Counter Culture

By Mark A. Taylor

Parkview Christian Church (Orland Park, Illinois) averaged 5,486 in weekly worship attendance in 2010.

“I’m an editor. I work with words.” I’ve used that excuse more than once when I’ve miscalculated or misunderstood or misapplied some list of numbers. (My wife says she hopes I don’t die before her, because it would take her a month to figure out what’s going on with our checkbook!)

So if you prefer ideas and expressing them over numbers and analyzing them, I understand. But I urge you not to ignore all the facts and figures in posts we’re planning for the next few weeks.

Here’s why:

We serve a God who keeps track of numbers. He knows that the number of hairs on my head keeps getting smaller, and he made sure Scripture recorded how many accepted Christ to form the very first church. Both instances are examples of his love; people count to God. That’s why we count them too.

We’re part of a fellowship with some encouraging numbers. One of the largest congregations in America is in our fellowship, and the 2010 numbers indicate it will break the 20,000 barrier soon. Two other congregations on our list aren’t far behind.

The 234 congregations on one of four lists in this and the next two issues baptized almost 30,000 people, and one church alone baptized more than 1,800.

Several of these congregations are growing rapidly; the fastest-growing megachurch grew by 41 percent last year.

These numbers can help us think about doing better. Maybe we’ll look at some of the remarkable growth stories here for clues to improve growth at our own congregations.

On the other hand, some of these statistics raise questions. For example, are we satisfied with an overall growth rate of only 3 percent? Are we happy that the average church baptizes only one person for every $22,000-$26,000 in the church budget?

As you read these articles, please notice:

We’re trying something new this year. Our analysis of megachurches, emerging megachurches, large churches, and medium churches will spread across the next four weeks.

We want these lists to be complete. Please write us at if (1) yours is a megachurch or emerging megachurch (2010 average worship attendance of at least 1,000) not included in the list of 2010 Megachurches and Emerging Megachuches, or (2) yours is a large or medium church not listed April 24 or May 1. If the former, we’ll post corrections at our Web site. If the latter, we’ll be sure you get the 2011 survey.

We believe the numbers in these three issues can help us think critically about our own congregations and our whole fellowship. We hope you’ll agree.

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