The Online Resource for Christian Leaders

July 2006 Online Issue

The Insider

50 Most Influential Churches

Two of the churches (Saddleback and Fellowship) are affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention and the other three are non-affiliated with a denomination (Willow Creek, North Point and Lakewood). Some are new churches and others date back to the late 1950s. Lakewood Church began in 1959 and is both the oldest of the five top congregations and largest in the nation. North Point is the youngest of the group and began in 1995 with about 1,200 people.

Both of the nation’s largest United Methodist congregations – Resurrection United Methodist Church (Leawood, Kan.) and Windsor Village United Methodist Church (Houston, Texas) – were named by other church leaders for this group of churches. Other major Methodist churches include Frazer Memorial United Methodist Church (Montgomery, Ala.) and Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church (Tipp City, Ohio). Other older mainline churches include the Episcopal Trinity Church (Manhattan, N.Y.) and the Presbyterian (PCUSA) Menlo Park Presbyterian Church (Menlo Park, Calif.).

Several churches are new to our list this year. These 19 churches are from various locations across the nation. Five are from California; two each are from Alabama, Florida, Illinois, Indiana and Texas; and one each is from Arkansas, Arizona, Massachusetts and Oklahoma.

The 2006 survey was emailed to leaders of more than 2,000 of the largest non-Catholic congregations in the nation by Church Growth Today in April and May. A small selected group of smaller churches were also invited to recommend churches. Participants were asked to recommend up to 10 churches (vs. five last year) they considered to be among the nation’s most influential. A total of 83 churches were recommended. A total of 57 percent of all church leader recommendations named these five churches.

These churches are recommended by other church leaders as congregations that represent the passion and sense of mission mandated in the New Testament. They do not all share the same view of all biblical doctrine, their recognition came from others, and they do not view themselves as better than other churches. Each just considers itself as a church wanting to be pleasing and useful to God and their understanding of His mandates to them.

Changes in this years list reflects the rapid change and persity of ministry across the nation from year to year. It appears to also affirm the new expressions of ministry by emerging churches while also affirming the best of churches that endure through eras of dramatic change. We look forward to the churches that you will be recommending next year. Thanks to you who took the time to share in this year’s survey.

Willow Creek Community Church (South Barrington, Ill.), Saddleback Church (Lake Forest, Calif.), North Point Community Church (Alpharetta, Ga.) and Fellowship Church (Grapevine, Texas) once again lead this years 50 Most Influential Churches list.

Among the other three churches, Willow Creek is the second oldest and began in 1975 with a core of 75 people. Saddleback followed in 1980 with only Rick Warren and his wife Kay initially. Fellowship Church is the second youngest of the five and began in 1990 with 150 people. All five of the churches now average more than 16,000 in weekend attendance and are consistently among the nation’s 15 largest and fastest growing churches each year.


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