Discussing
Are "Top 100" Churches Lists Useful?

Jerod Clark

Cmf
October 1, 2009

I am glad that my church isn't on that list. I grew up in a small town, and would feel lost in such a huge atmosphere. I can't imagine that I would have been saved in that kind of environment. But it is obviously calling to other people. That's great news. We need a church for everyone's comfort. But a list like this makes it seem like only BIG is good. <br><br>What bothers me most is when I see small churches try to emulate these huge churches, a task that is doomed to failure. A congregation of 100 simply does not have the resources to carry on the same programs that a church of 1000 members can do. And unfortunately those mega-churches are selling their programs to small churches, making them believe that it is possible to do these amazing multi-media productions when you are on a micro budget (not only in cash but with human resources).

Christyleake
October 1, 2009

As you said, it is an insiders list. Church members don't read outreach magazine, most don't read the articles and blogs that mention it. So it's left to wonder why it is done. I'm afraid it just feeds the need to compete, compare, and contrast. Largest by church membership and fastest growing are just numbers and percentages. There is no real measurement of growth in a spiritually healthy sense until you hear the stories of transformation. My church is under 100. In the last two years, we've baptized 28 new believers. We've seen dozens of lives radically transformed because of the gospel and because they were shown grace and love. No way to accurately count that or put that into a list. And it isn't just membership and baptisms...things you can count once and tally up. True discipleship is happening. That is what is important. <br><br>I've served in and been a part of churches of all sizes and some on the list. Where we are now, even with just our tiny town, it is the best place we have ever served

Pcg
October 1, 2009

I don't find these lists terribly useful, though they do pique my curiosity. I have a bit of a problem labeling these churches as "top" as opposed to strictly "largest" or "fastest-growing". Why are numbers an indicator of a church's effectiveness in the Kingdom? And why should we have ANY other measure than "effectiveness in the Kingdom" to evaluate a local body?<br><br>Granted, that's a lot harder (impossible?) to measure than sheer size or growth. But that's why this sort of list is... less than useful.

Amy B
October 1, 2009

I don't really think a list like this is very useful. What can it really tell us? I am not familiar with most of these churches, but I know that at least two of them espouse theology that I find extremely troubling (namely, they preach a health &amp; wealth gospel). So, the point is, just because a church is big or is growing does not automatically mean that it is to be admired or imitated; it doesn't mean it is a church that is preaching the truth.

Pcg
October 1, 2009

See, for example, "church" #1 in the "largest" list. :-/

Rick
October 1, 2009

The gospel is like the H1N1 flu, it’s very contagious. Where there is face to face contact, it spreads rapidly. In some cities like Houston or Redding, it’s become pandemic. Third world countries have low resistance and seem especially vulnerable. Gee, it’s almost like hiding a little bit of yeast in a big batch of dough. Every church starts small, but there is no virtue staying small. If we are not growing in numbers, why? What’s the problem?<br><br>The first church in Acts grew from 120 to 3000 in one afternoon and then added another 2000 a few weeks later. The Ephesian Church went from 16 men to 20,000 in a few short years. Luke continually reports numbers. And, their theology was all mixed up. They spoke in tongues, some still followed Jewish laws, they hadn't memorized the New Testament, some were in it just for the money, they were awed by signs and wonders, they talked about angels a lot. But as it says in Proverbs, “where there is no ox, the stall is clean”. If we want to grow, it’s going to be messy. Always. Let’s rejoice in these churches. And lets rejoice in our small churches that are GOING to grow in numbers! The Father wants to fill the banquet table and He is saying “Go out into the country lanes and behind the hedges and urge anyone you find to come, so that the house will be full.” Go, go, go.<br><br>Sure, size is relative, and if you live in a tiny town in Wyoming, you may never grow to the size of LifeChurch in Edmond Oklahoma (which by the way has a population of 78,000 and the church is 26,000). But no matter the population resources to draw from, you ought to be growing numerically relative to your community. Trying to justify a small church by saying “we need a church for everyone’s comfort” just seems so wrong on so many levels. I think saying, we may be tiny but we're more mature is a cop-out.

joanna_h
October 1, 2009

Anyone can get lots of people into a building once a week if their marketing is good enough. That in itself counts for nothing, especially if a watered down/false version of the gospel is being preached once they get people in there. The changed hearts and spiritual growth that actually matters can not easily be measured or ranked. <br><br>These lists also promote the idea that big=better. Lots of small churches may sometimes be better at discipleship and reaching out than having one epic megachurch.

Mrben
October 2, 2009

I think you'll find that most (if not all) of the big churches on these lists operate with hundreds of small groups of people, and that's where they get their evangelistic edge from, rather than their meetings on a Sunday. Additionally, many of them are multi-service, multi-campus, so you'll probably find that even the "big" gatherings are a lot smaller than you might think.<br><br>For the most part, "big" churches were, at one point or other "small" churches. The interesting question is how they got from one to the next. Small churches can't, I agree, emulate large churches, but I don't think there's necessarily anything wrong with having a desire to see so many people come to Jesus that you're no longer a small church. Sometimes the hardest thing isn't actually to do with resources, but actually to do with mindset - many people don't want their churches to grow any bigger, not because of any deep theological (ecclesiological) conviction, but because either it wouldn't feel "comfortable" or because they simply can't imagine the difference and capture the vision. It's surprising what you _can_ do on micro budget and resources, when you have the drive and vision to build it.<br><br>(Disclaimer: I come from a "small" church, and have always been a member of "small" churches, and I live in the UK which has precisely zero mega-churches)

Llamapacker
October 2, 2009

I wonder of the value to the kingdom of not only "super" churches, but of even very large churches. I know they can provide special entertainment, high powered programs, and have some influence. I don't think they offer an over-all impact of that many people really involved in smaller, say 300 or less, churches. I tend to be skeptical and think it is more a part of our "hero" worship and wanting others to do the study, the work, and serve me attitude. <br><br>I think it is too easy for people even in a much smaller church to just "attend" church and not be very involved in living the Christ community, "one-anotheri", that we see in the NT. I am not sure that the overall impact is increased by such star churches. I am struggling with the idea that this is even close to what Jesus and the apostles had in mind. <br><br>I think instead of greedily hanging on to their "success" they would be more effective in their community if they spread dozens of daughter churches.

Rick
October 2, 2009

First I would say that it is astonishing that we subconsciously believe the real gospel is bad news, that big crowds would automatically stay away if the real thing is presented and the only way we could get a crowd is through deceit. I was reading Mark this morning and the crowds around Jesus were so huge night and day that He could not eat a meal. That is normal. People tore the roof off to get their buddy healed. Children loved Jesus, prostitutes, tax collectors and the crowds loved to hear and watch Him. Jesus is called “the Desire of the Nations” in the Old Testament prophecies.<br><br>Then in the early church, when Peter healed the lame man, 2000 people were added to the church in one afternoon. The real authentic gospel is exciting and compelling – yesterday and today. Did 2000 people flock into the church because they saw the deep spirituality, the maturity, the Bible knowledge, the fruits of the Spirit? No. They saw the power of God in action. This is what Paul says: “Yet I dare not boast about anything except what Christ has done through me, bringing the Gentiles to God by my message and by the way I worked among them. They were convinced by the power of miraculous signs and wonders and by the power of God’s Spirit.” or “And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” <br>The Gospel is awesome and when it is demonstrated, stadiums fill up with new believers. Which is a good thing. Unless you like your church quiet, comfortable, small, familiar and traditional.<br><br>Secondly, if you could attract a huge crowd to a church Sunday morning by marketing, why would you not take the opportunity to then present the authentic gospel and see hundreds enter the Kingdom? Are we too spiritual to get our hands dirty? Besides, whether we do it consciously or not, we are always marketing. And if your marketing says, “this is a small church for mature believers and my small circle of friends who know the words to the hymns,” that’s what people will believe. <br><br>There’s nothing wrong with smaller fellowship groups, they can be a great environment for discipleship and growth. Most of the “mega-churches” break down into smaller neighborhood fellowship groups that meet weekly, as did most of the new testament churches. But those should be growing and dividing as well. Luke says, “They worshiped together at the Temple each day,” (the only large building that could accomodate the whole church), “ met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity, all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.”<br>As Watchman Nee says, we are called to be “reproducers of reproducers”.

Jerod
October 2, 2009

I agree what you say Rick. I have no problems with a big church (I attend one) or with church marketing. I think a lot of good things are happening at these congregations. <a href="http://LifeChurch.tv" rel="nofollow">LifeChurch.tv</a> is a prime example I think. They're doing a lot of things well.<br><br>Where I start to have problems is when I hear some churches are willing to do whatever it takes to get on the list. They care more about being recognized than doing ministry well.<br><br>Plus I think it's real tempting for smaller churches just to copy what the big ones on the list are doing without taking the time to truly examine their heart for outreach or identify the needs in their community.

Rick
October 2, 2009

Good distinctions Jerod. I hope everyone reads your caveats here. However, "what churches will do to get on the list" it is an insider problem that is reported by word of mouth..I suppose I will have to take your word for it. How do you substantiate that these un-named churches "Care more about being recognized than doing ministry well." That's kind of a value judgement. I am guessing they would disagree vehemently with you.<br><br>I'm not trying to be critical here, just giving perspective. I appreciate your blogs.

Jo
October 5, 2009

I dont agree with that is it makes churches to be just about numbers and breeds competion which is not what Christianity is about and turns it almost like a business which is wrong.<br><br>Jesus commanded us to make disciples not for us to have the biggest church in the country!I often find that in those mega-churches that the truth is compromised and watered down as not to offend people.Whis is why it attracts so many people as it doesnt preach on sin but feel good theology that God wants to prosper them etc.....<br><br>What is important is the impact of the church and getting Gods word to the comman man.I am not downin growth its is essenatiol part of a healthy church but how they go about getting those large crowds.I wonder how they are impacting there neighbourhood? As the success of churches is reflceted by the impact.

Mrben
October 5, 2009

It's probably worth listening to some of the content coming out of some these days. Mars Hill, Seattle (<a href="http://www.marshillchurch.org" rel="nofollow">www.marshillchurch.org</a>), where Mark Driscoll preaches, pulls no punches. Tim Keller and John Piper both preach in "mega-churches". <br>

Doug
October 7, 2009

I attend a church that is on both of these lists and I wanted to add my thoughts. First, it is totally correct that more of the spiritual transformation takes place in "small groups". Second, many of the mega-churches give away resources to small churches (Life Church is prime example). <br>It seems to me that "big" churches create a gravity to the gospel that isn't being maintained well by the body of Christ these days. The key is to leverage that gravity for the gospel and not for the sake of some list.<br><br>One final thought about "watered down gospel". If a "sold out" believer in Chirst attends my church on the wrong Sunday, they will think it is watered down. If they stay for a month, they will witness the message evolve and those who are seeking the Lord (new believers) evolve with it. We don't change the truth, we just deliver it slowly.

Chris Sullivan
October 25, 2009

How do we define mega-church? You consider Redeemer a mega-church? They don't have a campus and hold normal-sized services around NYC.

Mrben
October 26, 2009

I was led to believe the standard definition was any church with more than 2000 attendants (a definition confirmed by <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Megachurch" rel="nofollow">http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M...</a> but I've heard it elsewhere too). Redeemer (according to wikipedia also ;) ) has 4,400 attendants, which would class it as a megachurch.

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