What do almost half of the country's largest churches have in common? They're nondenominational. And when it comes to those in the top echelon, they meet in multiple locations.
Though neither element is a surprise considering church-growth trends in recent years, they are among the highlights of Outreach magazine and LifeWay Research's latest annual list of the largest and fastest-growing churches in America. The study of more than 8,000 churches nationwide found 47 of the largest 100 are not affiliated with a denomination, while nine of the top 10 are multisite.
"Multiple sites are the new normal for fast-growing and large churches, " said Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research. "They're contemporary, aggressively evangelistic and evangelical, and they're moving beyond the 'big box' megachurch model. 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."
So which churches topped the lists? Once again, Lakewood Church in Houston stands as the largest church in the nation, with more than 43,500 people showing up on the typical weekend. (Lifechurch.tv, based out of Edmond, Okla., was second with an average of 26,776 attending its 13 campuses.) Meanwhile, New Life Church in Conway, Ark., was dubbed the fastest-growing church, with a 61 percent increase in membership—representing 2,200 people—since last year. [usatoday.com, 9/17/09; christianpost.com, 9/17/09]
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