15-largest-denoms

The Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches assembles various data on churches and denominations across North America. I recently gleaned the top 15 denominations by membership in the United States from their reports:

  1. Southern Baptist Convention: 16.2 million members
  2. The United Methodist Church: 7.8 million members
  3. The Church of God in Christ: 5.5 million members
  4. National Baptist Convention: 5.0 million members
  5. Evangelical Lutheran Church, U.S.A.: 4.5 million members
  6. National Baptist Convention of America: 3.5 million members
  7. Assemblies of God: 2.9 million members
  8. Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.): 2.8 million members
  9. African Methodist Episcopal Church: 2.5 million members
  10. National Missionary Baptist Convention of America: 2.5 million members
  11. The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS): 2.3 million members
  12. The Episcopal Church: 2.0 million members
  13. Churches of Christ: 1.6 million members
  14. Pentecostal Assemblies of the World: 1.5 million members
  15. The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church: 1.4 million members

Neither the Yearbook list nor this blog infers that bigger is better. To the contrary, I have noted on a number of occasions how church membership, unfortunately, is fast becoming a meaningless number. Only the Assemblies of God on this list reported membership growth from the previous year, and their growth rate was only one-half of one percent.

Nevertheless, the numbers are interesting. Does your church belong to one of these denominations? Are you in a non-denominational church? What are your reflections on this list?

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Comments

  1. Andrew Bowen says

    I wonder if some of our 16.2 million SBC members are “SBC members” like most of America is “Christian?” They were raised AROUND an SBC church and will even possibly attend on this Sunday (Easter), but never around otherwise. This can make it difficult to see people saved if they don’t believe/know they are lost.

  2. Steve Drake says

    Denominationalism has taken a beating in recent years. Critics say the body of Christ is not divided and they certainly are right about that. But a denomination is nothing more than the gathering of like minded believers around certain beliefs like submersion as a proper mode of baptism, or the bread and wine being only symbolic of the body and blood of Christ. Non-denoms also have distinctive beliefs. I think the reason some groups are larger (without suggesting any divine blessings) is that they hold a high view of Scripture. These faith groups make the claim that the Bible is their sole authority for what they believe and how they practice the faith. That claim lifts Christ up and a lifted Christ draws people to Himself.

  3. says

    I would be very interested in knowing how many of the 16 million SBC members (or any of the big 15) are in Sunday school (or a small group Sunday Bible study) on a typical Sunday morning. We are currently focusing hard on SS in my church and have achieved 75% of those in worship are in SS on an average Sunday morning and I think we can reach 80%. Of course numbers are just numbers but they are a means of measuring discipleship, commitment, effectiveness, etc. What is a typical in SS vs. in corporate worship %?

  4. Les Fogleman says

    The SBC churches I know anything about can’t find half their members; many of them have gone to other denominations which don’t ask for a “letter” or to a non-denomination or even died. I personally believe the numbers are all wrong. I recently attended a large church with a membership of 18,000 which had to worship services and the worship center seated 3,200, you do the numbers. But who wants to purge a membership list? I did. We will never get the numbers from non-denominational churches probably, they are growing in this area, popping up everywhere. We have thieves standing in pulpits.

  5. Christian Baxter says

    It would be interesting to see a map that charted the geographical concentrations of each of these churches. Being from the South, I don’t hear much about other baptist conventions or see any of some of these mentioned.

    • Thom Rainer says

      Christian -

      My guess is that you are not African American. The Baptist denominations on the list, other than SBC, are predominantly African American. They have several thousand churches in the South.

        • Thom Rainer says

          No problem Chris. That is why I write these posts. I hope to inform others, and my readers certainly inform me.

          And my dominant spiritual gift is ignorance!

  6. says

    Good morning, Thom.

    In my most recent experience with pastoring a traditional SBC church, we would typically see less than 25% of our total membership in worship on any given Sunday morning (maybe 300 in attendance of 1400 members). So, so sad.

    Over a period of 2 years, I attempted to bring about some accountability in what it meant to be a “church member”. Then I was looking for another job.

    In planting a new church 28 months ago, we instituted a membership covenant that our members sign annually. I’ve since learned by experience that genuinely born-again people have no issue with spiritual accountability.

    Membership needs to matter again in the SBC. Lord, send a revival.

    Regards,
    Tony Foeller
    Anna, IL

  7. says

    Just curious, where is the Church of God Cleveland, TN? I’m probably just mistaken in my application of the information but I understood that we were 7 Million members strong around the globe.

    Thanks for your research.

  8. Jon says

    Baptists in Canada number less than a million. But then again, our population is 30+million.
    With very few exceptions across the nation, many local churches are declining, even the AoG-related PAOC (Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada). The growing movements “within” Christianity are: the Roman Catholic Church (due to immigration), and the Mormon church. Non-Christians groups like Buddhism and Islam are growing too. Evangelicalism, with exceptional pockets, has remained stagnant.

    In my town of 30,000, only 3000 people consider themselves regular church goers. Of the 11 Protestant/Evangelical churches in town, only ONE church reported “profession/baptism” growth. The Baptist church in town in the last month grew from 650+ to 850+ in worship attendance, many of whom are “seekers” with little or zero church exposure. By small-city-in-the-middle-of-the-prairies standards, that is a megachurch! Membership in that church, however is at 170. It has recently held a membership class and 15 newly converted/baptized people have joined formally in the last month. In that church baptism does not equate membership as understood in many Baptist churches. The church stresses involvement/commitment over “formal” membership which is not the norm in the denomination to which the church belongs, the Fellowship of Evangelical Baptists.

  9. says

    I wonder if these membership figures include the adjustments that have had to be made for the losses the Episcopal Church, the PCUSA and the Evangelical Lutherans (ELCA) have experienced over the past five years as entire districts, dioceses and groups of churches have left over various issues, mainly having the ordination of gays and lesbians forced on them by their clerical leadership. I know that in my area, Western Pennsylvania, the PCUSA district has seen two thirds of its churches exit the denomination in just a few years.

  10. says

    I would differ with this list. You have stated the “churches of Christ” are a denomination. However, that is completely untrue, unless some congregations have denominated themselves (i.e., The Hills in Richland Hills, TX). The church of Christ is the only church of the New Testament. It is not a denomination. It goes back to 33 A.D. (even further than the Catholic Church) and was established by the Holy Spirit through the apostles of Jesus on the Day of Pentecost in Acts chapter 2. Further, Jesus foretold of His church in Matthew 16:18-19. The only way to be added to this church is through immersion in water for the remission of one’s sins (Acts 2:38) and added by God Himself as stated in Acts 2:47. The church of the New Testament had no man-made creeds or doctrines, no catechisms. If we want to be true to God’s word we will organize the church the way God has commanded us to do so, not how we want to do it. Peace and blessings.

    • Thom Rainer says

      Not in the denominations per se Dave. Perhaps within existing denominations and non-denominational churches.

  11. Steve Chapman says

    Thom,
    The number for the Churches of Christ – does that only include the non-instrumental congregations or does it include the instrumental Independent Christian Church/Churches of Christ, as well? If the ICC churches are not included, do you have a number for them?

  12. Christopher M Webb says

    Again Dr. Rainer thanks so much for the information. This report sheds light on an estimated number of those who profess to be Christian. Is there an estimated number of individuals who profess to be Christian in the US?

  13. Fernando Tangarife says

    Hermano Thom,
    Que se sabe de las Iglesias no denominacionales, aquellas que llamamos independientes, cuantos miembros tienen?
    Gracias

    • Thom Rainer says

      Jan -

      Seventh Day Adventists are among the fastest growing denominations in the world, but not the United States. My list is for the U.S. only. The Adventists have over 17 million members worldwide, but only 1.2 million (7%) are in the U.S.

      • FCline says

        Is this discussion about the LARGEST denominations or the FASTEST GROWING denominations – there’s a big difference.

  14. Douglas Hoppe says

    Does any of this really matter? While statistics are “interesting” it can also take us , our minds , away from the ultimate important issue. Where do I stand with Christ. Am I in an intimate relationship, connected to the Vine? I can spend time comparing the contrasts or I can spend the time in Gods presence reading His word and drawing close to Him so I am better prepared to share His word when an assignment or an individual is in need of guidance or direction, myself inccluded. Sorry for the long drawn out sentence. Let’s focus on ourselves and where we stand any given moment with the Lord and stop judging, comparing, or whatever we choose to qualify it, and focus on ourselves and follow the Great Commission as our Lord asks us to do.

  15. Wise old man says

    Neither pray I for these alone, but them also that shall believe on Me through their word, that they all may be one, as thou Father art in me and I in thee, that they may be one in us so that the world mayt beleive that thou hast sent me. John Chapter 17. Oh God answer this prayer!

  16. Joel says

    The fastest growing would be Calvary Chapel but since they don’t do memberships and or have a strong corporate centralization they fail to make lists.

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