazine releases it list of America’s 100 largest and fastest growing churches.

It’s intriguing to see where these churches are and of course I’m always curious to see which ones around me, if any, made the list. For example, for the first time a church I used to attend made the list.  That’s exciting…I guess.

But after perusing the lists, I really start to wonder if the list in important or useful.

Outreachsells a printable version of the lists, but here are the top handful of each:

  1. Lakewood Church – Houston, TX - Joel Osteen (43,500)
  2. – Edmond, OK – Graig Groeschel (26,776)
  3. Willow Creek C.C. – South Barrington, IL – Bill Hybels (23,400)
  4. North Point C.C. – Alpharetto, GA – Andy Stanley (23,377)
  5. Second Baptist Church – Houston, TX – Ed Young, Sr. (22,723)
  6. Saddleback Church – Lake Forest, CA – Rick Warren (22,418)
  7. Fellowship Church – Grapvine, TX – Ed young, Jr. (18,355)
  8. Southeast Christian Church – Louisville, KY – Dave Stone (17,261)
  9. Woodlands Church – The Woodlands, TX – Kerry Shook (17,142)
  10. Calvary Chapel – Fort Lauderdale, FL –Bob Coy (15,921)
  11. Central Christian Church – Las Vegas, NV – Jud Wilhite (15,081)
  12. First Baptist Church – Hammond, IN – Jack Schaap (15,059)
Fastest Growing (minimum growth of 300 people and 5%):
  1. New Life Church – Conway, AR (Growth by 2,200/61%)
  2. Conway Temple Worship Center – Modesta, CA (3,180/43%)
  3. Cornerstone Church of San Diego – National City, CA (1,439/59%)
  4. Elevation Church – Charlotte, NC (1,598/44%)
  5. Faith Church of St. Louis – Fenton, MO (1,138/102%)
  6. Long Hollow Baptist Church – Hendersonville, TN (1,606/40%)
  7. 12Stone Church – Lawrenceville, GA (1,799/32%)
  8. Experience Life – Lubbock, TX (1,015/186%)
  9. North Point Church – Springfield, MO (1,100/47%)
  10. Kinigdom in the Valley – Litchfield Park, AZ (1,000/100%)
  11. Church of the Heighlands – Birmingham, AL (2,133/26%)
  12. Richmond Outreach Center (The Roc) – Richmond, VA (1,063 /44%)
  13. – Edmond, OK (5,074/23%)
Here are a few of my thoughts.

The good:

I do like how Outreach hopes to tell the stories of lives changed at these churches. The magazine says it’s not a rip on smaller churches but a chance to see what all churches can learn from some of the bigger ones. In fact Outreach has featured small churches and their stories of success as well.

The bad:

Numbers are self reported so some churches choose not to participate meaning the list isn’t completely accurate. Some churches don’t take the time, don’t want to reveal numbers or don’t like this list.

I’ve heard stories of what churches will do to make the list. They’ll compromise their standards for membership just to boost the numbers.

This is an insider list. I’m guessing the vast amount of people looking for a church, aren’t checking this list. I think it could be a prideful thing from some, not all, and hopefully not the majority of churches to say they’re on the list.

So in the end, I guess I look at the list as something that’s interesting, but not entirely useful. I get a little more excited about the fastest growing list because it shows God is moving in some amazing ways around the country in churches many of us have never heard about before now.

How about you? Do you learn anything by looking at the list? If your church in on the list, how do you react?

Topics: Culture At Large, Theology & The Church, Faith, News & Politics, North America