Outreach magazine just came out with their annual edition of largest and fastest growing churches in America. It is always an honor to be included and I feel the issue is greatly beneficial in numerous ways. It is always encouraging to hear how churches are advancing the gospel into their communities and reaching people for Christ. The cynical blogger might throw clueless darts about ‘compromise’ or ‘sheep stealing’ – but all the churches I know on the list are preaching God’s Word and reaching tons of unchurched people.
The issue is also a great teaching tool. I never want to stop growing as a leader and a lot of that comes down to a teachable heart. We can learn so much from each other! It was great to get insights on articles on multi-ethnic outreach, preventing pastoral burn-out, multi-site strategies, etc. (Proverbs 15:22)
Sometimes people accuse pastors of ‘only thinking about the numbers, not people.’ No offense intended, but that comment is at best incomplete, or at worst, stupid and jealous. If we care about people, we’ll keep close track of the numbers. Numbers represent lives and each life matters. Keeping track of attendance and decisions is thoroughly biblical. Luke records how many people were saved in Peter’s first two sermons. He also notes that the Good Shepherd (Luke 15) was so exact in his counting that he knew when even one sheep was missing.
God calls church leaders to be both good shepherds and good stewards. If we are concerned about people being saved and discipled, how could we not keep up with them? Larry Osborne (Sticky Church) asks a great question when he says ‘If we count our offerings to the penny but not our people to the person, are we not showing greater regard to money than we do to people?’
Yes, lists and awards and boasting can become idolatry that God will punish (2 Chronicles 24). But used properly, a careful matrix of measurability can help you be a responsible leader and rejoice when God is ‘adding to your number.’ (Acts 2:47)
Although not for a magazine list, it is important for a church to track more than just the worship attendance number to get a good perspective on their discipleship process. Other areas to track include: baptism, ministry involvement, community impact, missions participation, financial giving, etc. No one or two numbers gives you the whole picture, but they can help you study your effectiveness.
5 Quick Observations from Top 100 List
- Many of the churches on the list are involved in mercy ministries like adoption, fighting human trafficking, etc.
- Texas had the most on the fastest growing list with 12. North Carolina was 4th with 7 churches listed.
- If Lifechurch turned in its numbers, everybody would move down one notch on the list:-)
- Average tenure of current senior pastor: Largest churches – 20 years, Fastest growing churches – 13 years
- The northeast section of the country had 5 of the fastest growing churches. The southeast had 41 and the southwest had 21.