A church in Hungary came up with a clever, free way to broadcast its worship services weekly on a major television channel. A Nigerian denomination has figured out how to track Nigerian ex-pats and plant churches among them, starting 296 new churches in the last five years in the United Kingdom alone. An Australian church changed its name in a way that the rebranding got them all kinds of free—and positive—media publicity. One of South Korea’s largest-attendance churches found an ingenious way fit its downtown congregation on a track of less than two acres for parking, worship and Sunday school.
As Christianity grows outside of North America, even explosively in many countries, so does the potential to learn from their ministry innovations. In previous decades, if something big or unusual happened in North American church life, we quickly assumed it was the world’s largest or first. No more. Today, chances are that someone overseas is leading the way, pioneering in one of the many corners where response to the gospel is flourishing.
Now it’s our turn to learn from others.
What Can We Learn From the World’s Largest Churches
Some people study house churches. Others track revivals. Others research church planting movements. All churches, small and large, have much to teach us as they live out Jesus’ Great Commandment and Great Commission.
My niche is global megachurches, and I suspect I’m the only active researcher with a public, searchable list (LeadNet.org/world). Why create such a tally?
Accurate data allows us to see the larger picture of what God seems to be doing. For starters, you’ll observe that the world’s biggest churches are not in the United States. As one example, India today has more believers than at any time in its 4,000-year history. You’ll also see which countries have the newer growth of larger churches (and as this list grows, I’m convinced that we’ll document that there are far more megachurches outside of North American than in it). You can explore everything from the average age of international megachurch pastors to the likelihood of Pentecostal/charismatic theology in these large churches.
Churches on this list tend to be innovators. This ranges from how they use technology to how they impact their communities for Christ. For example, by visiting the websites of these churches, reading their mission and vision statements, and perusing the ministries they list, you can sense the heartbeat and future directions of these pacesetters.
A list like this invites a level playing field for helpful conversation about global movers and shakers. For good or bad, larger churches are influential, both in their communities and also in influencing other churches.
It also helps churches who are listed to network with each other. Churches have more in common by size (attendance and/or budget) than by most other factors. People always like to know who their peers are, and they’re often stretched by hanging out with their peers.
This list serves as a starting point for additional research. The possibilities are innumerable.
Warren Bird, an Outreach magazine contributing editor, is research director for Leadership Network and author or co-author of 27 books for church leaders. Bird oversees Leadership Network’s list of global megachurches at LeadNet.org/world.