SAN DIEGO, CA — Hispanic megachurch Iglesia Cristiana Segardores de Vida in Hollywood, Fla., has been named the fastest-growing church in America on the Outreach 100 Fastest-Growing U.S. Churches list, published Sept. 27, 2007, exclusively in Outreach magazine’s annual Outreach 100 Special Issue.
The magazine’s cover features Ruddy Gracia, co-pastor with his wife, Maria, of Iglesia Christiana Segadores de Vida. Since the Gracias launched the church in 1992 in their apartment living room, Segadores de Vida has grown from a small group to almost 6,000 attendees. From 2006 to ’07, the church grew by 2,800 attendees.
This year, Outreach partnered for the first time with Dr. Ed Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research and missiologist-in-residence, who served as the researcher for the report. Stetzer and his research team contacted more than 20,000 churches to gather the self-reported data used to compile the lists.
For the first time, a new methodology was used to calculate the Outreach 100 Fastest-Growing U.S. Churches list. This year, the list rankings reflect an amalgamated number, factoring in both numerical and percentage growth. Previously, growth ranks were determined by numeric growth alone.
“We believe this change increases the list’s utility and meaning,” says Lynne Marian, executive editor and publisher of Outreach magazine. “While numerical growth in large churches is an important factor, percentage growth in attendees is also critical. The change in methodology provides a more accurate picture of a church’s growth.”
In addition to the publication of the Outreach 100 lists, Outreach’s special issue also includes a report on the trends driving today’s megachurches (2,000-plus attendees) and a comprehensive analysis of the growth trends represented by the two Outreach 100 lists.
The issue also features profiles of four of the churches on the Fastest-Growing list, offering transferable principles and insights into their growth. These churches include Segadores de Vida in Hollywood, Fla. (No. 1); Mariners Church in Irvine, Calif. (No. 14); Salem Baptist Chicago (No. 24); Central Christian Church in Las Henderson, Nev. (No. 19) and our One to Watch: Granger Community Church in Granger, Ind.
In his analysis, Dr. Stetzer identifies five key church growth megatrends that will continue to impact churches of all sizes across the United States:
Megatrend No. 1 – Rapid growth: Churches today are growing at a more rapid rate than at any other time in history. In 1970 only 10 American churches with more than 2,000 attendees existed. According to Hartford Institute for Religious Research, today there are more than 1,300-up from 835 in 2003.
Megatrend No. 2 -Multi-site technology: Churches today are increasingly creative in their use of time and space. U.S. churches are holding as many as six to seven or more weekend services with even large churches giving their services a smaller church “feel” while targeting niche audiences. Multi-site technology has allowed churches to expand across city, state and even national borders. Multi-site facts:
• According to LifeWay Research, in 2000 only 5% of all U.S. megachurches had multiple locations. Today, 25% of all megachurches have more than one site, and experts are predicting that by 2010, 50% of all megachurches will be multi-site.
• Currently, six of the 10 fastest-growing U.S. churches on the Outreach 100 are multi-site churches.
• Currently, seven of the top 10 U.S. churches on the Outreach 100 Largest list are multi-site churches
Megatrend No. 3-Political action in new ways: While Christian churches have long been perceived as monolithically right wing, today, more of them are using their platform to tackle issues not historically connected with those of the Religious Right. Church leaders like Saddleback Church Senior Pastor Rick Warren and Joel C. Hunter, senior pastor of Northand, A Church Distributed in suburban Orlando, are championing issues such as eliminating poverty and creation care. These leaders represent a new vision of holistic social justice, including abortion and traditional family issues, as well as the challenges of poverty and creation care.
Megatrend No. 4 – Ethnic diversity: The escalating ethnic diversity in the U.S. population is becoming increasingly reflected in American churches as the Hispanic and Asian populations continue to increase in the United States.
Megatrend No. 5 – Return to discipleship: Many megachurches today are recalibrating their core purpose–returning to the foundational ethic of multiplication through discipleship rather an emphasis on personal self-help and church growth methods.
Fast Facts on the Top 100 Largest & Fastest-growing Churches in America
1) The state with the most churches on the Largest list (22) is California. Texas has 16.
2) Some 1,016,926 people are represented by the combined attendance of the Outreach 100 Largest U.S. churches. More than half-million people attended a Fastest-Growing church in 2007.
3) The youngest church on the Fastest-Growing list is Elevation Church, Charlotte, N.C. (No. 3), founded in 2006.
4) The youngest churches on the Largest list are Gateway Church, Southlake, Texas (No. 74); NewSpring Church, Anderson, S.C. (No. 50); and The Rock Church, San Diego (No. 76). All were founded in 2000.
5) The oldest church on the Largest list is The Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral, Jamaica, N.Y. (No. 20), founded in 1837.
6) 11 churches on the Largest list have sites in different states than the church’s main campus.
7) One church on the Fastest-Growing list has an international site: Flamingo Road Baptist Church, Cooper City, Fla. (No. 12), opened a site in Lima, Peru.
8) The 100 churches on the Fastest-Growing list grew four times faster than the 100 churches on the Largest list grew.
9) From 2006 to 2007, the average growth of the 100 churches on the Fastest-Growing list was 1,385 attendees.
10) The largest increase in attendance at any one church on the Fastest-Growing list was 4,750 attendees at Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Va. (No. 7).
Top 10 Largest U.S. Churches
1) Lakewood Church, Houston Texas, Joel Osteen, pastor (47,000)
2) Willow Creek Community Church, South Barrington, Ill., Bill Hybels (23,500)
3) Second Baptist Church, Houston, Ed Young Sr. (23,198)
4) Saddleback Church, Lake Forest, Calif., Rick Warren (22,000)
5) LifeChurch.tv, Edmond, Okla., Craig Groeschel (19,907)
6) Southeast Christian Church, Louisville, Ky., Dave Stone (18,013)
7) North Point Church, Alpharetta, Ga., Andy Stanley (17,700)
8) Thomas Road Baptist Church, Lynchburg, Va., Jonathan Falwell (17.445)
9) Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Bob Coy (17,000)
10) The Potter’s House, Dallas, T.D. Jakes (17,000)
Top 10 Fastest-Growing U.S. Churches
1) Iglesia Cristiana Segadores de Vida, Hollywood, Fla., Ruddy and Maria Gracia (growth: 3,050, 109%)
2) Calvary Community Church, Phoenix, Ariz., Mark Martin (growth: 2,344, 26%)
3) Elevation Church, Charlotte, N.C., Steven Furtick (growth: 1,965, 444%)
4) New Life Church, Conway, Ark., Rick Bezet (growth: 2,000, 108%)
5) Valley Bible Fellowship, Bakersfield, Calif., Ron Vietti (growth: 3,600, 52%)
6) Fellowship Church, Grapevine, Texas, Ed Young Jr. (growth: 3,000, 30%).
7) Thomas Road Baptist Church, Lynchburg, Va., Jonathan Falwell (growth: 4,750, 37%)
8) The ROC (Richmond Outreach Center), Richmond, Va., Geronimo Aguilar (growth: 2,100, 100%)
9) Redemption World Outreach Center, Greenville, S.C., Ron and Hope Carpenter (growth: 2,000, 31%)
10) Champions Centre, Tacoma, Wash., Kevin and Sheila Gerald (growth: 1,500, 30%)