Special Report

25 Largest Churches in America

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Americans like things supersized, even their churches. Millions of Americans attend megachurches — Protestant Christian congregations with regular attendance of more than 2,000 people at all worship locations.

24/7 Wall St. has compiled a list of America’s 25 largest churches, based on average weekly attendees. Most of these mega churches are located in southern Sunbelt states such as Texas and Florida, and many are found in fast-growing suburbs of cities such as Dallas and Houston.

While denominations such as the Southern Baptist Convention and Independent Christian Churches make several appearances, the nation’s largest churches are disproportionately independent, non-denominational. Reflecting a recent trend, 40% of the more than 1,500 mega churches in North America and a majority of the hundred largest churches are unaffiliated denominations.

Some of these began as small, living room services that now fill stadium-like spaces. They tend to appeal to a younger demographic, embracing state-of-the-art technology with Bible apps, live-streamed sermons, Christian rock music performances, and active youth ministries. Some even include features like skate parks.

Click here to see the 25 largest churches in America.

To determine the 25 largest churches in America, 24/7 Wall St. compiled weekly attendance figures for the congregations of megachurches with data from the Hartford Institute for Religion (HIRR) research. A megachurch is defined as having regular weekly attendance of at least 2,000 people. Denominations came from a list of 65 denominations provided by the HIRR. Names of pastors, and church locations also came from the HIRR. HIRR research is updated regularly and attempts to reflect the most current conditions.

25. The Potter’s House
> Location: Dallas, TX
> Pastor: T.D. Jakes
> Average weekly attendance: 16,140
> Denomination: Independent, non-denominational

Televangelist W.V. Grant established the Eagles Nest Family Church in Dallas in the 1980s. After Grant was convicted of tax evasion in 1996 and sentenced to prison, he sold the facility to fellow televangelist T.D. Jakes, who relaunched it as The Potter’s House. Churches, especially large ones, tend to have an influence on the local community. The Potter’s House runs a nonprofit corporation that fosters economic growth in underserved communities, a school, and a housing project for single-parent families and seniors.


24. McLean Bible Church
> Location: McLean, VA
> Pastor: Lon Solomon
> Average weekly attendance: 16,500
> Denomination: Independent, non-denominational

McLean Bible Church was founded in the 1960s by a group of Virginia families. Today it has several locations in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. Senior Pastor Lon Solomon converted from Judaism to Christianity in 1971 and took up his current role in 1980. He is on the board of directors of Jews for Jesus. Earlier this year he announced a search for a new Senior Pastor.

23. Crossroads
> Location: Cincinnati, OH
> Pastor: Brian Tome
> Average weekly attendance: 16,792
> Denomination: Independent, non-denominational

Crossroads was started by 11 friends in Cincinnati in 1995 and has been growing rapidly since. Last year, Crossroads merged with a similarly named but unrelated church in Lexington, Kentucky. It now has six churches in the Cincinnati area and others around Ohio and Kentucky.

22. Calvary Albuquerque
> Location: Albuquerque, NM
> Pastor: Skip Heitzig
> Average weekly attendance: 16,830
> Denomination: Calvary Churches

As a native of southern California, Pastor Skip Heitzig experienced the counterculture of the late 1960s. After moving to Albuquerque, Heitzig began a home Bible study, which eventually became Calvary Albuquerque and one of the fastest growing churches in America. Heitzig was involved in a church leadership scandal several years ago, but he is now back at the helm.


21. Christ the King Community Church
> Location: Burlington, WA
> Pastor: Dave Browning
> Average weekly attendance: 17,000
> Denomination: Independent, non-denominational

Headquartered in Burlington, Washington, Christ the King Church has several locations in the state and elsewhere in the country. The church’s mission is to reach out to “unchurched people” through a volunteer ministry. Just in September the church’s pastor, Dave Browning, died of a brain tumor.

20. Cornerstone Church
> Location: San Antonio, TX
> Pastor: John Hagee
> Average weekly attendance: 17,000
> Denomination: Independent, non-denominational

John Charles Hagee is the founder and senior pastor of Cornerstone Church. He is the fifth of six pastors in his family who were named John Hagee, dating back to the colonial era. His son Matthew is also a pastor. Hagee is founder and president of John Hagee Ministries and founder and National Chairman of Christians United for Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke via satellite at a recent conference of Christians United, saying, “We have no better friends than you.”


19. Eagle Brook Church
> Location: Centerville, MN
> Pastor: Bob Merritt
> Average weekly attendance: 17,091
> Denomination: Baptist General Conference

Eagle Brook Church, which was started in a living room in the 1940s, was originally called First Baptist Church but changed its name in 1997 to attract people from other denominations. It now has a number of campuses in suburban Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota. The Eagle Brook Association is a ministry that helps other churches reach more people through leadership training for pastors and staff.

18. Woodlands Church
> Location: The Woodlands, TX
> Pastor: Kerry Shook
> Average weekly attendance: 18,385
> Denomination: Southern Baptist Convention

Senior Pastor Kerry Shook in 1993 founded Woodlands Church, which became one of the fastest growing churches in the country. Kerry and his wife Chris Shook wrote The New York Times bestseller, “One Month to Live: 30 Days to a No-Regrets Life.” Woodlands organized a major disaster relief effort in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

17. Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale
> Location: Fort Lauderdale, FL
> Pastor: Doug Sauder
> Average weekly attendance: 18,521
> Denomination: Calvary Churches

Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale was founded in the 1980s by Bob Coy, who previously worked in the Las Vegas music industry. In 2003, the church successfully sued Broward County over the right to display a sign that read “Jesus is the reason for the season” as part of a holiday lights display. Coy resigned in 2014 after admitting to adultery and watching pornography. Doug Sauder took over as lead pastor of the church.


16. Christ Fellowship
> Location: Palm Beach Gardens, FL
> Pastor: Todd Mullins
> Average weekly attendance: 18,965
> Denomination: Independent, non-denominational

Christ Fellowship has seven locations in South Florida in addition to its main location in Palm Beach Gardens. It offers services in Spanish and streams services live via a “Christ Fellowship App.”

15. Second Baptist Church
> Location: Houston, TX
> Pastor: H. Edwin Young
> Average weekly attendance: 20,656
> Denomination: Southern Baptist Convention

Second Baptist Church, one of the largest Baptist churches in the country, has an annual budget of approximately $50 million. In response to Hurricane Harvey, the church organized a major relief effort, which forced it to cancel services. The church’s Woodway campus was seriously damaged by Hurricane Ike in 2008.


14. Dream City Church
> Location: Phoenix, AZ
> Pastor: Tommy & Luke Barnett
> Average weekly attendance: 21,000
> Denomination: Assemblies of God

Dream City Church is old as megachurches go — it was founded as Phoenix First Assembly in 1923. It has experienced rapid growth in recent years. The church opened a Scottsdale campus in 2015 and merged with Community Church of Joy in Glendale in 2016.

13. Central Christian Church
> Location: Henderson, NV
> Pastor: Jud Wilhite
> Average weekly attendance: 21,055
> Denomination: Independent Christian Churches or unspecified

Central Church describes itself as “a place where it’s okay to not be okay.” It has several locations in Nevada and other states and as far afield as Mexico and Australia. “We’re trying to introduce irreligious people to a religious framework,” according to Pastor Jud Wilhite.

12. Southeast Christian Church
> Location: Louisville, KY
> Pastor: Dave Stone
> Average weekly attendance: 21,764
> Denomination: Independent Christian Churches or unspecified

Southeast is the largest church in Kentucky. It now has six campuses, including a recently opened one in Elizabethtown in a building that previously housed a Winn Dixie supermarket. The church, which began in 1962 with just 53 members, today has a weekly attendance of over 20,000.


11. Saddleback Church
> Location: Lake Forest, CA
> Pastor: Rick Warren
> Average weekly attendance: 22,055
> Denomination: Southern Baptist Convention

Saddleback has campuses across southern California and has expanded internationally to Berlin, Buenos Aires, Hong Kong, and Manila. That’s impressive considering Saddleback did not have its first permanent building before the the early 1990s, when it had 10,000 weekly attendees. Until then, a 2,300-seat tent was used for services for years. Pastor Rick Warren, author of the hugely successful book “The Purpose Driven Life” gave the invocation at President Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration.

10. Church of the Highlands
> Location: Birmingham, AL
> Pastor: Chris Hodges
> Average weekly attendance: 22,184
> Denomination: Independent, non-denominational

Church of the Highlands was founded by Chris Hodges in 2001. It is the largest church in Alabama based on weekly attendance. Hodges also founded Highlands College, a ministry training school. Hodges’ son Michael had been pastor of the Greystone branch campus, but he was recently removed from this position for an unspecified “moral failing.”


9. Elevation Church
> Location: Matthews, NC
> Pastor: Steven Furtick
> Average weekly attendance: 22,200
> Denomination: Independent, non-denominational

Elevation Church was founded in 2006 by Steven Furtick, who was in his mid-twenties at the time. Described as “a cool pastor, and a hot church,” Elevation is known for services that feature loud rock music as well as preaching. The church has experienced dramatic growth and now has multiple locations around Charlotte, North Carolina and as far as Toronto, Canada.

8. NewSpring Church
> Location: Anderson, SC
> Pastor: Brad Cooper
> Average weekly attendance: 23,055
> Denomination: Baptist (unspecified)

NewSpring is the largest church in South Carolina with 15 campuses across the state. In 2016, founder Perry Noble was removed as senior pastor for alcohol abuse and other issues. The church is currently overseen by a team of four lead pastors. Perry recently filed paperwork to start a new, aptly named Second Chance Church in South Carolina.

7. Christ’s Church of the Valley
> Location: Peoria, AZ
> Pastor: Don Wilson
> Average weekly attendance: 23,395
> Denomination: Independent Christian Churches or unspecified

Christ’s Church of the Valley was founded by Don Wilson in 1982 in his living room. He held the church’s first services in a rented movie theatre and did not find a permanent home until 1996. Wilson is retiring as senior pastor this year. He has designated Ashley Wooldridge as his successor.


6. Fellowship Church
> Location: Grapevine, TX
> Pastor: Ed Young
> Average weekly attendance: 24,162
> Denomination: Southern Baptist Convention

Fellowship is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention but is also part of the “seeker” movement, which aims to attract a wider audience through unorthodox methods. Founder Ed Young has generated some controversy by his promotion of sex (within marriage) and has authored a book called “Sexperiment.”

5. Willow Creek Community Church
> Location: South Barrington, IL
> Pastor: Bill Hybels
> Average weekly attendance: 25,743
> Denomination: Independent, non-denominational

Willow Creek Community Church was founded in the Chicago suburb of South Barrington in the 1970s, and it now has locations around the metropolitan area. Senior Pastor Bill Hybels cofounded Willow Creek with French-born Christian scholar Gilbert Bilezikian. Its core values include the belief that the church should be culturally relevant while remaining doctrinally pure.


4. Gateway Church
> Location: Southlake, TX
> Pastor: Robert Morris
> Average weekly attendance: 28,000
> Denomination: Independent, non-denominational

Gateway is a massive church and a massive enterprise. It reported revenues of $127.2 million in 2016 and assets of $218.7 million. However, it has also reported that it is cutting spending and staff in order to be better positioned for future growth.

3. Life.Church
> Location: Edmond, OK
> Pastor: Craig Groeschel
> Average weekly attendance: 30,000
> Denomination: Evangelical Covenant

Founded by Craig Groeschel in 1996. Life.Church now has locations all around the country as well as an active online community. It is part of the Evangelical Covenant Church, which upholds core evangelical Christian beliefs. Services include refreshments and rock music with lyrics shown on screen. The church’s free Bible app has been downloaded more than 200 million times.

2. North Point Community Church
> Location: Alpharetta, GA
> Pastor: Andy Stanley
> Average weekly attendance: 30,629
> Denomination: Independent, non-denominational

North Point Community Church was established in 1996 by Andy Stanley. Its rapid expansion surprised even its founder, who said, “We made a strategic decision not to focus on growth but instead to focus on leadership development.” Stanley’s father Charles is also a well-known preacher, but the two had a much-publicized falling out.


1. Lakewood Church
> Location: Houston, TX
> Pastor: Joel Osteen
> Average weekly attendance: 43,500
> Denomination: Independent, non-denominational

Lakewood Church was founded in 1959 by John Osteen. His son Joel and daughter-in-law Victoria are now the senior pastors. Lakewood Church-goers meet at the former Houston Rockets basketball stadium.

Joel is one of the most prominent televangelists in the world. He has also authored a series of best-selling books. Joel, whose net worth is estimated at around $40 million, has been criticized for promoting prosperity theology, which includes an emphasis on material gain. More recently he received negative press for not making Lakewood Church available as an emergency shelter when Hurricane Harvey struck.

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