Outreach Magazine’s annual “Top 100 Churches” list is widely regarded as the gold standard for evangelical churches.
Although it does rely on self-reported data and thus is missing a few notable churches (e.g. Life Church and Hillsong), its lists convey a relatively reliable portrayal of the most influential churches and pastors in the United States. The top five churches regularly draw crowds over 25,000; the bottom five churches on the list still count over 5,000 weekly attendees.
Its funny to think about now, but when this Ennegram 3 was an Executive Pastor at a growing megachurch, my goal was to have our church featured on Outreach’s list. When my co-founder Tim worked on marketing teams within megachurches, he was regularly told to look up the churches on this list for best practices on social media and growth strategies. Thus our team thought it would be helpful -- given the influence that Outreach’s Top 100 churches exert within the church world -- to produce a special year-end report that assesses how clearly these important churches communicate their actively enforced policies regarding LGBTQ people. Church Clarity’s team of incredible volunteers have been hard at work creating this resource as we equip our advocates for the broader goal of establishing a new standard for clarity in our churches. You can find the results here.
You may find some of the statistics uncomfortable or even upsetting, hopefully illuminating. Either way, as Jonathan Merritt put it, “Facts aren’t false just because they make you mad.” You will also see that in addition to our currently established process of scoring clarity of LGBTQ policy, this special report also includes each Senior Pastor’s gender and race. This is a sneak peak into the future of our mission and represents our first experiment in delivering clarity when it comes to gender and racial demographics at the most senior levels of church leadership. As Broderick Greer once succinctly tweeted: “Personnel is Policy."
Can the body of Christ claim to be concerned about issues that affect women, such as sexual harassment and assault, while at the same time keeping women out of senior positions of power? Can the body of Christ claim to be concerned with racial justice, while the senior leadership of some of the most influential churches are #sowhite? Is the Church well positioned to respond to the increased wave of racism and nationalism that our country is experiencing? While we’re not organizationally focused on delivering change, we hope that increased clarity will inspire necessary questions and waves of change within the church.
As we close out 2017 and look ahead to 2018 - we've got a lot of work to do! There are so many churches and although we have great momentum, we're just getting started! We’ll continue to verify crowdsourced church submissions to our public database and score churches’ clarity on actively enforced policies that impact LGBTQ individuals. As previously announced, we are gearing up for future phases which will incorporate new scoring data on clarity of policies that impact women in leadership and racial demographics. We’re excited to continue exploring the unique dynamics of this work as we collaborate to establish greater Church Clarity. Happy New Year! GM