Special Report

25 Most Popular Churches in America

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While some churches may have trouble filling their pews, the appeal of megachurches continues to grow. The Hartford Institute for Religion Research (HIRR) defines megachurches as Protestant Christian congregations with a sustained average weekly attendance of 2,000 or more people, including children, at its worship services, at all its worship locations.

In its most recent study, HIRR has found more differences between megachurches and other congregations beyond size. Megachurch survey respondents were more likely to describe their worship services as inspirational, joyful, thought-provoking, and innovative than those who belonged to other congregations. A more contemporary form of worship in many megachurches includes “praise bands,” consisting of electric guitars, bass, drums, and keyboards, along with the use of technology such as projections, large screens, and more.

Other megachurch characteristics include youthful, racially diverse congregations; significant involvement in missions and global and community outreach; and a choice of small-group activities.

Many of these churches are located in very devout regions of the country. Here are the most religious states in the nation. And, click here to see the most religious county in each state.

Many of the 25 largest megachurches in the U.S. listed here had humble beginnings, often starting out in the homes of the founders and moving into rented spaces before burgeoning into multi-campus congregations that attract thousands of weekly worshippers. And according to HIRR, the growth continues, with more congregations reaching megachurch status each year.

To determine the 25 largest churches in America, 24/7 Tempo used data on average weekly attendance by congregation, originally compiled by the Hartford Institute for Religion Research (HIRR). 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 HIRR. Names of pastors and church locations also came from HIRR. HIRR research is updated regularly and attempts to reflect the most current conditions.

Click here to see the 25 most popular churches in America

Source: Courtesy The Potter's House / Facebook

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

The Potter’s House, founded by Pastor T.D. Jakes, has campuses in Fort Worth, North Dallas, Los Angeles, and Denver. Services are live-streamed each Wednesday and Sunday, and rebroadcasts are also available online. The church has more than 200,000 Instagram followers, plus a Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube presence, covering sermons, special events and more. The church also has its own TDJ Ministries app.


Source: mcleanbible.org

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

The McLean Bible Church has five campuses in the Washington, D.C., area. Among the community services the church offers includes homeless ministry, career counseling, and anti-trafficking endeavors. Members can volunteer for traditional roles such as ushering, singing or playing an instrument during services, as well as for tech tasks such as video, broadcasting, photography, and communications.

Source: Russell.Bickel / Wikimedia Commons

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

Crossroads was founded in 1995 by 11 people who wanted to start a church for their friends who didn’t like church. Now, with more than a dozen locations, the church promises “unfiltered talk and biblical truth that’ll wake your soul.” As is generally the case, especially in America’s mega churches, it has a social media presence. The church’s website contains articles, music, podcasts, and videos covering topics like culture, self, work, money, and relationships.

Source: Courtesy Calvary Chapel of Albuquerque / Facebook

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

During the 1960s, Calvary Chapel founder Skip Heitzig dabbled in drugs and the occult, until he saw a televised Billy Graham crusade, which proved a turning point. He founded a home Bible study group, which over the decades evolved into one of the fastest-growing churches in the U.S. The church’s website includes job postings, education and volunteer opportunities, missionary trips, and more.


Source: Courtesy Cornerstone Church / Facebook

21. Cornerstone Church
> Location: San Antonio, TX
> Pastor: John Hagee
> Average weekly attendance: 17,000
> Denomination: Independent, Nondenominational

This San Antonio-based nondenominational church says it has more than 22,000 active members, with 17,000 attending services in a given week. Founder and senior pastor John C. Hagee and his son, lead pastor Matt Hagee, are the fifth and sixth generations of their family to serve as pastors. The senior Pastor Hagee is well known for the political messaging in his sermons, which include open support for President Donald Trump and islamaphobic rhetoric. The church has a cable TV presence in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K.

Source: Stephen Morton/Getty Images

20. Christ the King Community Church
> Location: Burlington, WA
> Pastor: Dave Browning
> Average weekly attendance: 17,000
> Denomination: Independent, Nondenominational

The biggest megachurch based in the Pacific Northwest, Christ the King Community Church has more than a dozen locations from Washington to Florida. The church cites as its core values simplicity, authenticity, community, empowerment, entrepreneurial spirit, truth, and grace. Its stated priorities are worship, community, outreach, and discipleship, aiming to reach the unchurched and transform the spiritual landscape of the community.


Source: Courtesy Eagle Brook Church / Facebook

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

Founded in the 1940s, Eagle Brook is an old-timer among the largest megachurches. It now has nine locations in Minnesota. Senior pastor Bob Merritt, who has led the church for 28 years, has announced that he will retire in March 2020. Succeeding him will be Teaching Pastor Jason Strand.

Source: Courtesy Woodlands Church / Facebook

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

The Woodlands Church was founded in 1993 by Kerry and Chris Shook, whose vision included reaching families with uplifting music, a friendly atmosphere, and a relevant message. The churche now has three locations as well as an online presence, including a blog and Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages. The ministry also owns WC Trading Co., which operates two retail stores and offers internationally-sourced handmade items. One of the stated goals of the company is “to break poverty cycles and create sustainable change and development.”

Source: Courtesy Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale / Facebook

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

Volunteering and community outreach are emphasized at Calvary Chapel’s nine campuses in Fort Lauderdale. Services, information, and more can be accessed via an app, online broadcasts, and video archives.


Source: Courtesy Christ Fellowship / Facebook

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

Christ Fellowship has come a long way from its 1984 origin, when 40 friends gathered in a living room, to the near 19,000-person crowd it currently attracts each weekend. That living room belonged to Todd and Julie Mullins, who are still the church’s pastors. The Fellowship has multiple locations, including pop-ups, plus a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. An online store offers study guides in English and Spanish, as well as other items.

Source: Courtesy Second Baptist Church / Facebook

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

Founded in Houston in 1927, Second Baptist Church now has six locations and claims more than 82,000 members. Dr. Ed Young became pastor of the church in 1978 and continues to hold the position more than four decades later. Services from the church have been broadcast on TV and radio almost from the start of the pastor’s tenure; the church also has an online presence.


Source: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

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

Originally known as Phoenix First Assembly, this church was founded in 1923 as a tent meeting. Dream City Church now has five Arizona locations, plus one each in Utah and Nebraska. Pastor since 1979 and the church’s current co-pastor, Tommy Barnett employs the creative arts — illustrated sermons, theatrical productions, and creative drama and media — in worship services. His son, Luke Barnett, has been senior pastor since 2011.

Source: Mike Simons/Getty Images

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

Branding itself as “a place where it’s okay to not be okay,” Central Church has five locations in southern Nevada, plus others in Arizona, Florida, Australia, and Mexico. Services and more can be accessed by TV, radio, podcast, and social media, including Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Source: Courtesy Southeast Christian Church / Facebook

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

Southeast Christian Church, which began in 1962 with just 53 members, has expanded to seven locations in Kentucky and one in Indiana, with more than 20,000 weekly attendees. Southeast Christian Church streams its services and has broadcasts on TV and radio. It also reaches its congregation through an online newsletter, campus groups, and ministry recreational leagues open to the community.


Source: Courtesy Saddleback Church / Facebook

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

Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, is one of the largest Southern Baptist congregation. Founded by Pastor Rick Warren in 1980, the church now has 19 locations. Most are in California, though there are also Saddleback campuses in Hong Kong, Berlin, The Philippines, and Buenos Aires. Senior pastor Rick Warren has more than 750,000 followers on Instagram and more than 2 million on Twitter.

Source: Courtesy Church of the Highlands / Facebook

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

Alabama’s largest church, Church of the Highlands, has more than 20 locations plus an online presence. Founded by Pastor Chris Hodges in 2001, the congregation’s first meeting place was a high school auditorium. By 2007, the church had moved to its 2,400-seat main campus. The church-run Highlands College, offering training for ministry, has applied for accreditation by the Association for Biblical Higher Education.


Source: Courtesy Elevation Church / Facebook

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

Elevation’s worship services have been compared to rock shows, complete with strobes, wailing guitars, and sing-along crowds, sometimes in venues that feel more like concert halls than a typical church. The comparison doesn’t end there: The Elevation Store offers rock-tour-style merchandize such as T-shirts, hoodies, CDs, and brightly colored vinyl albums. Founded in 2006 by Steven Furtick, Elevation now has more than 20 locations and a following most rockers would envy at weekly attendance breaking 20,000, plus a strong online presence.

Source: Courtesy NewSpring Church / Facebook

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

NewSpring has the largest attendance of any churche in South Carolina, with 14 locations and weekly attendance topping 23,000. The church has found itself in the news in recent years, notably in 2016, when founding pastor Perry Noble was terminated for alcohol dependence, and again earlier this year, when a volunteer was charged with sexually abusing children at the church.

Source: Courtesy Christ's Church of the Valley / Facebook

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

The church got its start in 1982. Like several other megachurches, the original gatherings were held in the living room of its founding pastor, in this case Don Wilson, who led the congregation until his retirement in 2017. The church now has 10 locations and is led by Wilson’s designated successor, Senior Pastor Ashley Wooldridge, who has served at the church since 2007.


Source: Courtesy Fellowship Church / Facebook

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

Fellowship’s founding pastor, Ed Young, is a second-generation megachurch leader, named after his father, H. Edwin Young, leader of Houston’s Second Baptist. Fellowship’s website advises visitors to “forget everything you’ve ever thought of when it comes to church.” Though Fellowship offers worship services, counseling, meet-up groups, and other familiar activities at its nine locations, its pastor has garnered attention as the author of 15 books — with titles including “50 Shades of They” and “Sexperiment” — and for founding the PastorFashion.com website.

Source: Courtesy Willow Creek Community Church / Facebook

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

Willow Creek Community Church is the only mega church on this list located in Illinois, with an average weekly attendance of 25,743 as recently as 2015.

Though still among the most highly attended megachurches, attendance has dropped at Willow Creek’s eight locations around Chicago since founding pastor Bill Hybels stepped down in 2018 following sexual misconduct allegations. The church’s board and another pastor also resigned. Though Hybels has denied misconduct, an independent report found the allegations credible.


Source: Courtesy Gateway Church / Facebook

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

Gateway Church is among the largest and fastest growing churches in the U.S. It was founded in 2000 by Robert Morris, who continues to serve as senior pastor. The nondenominational church has multiple locations in Texas, one in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, as well as a prison ministry. Services are broadcast internationally on TV and radio.

Source: Courtesy LifeChurch / Facebook

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

Life.Church was founded by Craig Groeschel in 1996 in the garage of his house in Oklahoma. It has since expanded to more than two dozen locations in 10 states. With weekly attendance of 30,000, the church also spreads its message through podcasts, Groeschel-penned books, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube, as well as broadcasts and streaming and live events.

Source: Courtesy North Point Community Church / Facebook

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

Founded in 1995, North Point Community Church is one of the country’s largest and fastest-growing congregations. In 2018, Baylor University included founding Pastor Andy Stanley on its list of 12 most effective preachers in the English language. In addition to seven locations around Atlanta, North Point makes itself known via podcasts, app, international broadcasts, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram.


Source: Courtesy of Lakewood Church / Facebook

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

Most megachurches have multiple campuses, but when you hold services in a former pro basketball stadium, as Houston’s Lakewood Church does, you just need the one location. The church has an annual budget of about $90 million. In addition to the 40,000-plus worshipers who attend services each week, an estimated 10 million tune in to live streaming in the U.S.

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