Top Ranked Churches in America

The act of ranking churches is a dangerous thing when approached with an unhealthy perspective of competition, idolization, or biblical immaturity. So before we get to the rankings let’s cover some do’s and don’ts.

  • DO remember that what man says is a successful church isn’t always what God says is a successful church.
  • DO understand that we’re incapable measuring what God values (i.e., heart attitude, authentic conversions, true discipleship, selfless advancement of the gospel, etc.) so we settle for measuring things that only hint at the possibility of spiritual fruit (i.e., church size, growth rate, influence, church planting, etc.).
  • DO recognize that man’s inferior metrics are still helpful in identifying some churches worth learning from.
  • DO remember that the majority of great work in God’s Kingdom flies under the radar and doesn’t get noticed by man’s systems for measuring ministry.
  • DO remember sometimes exceptional churches have humble results in terms of size, growth, and influence. Try to discover these ministries and learn from them, too.
  • DO remember sometimes unhealthy churches know all the right formulas to give the appearance of spiritual success.
  • DON’T assume the churches on these lists have it all together.

Learning from other churches can give us new perspectives that help us better understand the gospel as a whole and better identify what is truly biblical vs just cultural in our own ministries.

There are roughly 320,000 churches in the United States, and obviously no one has time to study them all. In fact, few people have time to study all 493 churches from the 22 big “top churches” lists published since 2004. If you are looking for some top churches to watch in America, I have created mashups of the top churches to study in the areas of growth, innovation, church planting, size, influence, and overall.

See the complete churches to watch list.

The methods for ranking the churches are simple. Churches are ranked (1) by how many lists they have been included on and (2) by the average ranking they have had on the lists. See the end of the article for a list of all lists referenced.

TOP 12 U.S. CHURCHES to learn from about CHURCH GROWTH
These are the top churches to learn from about how to consistently experience high level growth.

  1. Crossroads Community Church (Cincinnati, OH) :: Brian Tome
    Made 8/9 growth lists with an average rank of #36.88
  2. Lancaster County Bible Church (Manheim, PA) :: David Ashcraft
    Made 8/9 growth lists with an average rank of #69.88
  3. Mars Hill Church (Seattle, WA) :: Mark Driscoll
    Made 7/9 growth lists with an average rank of 29.71
  4. Church of the Highlands (Birmingham, AL) :: Chris Hodges
    Made 7/9 growth lists with an average rank of #29.86
  5. Central Christian Church (Las Vegas, NV) :: Jud Wilhite
    Made 7/9 growth lists with an average rank of 41.71
  6. NewSpring Church (Anderson, SC) :: Perry Noble
    Made 7/9 growth lists with an average rank of #44.00
  7. Seacoast Church (Mt. Pleasant, SC) :: Greg Surratt
    Made 7/9 growth lists with an average rank of #59.14
  8. Elevation Church (Charlotte, NC) :: Steven Furtick
    Made 6/9 growth lists with an average rank of 19.33
  9. Woodlands Church (Woodlands, TX) :: Kerry Shook
    Made 6/9 growth lists with an average rank of #37.0
  10. Christ’s Church of the Valley (Peoria, AZ) :: Don Wilson
    Made 6/9 growth lists with an average rank of 37.67
  11. Gateway Church (Southlake, TX) :: Robert Morris
    Made 6/9 growth lists with an average rank of 40.33
  12. Eagle Brook Church (White Bear Lake, MN) :: Bob Merritt
    Made 6/9 growth lists with an average rank of 41.67

TOP 10 U.S. CHURCHES to learn from about CHURCH SIZE
These are the top churches to learn from about running a large church.

  1. Lakewood Church (Houston, TX) :: Joel Osteen
    Made 7/7 size lists with an average attendance of 44,333
  2. Willow Creek Community Church (South Barrington, IL) :: Bill Hybels
    Made 7/7 size lists with an average attendance of 23,354

  3. North Point Community Church (Alpharetta, GA) :: Andy Stanley
    Made 7/7 size lists with an average attendance of 23,296
  4. Second Baptist Church (Houston, TX) :: Ed Young, Sr.
    Made 7/7 size lists with an average attendance of 21,874
  5. LifeChurch.tv (Edmond, OK) :: Craig Groeschel
    **Made 4/4 size lists with an average attendance of 20,894

    **(did not report numbers in 2010, 2011, & 2012 despite 30K+ attendance)
  6. Saddleback Church (Lake Forest, CA) :: Rick Warren
    Made 7/7 size lists with an average attendance of 20,259
  7. Southeast Christian Church (Louisville, KY) :: Dave Stone
    Made 7/7 size lists with an average attendance of 18,941
  8. Phoenix First Assembly (Phoenix, AZ) :: Tommy Barnett & Luke Barnett
    **Made 5/5 size lists with an average attendance of 18,118
    **(did not report numbers in 2008 & 2009)
  9. Calvary Chapel Ft. Lauderdale (Ft. Lauderdale, FL) :: Bob Coy
    Made 7/7 size lists with an average attendance of 16,916
  10. Woodlands Church (Woodlands, TX) :: Kerry Shook
    Made 7/7 size lists with an average attendance of 16,912.

TOP 10 U.S. CHURCHES to learn from about CHURCH INNOVATION
These are the top churches to learn from about innovative methods.

  1. LifeChurch.tv (Edmond, OK) :: Craig Groeschel
    Made 2/2 innovation lists with an average rank of #1
  2. Granger Community Church (Granger, IN) :: Mark Beeson
    Made 2/2 innovation lists with an average rank of #2.5
  3. Mars Hill Church (Seattle, WA) :: Mark Driscoll
    [tie for 3rd] Made 2/2 innovation lists with an average rank of #5.5
  4. Seacoast Church (Mt. Pleasant, SC) :: Greg Surratt
    [tie for 3rd] Made 2/2 innovation lists with an average rank of #5.5
  5. Fellowship Church (Grapevine, TX) :: Ed Young, Jr.
    [tie for 5th] Made 2/2 innovation lists with an average rank of #6
  6. Mosaic Church (Los Angeles, CA) :: Erwin McManus
    [tie for 5th] Made 2/2 innovation lists with an average rank of #6
  7. North Point Community Church (Alpharetta, GA) :: Andy Stanley
    [tie for 5th] Made 2/2 innovation lists with an average rank of #6
  8. National Community Church (Washington, DC) :: Mark Batterson
    Made 2/2 innovation lists with an average rank of #9.5
  9. Community Christian Church (Naperville, IL) :: Dave Ferguson
    Made 2/2 innovation lists with an average rank of #10
  10. Saddleback Church (Lake Forest, CA) :: Rick Warren
    Made 2/2 innovation lists with an average rank of #12

TOP 10 U.S. CHURCHES to learn from about CHURCH PLANTING
These are the top churches to learn from about planting multiple churches.

  1. Redeemer Presbyterian Church (New York, NY) :: Tim Keller
    Made 1/1 church planting lists with a rank of #1
  2. Mars Hill Church (Seattle, WA) :: Mark Driscoll
    Made 1/1 church planting lists with a rank of #2
  3. Northwood Church (Keller, TX) :: Bob Roberts
    Made 1/1 church planting lists with a rank of #3
  4. Perimeter Church (Duluth, GA) :: Randy Pope
    Made 1/1 church planting lists with a rank of #4
  5. Spanish River Church (Boca Raton, FL) :: David Nicholas
    Made 1/1 church planting lists with a rank of #5
  6. East 91st Street Christian Center (Indianapolis, IN) :: Derek Duncan
    Made 1/1 church planting lists with a rank of #6
  7. Community Christian Church (Naperville, IL) :: Dave Ferguson
    Made 1/1 church planting lists with a rank of #7
  8. Fellowship Bible Church (Little Rock, AR) :: Bill Wellons
    Made 1/1 church planting lists with a rank of #8
  9. Kensington Community Church (Troy, MI) :: Steve Andrews
    Made 1/1 church planting lists with a rank of #9
  10. Church at the Springs (Ocala, FL) :: Ron Sylvia
    Made 1/1 church planting lists with a rank of #10

TOP 10 U.S. CHURCHES to learn from that are INFLUENCING OTHER CHURCHES
These are the top churches that are influencing how other churches do ministry.

  1. Willow Creek Community Church (South Barrington, IL) :: Bill Hybels
    Made 3/3 influential lists with an average rank of #1.33
  2. Saddleback Church (Lake Forest, CA) :: Rick Warren
    Made 3/3 influential lists with an average rank of #1.67
  3. North Point Community Church (Alpharetta, GA) :: Andy Stanley
    Made 3/3 influential lists with an average rank of #3.33
  4. Fellowship Church (Grapevine, TX) :: Ed Young, Jr.
    Made 3/3 influential lists with an average rank of #3.67
  5. Lakewood Church (Houston, TX) :: Joel Osteen
    Made 3/3 influential lists with an average rank of #5.67
  6. The Potter’s House (Dallas, TX) :: T.D. Jakes
    Made 3/3 influential lists with an average rank of #8.33
  7. LifeChurch.tv (Edmond, OK) :: Craig Groeschel
    Made 3/3 influential lists with an average rank of #9.33
  8. The Brooklyn Tabernacle (Brooklyn, NY) :: Jim Cymbala
    Made 3/3 influential lists with an average rank of #10.67
  9. The Church of the Resurrection UMC (Leawood, KS) :: Adam Hamilton
    Made 3/3 influential lists with an average rank of #11
  10. North Coast Church (Vista, CA) :: Larry Osborne
    Made 3/3 influential lists with an average rank of #11
    .33

TOP 30 U.S. CHURCHES to learn from in ALL AREAS
These are the top churches that excel in all the measured areas from lists.

  1. Seacoast Church (Mt. Pleasant, SC) :: Greg Surratt
    Made 18/22 lists with an average rank of #42.39
  2. North Point Community Church (Alpharetta, GA) :: Andy Stanley
    Made 17/22 lists with an average rank of #13.24
  3. Saddleback Church (Lake Forest, CA) :: Rick Warren
    Made 17/22 lists with an average rank of #14.00
  4. Mars Hill Church (Seattle, WA) :: Mark Driscoll
    Made 17/22 lists with an average rank of #27.29
  5. New Hope Christian Fellowship (Oahu, HI) :: Wayne Cordeiro
    Made 17/22 lists with an average rank of #30.94
  6. Willow Creek Community Church (South Barrington, IL) :: Bill Hybels
    Made 16/22 lists with an average rank of #14.69
  7. Woodlands Church (Woodlands, TX) :: Kerry Shook
    Made 16/22 lists with an average rank of #24.63
  8. Southeast Christian Church (Louisville, KY) :: Dave Stone
    Made 16/22 lists with an average rank of #26.19
  9. Second Baptist Church (Houston, TX) :: Ed Young, Sr.
    Made 15/22 lists with an average rank of #23.07
  10. NewSpring Church (Anderson, SC) :: Perry Noble
    Made 15/22 lists with an average rank of #40.80
  11. NorthRidge Church (Plymouth, MI) :: Brad Powell
    Made 15/22 lists with an average rank of #42.20
  12. LifeChurch.tv (Edmond, OK) :: Craig Groeschel
    Made 14/20 lists with an average rank of #8.64
  13. Fellowship Church (Grapevine, TX) :: Ed Young, Jr.
    Made 14/22 lists with an average rank of #11.14
  14. Christ’s Church of the Valley (Peoria, AZ) :: Don Wilson
    Made 14/22 lists with an average rank of #28.29
  15. Central Christian Church (Las Vegas, NV) :: Jud Wilhite
    Made 14/22 lists with an average rank of 29.43
  16. Crossroads Community Church (Cincinnati, OH) :: Brian Tome
    Made 14/22 lists with an average rank of #33.29
  17. Lancaster County Bible Church (Manheim, PA) :: David Ashcraft
    Made 14/22 lists with an average rank of #64.43
  18. Lakewood Church (Houston, TX) :: Joel Osteen
    Made 13/22 lists with an average rank of #2.23
  19. Calvary Chapel Ft. Lauderdale (Ft. Lauderdale, FL) :: Bob Coy
    Made 13/22 lists with an average rank of #22.85
  20. Prestonwood Baptist Church (Plano, TX) :: Jack Graham
    Made 13/22 lists with an average rank of #31.31
  21. Eagle Brook Church (White Bear Lake, MN) :: Bob Merritt
    Made 13/22 lists with an average rank of 37.69
  22. Community Bible Church (San Antonio, TX) :: Robert Emmitt
    Made 13/22 lists with an average rank of #37.77
  23. The Church of the Resurrection UMC (Leawood, KS) :: Adam Hamilton
    Made 13/22 lists with an average rank of #44.23
  24. Mariner’s Church (Irvine, CA) :: Kenton Beshore
    Made 13/22 lists with an average rank of 47.62
  25. Christ Fellowship (Palm Beach gardens, FL) :: Todd Mullins
    Made 12/22 lists with an average rank of 22.00
  26. First Baptist Church Hammond (Hammond, IN) :: pastor in transition
    Made 12/22 lists with an average rank of #29.67
  27. McLean Bible Church (Vienna, VA) :: Lon Soloman
    Made 12/22 lists with an average rank of #32.17
  28. Gateway Church (Southlake, TX) :: Robert Morris
    Made 12/22 lists with an average rank of 33.50
  29. Harvest Bible Church (Rolling Meadows, IL) :: James MacDonald
    Made 12/22 lists with an average rank of 41.67
  30. North Coast Church (Vista, CA) :: Larry Osbourne
    Made 12/22 lists with an average rank of 42.00

I appreciate that these lists prove that success in ministry can be achieved with a variety of models. They represent a wide spectrum of denominations and ministry philosophies that reach an equally diverse spectrum of cultures and communities. Something valuable can be learned from each church.

Referenced Lists

  1. Outreach magazine’s 2012 100 Fastest-Growing U.S. Churches
  2. Outreach magazine’s 2012 100 Largest U.S. Churches
  3. Outreach magazine’s 2011 100 Fastest-Growing U.S. Churches
  4. Outreach magazine’s 2011 100 Largest U.S. Churches
  5. Outreach magazine’s 2010 100 Fastest-Growing U.S. Churches
  6. Outreach magazine’s 2010 100 Largest U.S. Churches
  7. Outreach magazine’s 2009 100 Fastest-Growing U.S. Churches
  8. Outreach magazine’s 2009 100 Largest U.S. Churches
  9. Outreach magazine’s 2008 America’s 25 Most Innovative Churches
  10. Outreach magazine’s 2008 100 Fastest-Growing U.S. Churches
  11. Outreach magazine’s 2008 103 Largest U.S. Churches
  12. Outreach magazine’s 2007 America’s 25 Most Innovative Churches
  13. Outreach magazine’s 2007 101 Fastest-Growing U.S. Churches
  14. Outreach magazine’s 2007 100 Largest U.S. Churches
  15. The Church Report’s 2007 50 Most Influential Churches
  16. Outreach magazine’s 2007 America’s Top 25 Multiplying Churches
  17. Outreach magazine’s 2006 100 Fastest-Growing U.S. Churches
  18. Outreach magazine’s 2006 100 Largest U.S. Churches
  19. The Church Report’s 2006 50 Most Influential Churches
  20. Outreach magazine’s 2005 100 Fastest-Growing U.S. Churches
  21. The Church Report’s 2005 50 Most Influential Churches
  22. Outreach magazine’s 2004 100 Fastest-Growing U.S. Churches

Special thanks to Outreach magazine, Ed Stetzer, and Church Growth Today for their work in compiling the data for the original lists.