(Photo: New Life Church)
The church of 2009 "American Idol" winner Kris Allen has been named the Fastest-Growing Church in America, based on this year’s annual report by Outreach magazine and LifeWay Research on the 100 fastest-growing U.S. churches.
With an attendance growth of 2,200 (61 percent), New Life Church in Conway, Ark., beat out the more than 8,000 churches that were contacted for Outreach magazine’s annual list, which appears in Outreach’s special report, published last week.
Meanwhile, Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church in Houston remains the largest church in America with an attendance of 43,500 – a figure that still far eclipses others on this year's Largest Churches list. The second largest church, LifeChurch.tv, led by Craig Groeschel, reported an attendance of 26,776 across its 13 locations.
For the Fastest-Growing and Largest lists, Outreach partnered with LifeWay for a third consecutive year and made their selections based on February and March weekend attendance averages. The Largest list includes churches of more than 5,600 while the Fastest-Growing list includes churches with attendance greater than 1,000, a numerical gain of 300 or more, and a percentage gain of at least 5 percent. The ranking of Fastest-Growing Churches was determined by an average of their numerical and percentage growth.
“The 2009 Outreach Magazine/LifeWay Research Special Report offers a unique look at many of the churches on the lists to tell the stories behind the numbers-stories of transformed churches and individual life change,” commented Outreach magazine Editor Lindy Lowry.
Combined, the 100 Fastest-Growing churches represent 280 worship sites - an average of almost three per church - which is 86 more than last year.
The 100 Largest churches together represent 331 worship sites and a combined attendance of some 1,012,985 people.
The states with the most churches on the Fastest-Growing list were found to be California (13) followed by Texas (12) and Florida (10). California and Texas also happen to be the states with the most churches on the Largest list with 18 and 15, respectively.
Notably, almost half (47) of the Largest churches identify themselves as “nondenominational” and 9 of the top 10 have multiple sites – what LifeWay director Ed Stetzer called “the new normal for fast-growing and large churches.”
"They're contemporary, aggressively evangelistic and evangelical and they're moving beyond the 'big box' megachurch model,” the researcher told USA Today.
After speaking with the leaders of each church on the Largest list and Fastest-Growing list, Stetzer said he and his team of researchers were encouraged to learn that local churches are not only preaching the Gospel, but also running health clinics, overhauling foreclosed neighborhoods and making serving their community a priority.
“The best churches have very intentional systems to move people from sitting in rows to sitting in circles (in small groups) to going out and making a difference in the world," he noted.
The following are the lists of the top 5 Fastest-Growing U.S. Churches and top 5 Largest U.S. Churches:
Top 5 Fastest-Growing U.S. Churches
(church name, location, pastor, attendance growth by number and percentage)
1. New Life Church, Conway, Ark., Rick Bezet (growth: 2,200; 61 percent)
2. Calvary Temple Worship Center, Modesto, Calif., Glen Berteau (growth: 3,180; 43 percent)
3. Cornerstone Church of San Diego, National City, Calif., Sergio De La Mora (growth: 1,439; 59 percent)
4. Elevation Church, Charlotte, N.C., Steven Furtick (growth: 1,598; 44 percent)
5. Faith Church of St. Louis, Fenton, Mo., David Crank (growth: 1,138; 102 percent)
Top 5 Largest U.S. Churches
(church name; location, pastor, attendance)
1. Lakewood Church, Houston Texas, Joel Osteen, (43.500)
2. LifeChurch.tv, Edmond, Okla., Craig Groeschel (26,776)
3. Willow Creek Community Church, South Barrington, Ill., Bill Hybels (23,400)
4. North Point Community Church, Alpharetta, Ga., Andy Stanley (23,377)
5. Second Baptist Church, Houston, Ed Young Sr. (22,723)