Most Influential Pentecostal/Charismatic Churches in America

As far as I can tell from a brief search online there is no list of the most influential Charismatic churches in America. Therefore, I’m going to give it a shot. There is a whole lot that I don’t know about, so I look forward to input from people out there. Also, size and influence are different. Think about things like:

  • How much they are a leader in defining a certain aspect or vision of Christianity?
  •  How many many followers or copycats you have?
  • Is the pastor on the circuit of conference speakers?
  • On TV? Writing articles or influential books?
  • Who looks to you as what they want to be?
  • Do you have worship CDs that everyone listens to?
  • Is the impact felt in the region? Only a few churches have national attention, but many are very significant in their region.

These are not in a particular order but I’ve divided them into tiers. First Tier:

  1. Phoenix First. Phoenix First is founded by Tommy Barnett, an evangelist famous from the revivals of the 50s, Phoenix Assembly of God, now known as Phoenix First, is currently the Gold Standard of Assembly of God churches, the most important Pentecostal denomination in America. They dramatically increased their influence with the founding of the LA Dream center by scion Matthew Barnett
  2. International House of Prayer (IHOP), Kansas City. IHOP was founded by Mike Bickle of the Kansas City prophetic movement. OK it’s not a church, but it really is. They have a leader, a school, a full time congregation, a staff, branches throughout the country and massive influence around the world. International House of Prayer is one of America’s most important movements.
  3. Bethel Redding If pushed, I would argue that Bethel Redding is the most influential and important church in America right now. These guys are really pushing the boundaries of traditional Charismatic/Pentecostal Christianity, and they are gaining a lot of worldwide attention doing it. Some consider them to be a kind of heir to the Vineyard movement.
  4. World Harvest Church, Columbus. World Harvest Church is led by Rod Parsley. Rod is a very unique brand. He is a Pentecostal/Word of Faith preacher who is more about faith than money. He has trained many and is known for his strong spirit.
  5. Gateway Church, DallasGateway Church in Dallas is the first Charismatic “seeker-friendly” megachurch I know of. Gateway Church was founded by Robert Morris, a man sent out of a the very Charismatic Trinity Amarillo. Includes other prophetic style charismatics on staff like Reed Grafke, Paul Cain’s former assistant.
  6. MorningStar, Charlotte. Rick Joyner was practically the definition of the prophetic movement for almost 20 years. Specializes in pioneering a prophetic vision of Christianity. Some great worship has come out of here. The church overall seems past it’s prime of influence, but is still a bellwether in what it means to be Charismatic.

Second Tier:

  1. Rhema Bible Church. The Word of Faith movement, birthed out of Rhema Bible Church is one of the most influential movements in worldwide Christianity. The influence of the “headquarters” in Tulsa is not nearly as great as it once was but this is still the HQ.
  2. Redemption (Formerly Redemption World Outreach Center). Redemption is the most influential church in the smaller Pentecostal Holiness church movement. Redemption World Outreach Center is led by Ron Carpenter. A lightning rod within the denomination about whether they should become “charismatic”.
  3. Church of His Presence, Alabama. Church of His Presence is a new church, but led by a very influential leader: John Kilpatrick of the Brownsville revival. Like only a few church leaders have done, he has doubled his success by being part of a second (although smaller) revival in Daphne, Alabama. These events are sending more shockwaves through America.
  4. Bethany World Prayer Center, Louisiana. This is the church where Ted Haggard got his start. The church that launched the G12 movement in America. A very important church in that part of the country
  5. City Bible Church, Portland. City Bible Church is led Frank Damazio. An anchor Church in the Northwest region, and also for the MFI movement, publishing house, and music.
  6. Brooklyn Tabernacle, New York.  Jim Cymbala and the Brooklyn Tabernacle have redefined what is possible with churches in the big city. Their music style sort of dates them, but Jim and the Choir have been an important voice in the church.
  7. Heartland Church, Dallas. Heartland Church is another product of the Brownsville revival. Led by Steve Hill, the evangelist of the Brownsville revival. Influential in the region and connected to the larger Charismatic movement.
  8. Free Chapel Worship Center, Atlanta.  Led by Jentezen Franklin. Actually now leads one church on each coast. Has a TV ministry and has sent out others to plant churches.

Black Churches. Black  and white churches are in very different spheres of influence in America, thus I’ve given them their own list. Here are the most important black churches in the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement in America today:

  1. Covenant Church of Pittsburgh. Joseph Garlington may be one of the most important people you’ve never heard of. He is the mentor/pastor of many of the leading black charismatic pastors in America.  He is aging now, but has been a very influential figure.
  2. The Potter’s House, Dallas.  Undoubtedly, The Potter’s House in Dallas is the most important black church in America.  T.D. Jakes is twice as big as the next biggest black pastor, and that’s saying a lot.
  3. City of Refuge, Los Angeles. Noel Jones, is an absolute preaching phenomenon. He’s all over the TV, runs a 20,000 member church and hangs around with T.D Jakes. Need I say more?
  4. Greater St. Stephen Full Gospel Baptist Church. Paul Morton. Morton spearheaded the movement to bring the Charismatic/Pentecostal experience to black Baptists. As founder and presiding Bishop of the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship, and having cut several impressive gospel albums, Paul Morton is a very influential leader.

People I left off:

  • Churches which were very influential until they lost their leader, like Times Square Church, which is an incredibly an important church, but without it’s former leader David Wilkerson, it’s place as an influential church for the whole nation has subsided. Also in this category: The Church on the Way. This church piratically redefined the foursquare denomination, and spun off important things like the King’s Seminary, but with all it’s recent turmoil and the departure of Jack Hayford, is no longer one of the most important churches in America. Also Ted Haggard’s old church New Life.  A large and important church, but not influential without Haggard.
  • Lakewood Church. Joel Osteen leads this incredibly large Lakewood Church, but his influence is really not inside the church world (never heard of anyone wanting to copy them). It’s with average people who like his watered down version of the Gospel.
  • I have omitted many other big ministries from this list, and ones you might see on TV.  Many of these are actually just spins of these more truly influential churches.

Love to improve this list by feedback. Help me out!

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4 Comments

  1. I can appreciate what you are doing by the list but the real influence…the real BIG influence..are not these listed churches but the LOCAL church that spured these mega churches. Catholocism has had a great influence on the world but the reformation movement started with men and small groups that influenced the world even greater. TD Jakes…Bishop Morton…Rod Parsley..Rhema…All of these have had some huge influences but not always the best. What keeps greatness and what makes for greatness is the soundness and dependability of the local church. There are millions of solid bible believing churches (scores of thousands in present truth) that are not imbalanced by the mega churches inadequate and poor extremes. Hear hear to the local church!

  2. Mitch, thanks for your comment. You’re right, I’m not really evaluating whether the influence was good or bad, just highlighting it. I do agree that ultimately the local church is most influential to the average person, however, my goal in this post is to define who is shaping the future of Christianity, and those are leaders/movements/churches that average churches look up to for method and intellectual leadership. Their systems and ideas get copied down to the rest of us. Welcome any suggestions.

    1. When you say “let go”, clearly there is more to the story. It looks like he was involved in a Ponzi scheme in 2007. That’s too bad. I guess I’d rather roll with God and fall than never roll at all.

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