Friday, October 3, 2008

The Largest and Fastest-Growing Churches in America

Outreach magazine has compiled its annual report of the largest and fastest growing churches in America and, for the first time, all 100 churches were listed with 7,000 or higher weekend attendees.

Topping the fifth annual list again this year was Lakewood Church in Houston with 43,500 attendees, followed by Second Baptist Church in the same city with 23,659 and then North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Ga., with 22,557. Although some of the most well-known churches still rank the highest, some actually dropped in attendance:
- Lakewood, led by Pastor Joel Osteen, dipped from 47,000 in 2007;
- Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Ill., dropped from 23,500 to 22,500; and
- Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., led by Pastor Rick Warren, went down from 22,000 weekend attendees to 19,414.

Among the top 100 fastest-growing churches in the country, Church of the Highlands in Birmingham, Ala., was ranked No. 1 with a growth of 72 percent — or 3,418 attendees — over the last year. The church was also the youngest church to qualify in the largest churches list, standing at No. 71 with 8,168 attendees.

Elevation Church in Charlotte, N.C., ranked second in the fastest-growing report, with Triumph Church in Detroit, Mich., following respectively.

Outreach magazine "celebrates" and studies the country's largest and fastest-growing churches once a year. But, it also recognizes that the average church in America is home to fewer than 100 people and stresses that "a passion for outreach is not defined by numbers alone."

Ed Stetzer, who conducted the study, said, "As raw data, numbers mean little. What brings meaning to the numbers are the stories behind them — the changed lives and transformed communities." He believes that pastors can still learn from larger churches, however. "Nothing can replace the work you do in your own church, your own community, among the lost in your own neighborhood," he said. "A pastor has to have a passion and a fire to reach, teach and disciple those near. But, we can also learn from others — many of whom were small churches themselves a few years ago."

Visit for the complete list of "The Outreach 100." []

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