(Photo: The Christian Post)
A Christian publication geared towards churches and ministries has recently published its annual lists of the 100 largest and fastest growing churches in the United States.
Outreach Magazine, a California-based publication that includes ideas, features, and interviews with evangelicals, published the two lists earlier this month. With approximately 43,500 worship attendees, Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church of Houston, Texas, was number one in the largest church category. Triumph Church of Detroit, Mich., was the fastest growing, having experienced an increase of about 3,800 worship attendees or 49 percent.
High ranking congregations on both lists included NewSpring Church of Anderson, S.C., which was number 2 on the fastest-growing list and number 4 on the largest. NewSpring Central Communications Director Suzanne Swift told The Christian Post that they were "honored" by the blessings God had given their congregation.
"We feel honored and humbled that God has seen fit to bless what we're doing here at NewSpring," said Swift, whose church had been on the list in previous years also. "The only significance of a list like this to us is that it reflects the number of people in our state we are in a position to influence for Christ each week."
2/42 Community Church Brighton, Mich., landed at the number eight spot on the fastest growing list, adding 933 members or 62 percent increase. But 2/42 did not make it onto either list in previous years, Worship Pastor Jason Harper told The Christian Post.
"I can't help thinking of Acts Chapter 2 where Peter preaches and 3000 were added in one day. It took us over 8 years. We have a whole lot to learn," said Harper.
When asked by CP about what advice he had for congregations struggling to grow, Harper responded that they should "pray to have God's heart for lost people." "Be convinced that the best way to disciple leaders is through 'on the job' training while being on mission to reach lost people," said Harper. "Learn everything you can from churches that are reaching lost people. Take risks big enough that God will need to show up."
Another newcomer to the list was Rock City Church of Columbus Ohio, which was founded in April 2011.
"It's pretty unbelievable," said Katie Fisher of Rock City in an interview with The Christian Post. "We never could have imagined just two and a half years into Rock City, that God would be moving like He is."
Fisher also told CP that it was a greater honor to see "people's lives transformed week after week by the Presence and the power of Christ," than being on the list.
"In just two years, over 1100 people have made a decision for Christ and we are seeing continued growth week after week. To be among some of the greatest churches in the country doing incredible things for God is quite an honor," said Fisher.
According to an entry on its website, Outreach Magazine partnered with LifeWay Research and its president, Ed Stetzer, to gather the self-reported data from 27,000 churches. "This year's Fastest-Growing list includes churches with attendance greater than 1,000-a numerical gain of 224 or more and a percentage gain of at least 7 percent," reads the entry in part.
"The rankings are determined by a formula that averages percentage and numerical gain. The Largest list includes all churches participating in the survey with attendance of 6,010 or more."
Outreach Magazine's list is not all-inclusive, as churches can decline to take part in the statistical information. A notable example is Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Wash. In a column published last month on The Christian Post's website, Driscoll explained his reasoning.
"I genuinely care about the faces in our church and not just the numbers. I also want to relieve some of the pressure our leaders may feel to outdo ourselves every year, as that has the possibility to cause us to not make certain tough calls and changes because it could slow our growth," wrote Driscoll.
"In the end, removing ourselves from the list is just something I feel the Holy Spirit has asked me/us to do and godly counsel from our executive elders and outside pastors of other very large churches."