My friend Elmer Towns just finished a book: The Ten Most Influential Churches of the Past Century. In the book, he gives a thorough examination of the contribution of each church. As always, his research and analysis of what makes a church historically influential is impeccable. And you may be surprised at which churches are in the top ten and which ones aren’t. In fact I know you will. Here is the list in their order of importance:

  • The Azusa Street Revival – Pentecostalism Worldwide Movement
  • The Chinese Organic House Churches –The Unseen But Ever Present
  • Ebenezer Baptist Church – Non-Violent Revolution
  • The Yoido Full Gospel Church – Home Cells Used for Ministry
  • First Baptist Church, Dallas –Sunday School Evangelism
  • Scofield Memorial Church – Bible Teaching Instead of Traditional Pulpit Ministry
  • Willow Creek – Seeker Model
  • Calvary Chapel, Costa Mesa – New Church Culture Due to Baby Boomers
  • Hillsong – Initiating Praise Music
  • Thomas Road Baptist Church – Using Media and Marketing To Expand the Gospel

What church is left out that you find surprising? To me it was Saddleback. I kept going down the list to see if I had overlooked it, but I hadn’t. Saddleback’s influence is worldwide, but Towns choose to include Willow Creek instead of Saddleback because it began before Saddleback. Towns’ reasoning for not including Saddleback is sound.

Towns goes on to include ten other churches to make a top 20 list.

In the appendix, Towns shares with us what he feels we can learn from these churches and their leaders. It’s a fascinating look into what makes a church a worldwide influencer. I highly recommend it.

Question: What church would you add to the list, and why? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.