Church of the Highlands Exposed: The Controversies and Growth of Alabama’s Largest Church

Since its founding by Pastor Chris Hodges in 2001, Church of the Highlands has seen unprecedented growth, becoming Alabama’s largest church with over 22 branches spread across the state.

From its humble beginnings in a rented auditorium at Mountain Brook High School, it has expanded its reach from Birmingham’s suburbs to cities like Huntsville, Mobile, Tuscaloosa, and Auburn.

However, with rapid growth comes scrutiny, and now the phrase “Church of the Highlands exposed” has become a point of contention and curiosity. This article delves into the controversies and successes that have marked the church’s journey.

The Beginning and Rapid Expansion:

Church of the Highlands started with a simple vision and has spiraled outward in popularity, drawing thousands to its modern, energetic worship services.

The church’s rapid growth led to the construction of a $16 million campus on Grants Mill Road in Irondale, serving as its headquarters.

With additional branches and campuses sprouting across Alabama, the church capitalized on live streaming technology, broadcasting Pastor Hodges’ sermons to congregations statewide. By 2020, more than 50,000 people were attending services weekly.

Controversies and Criticisms:

From the beginning, Church of the Highlands was not without its critics. Established churches accused it of “stealing sheep” from their congregations by offering rock concert-style services led by racially integrated, professional-level praise bands.

These accusations were part of the broader narrative of “Church of the Highlands exposed,” as some believed the church’s methods were unconventional and undermined traditional worship practices.

Theological Scrutiny:

The church also faced scrutiny from theologians who questioned the doctrine in Pastor Hodges’ lifestyle-oriented sermons. Critics argued that his preaching, infused with Louisiana charisma and folksy humor, strayed from traditional biblical teachings. This theological debate became another focal point in discussions of “Church of the Highlands exposed.”

Success Amidst the Controversy:

Despite the controversies, Church of the Highlands continued to thrive. It launched Highlands College to train a new generation of millennial ministers, further solidifying its influence.

Even the COVID-19 pandemic, which suspended in-person services since March 10, 2020, did not hinder its growth.

The church had already prioritized high-quality live-streaming, making the transition to online-only services seamless. The congregation’s commitment remained strong, with members continuing to contribute tithes online.

The Role of Social Media in 2020:

In 2020, Church of the Highlands found itself in the spotlight again, this time due to social media controversies. Pastor Hodges faced backlash for his social media activity, leading to debates about whether 2020 would mark the year he was “canceled.” The phrase “Church of the Highlands exposed” gained traction as critics and supporters alike took to social media to voice their opinions.

Addressing Controversies Head-On:

Despite the criticisms and controversies surrounding Church of the Highlands, Pastor Chris Hodges and the leadership have consistently addressed these issues head-on. They have been transparent about the church’s practices, inviting dialogue and discussion rather than shying away from scrutiny.

Through open forums, public statements, and engagement with both supporters and detractors, they have sought to clarify misconceptions and address concerns. This proactive approach has helped the church maintain trust and credibility within its community, even amidst the storm of controversy.

Community Engagement and Outreach Efforts:

Beyond its Sunday services, Church of the Highlands is deeply involved in community engagement and outreach efforts. The church organizes various programs and initiatives aimed at addressing social issues, supporting local charities, and providing aid to those in need.

From food drives and homeless shelters to educational programs and addiction recovery support, Church of the Highlands strives to make a tangible impact on the lives of people in Alabama and beyond. These efforts often go unnoticed amidst the controversies but are a vital aspect of the church’s mission and identity.

Embracing Diversity and Inclusion:

While accusations of “stealing sheep” have been leveled against Church of the Highlands, the church has also been a beacon of diversity and inclusion within Alabama’s religious landscape. Its racially integrated worship teams and diverse congregation reflect a commitment to embracing people from all walks of life.

The church actively promotes diversity and inclusion in its leadership, outreach efforts, and programming, striving to create a welcoming environment for everyone, regardless of background or belief. This emphasis on diversity stands as a counterpoint to some of the criticisms leveled against the church.

Future Challenges and Opportunities:

Looking ahead, Church of the Highlands faces both challenges and opportunities. As it continues to grow and expand, it will need to navigate evolving cultural norms, theological debates, and societal expectations.

The phrase “Church of the Highlands exposed” may continue to surface in various contexts, but the church’s resilience and adaptability will be crucial in weathering any storms that come its way.

By staying true to its core values, maintaining transparency, and remaining committed to its mission, Church of the Highlands has the potential to not only survive but thrive in the years to come.

Impact on Millennial Generation:

One notable aspect of Church of the Highlands’ journey is its significant impact on the millennial generation. With the launch of Highlands College, the church has invested in training and equipping young leaders for ministry.

This investment in the next generation reflects a forward-thinking approach to leadership development and succession planning. By empowering millennials to take on leadership roles within the church, Church of the Highlands is positioning itself for continued growth and relevance in the years to come.

This focus on the millennial demographic sets the church apart and ensures its continued influence in an ever-changing world.

Technological Innovation:

Church of the Highlands has been at the forefront of technological innovation in the realm of religious institutions. From its early adoption of live-streaming technology to its seamless transition to online-only services during the COVID-19 pandemic, the church has leveraged technology to reach and engage with its congregation in new and impactful ways.

By embracing digital platforms and social media, Church of the Highlands has expanded its reach beyond physical locations, connecting with individuals across the state and beyond. This commitment to technological innovation has not only enhanced the worship experience for members but has also facilitated community building and outreach efforts in innovative ways.

Economic and Social Impact:

The economic and social impact of Church of the Highlands cannot be overstated. Beyond its spiritual influence, the church contributes to the local economy through job creation, property development, and philanthropic efforts. The construction of its headquarters and various campuses has led to the revitalization of neighborhoods and the creation of new opportunities for businesses and residents alike.

Additionally, the church’s outreach programs and charitable initiatives have provided much-needed support to vulnerable populations, contributing to the overall well-being of communities across Alabama. This dual impact, both economic and social, underscores the significance of Church of the Highlands as a driving force for positive change in the region.


Church of the Highlands, under the leadership of Pastor Chris Hodges, has experienced remarkable growth and success. However, its journey has not been without controversy. The phrase “Church of the Highlands exposed” encapsulates the ongoing debates about its practices, theology, and leadership. As the church continues to navigate these challenges, it remains a powerful and influential force in Alabama’s religious landscape.

While the future may bring new controversies or triumphs, Church of the Highlands’ ability to adapt and thrive suggests it will continue to play a significant role in shaping modern worship and community engagement. Whether through its innovative worship services or its approach to ministry training, the church’s impact is undeniable. As the narrative of “Church of the Highlands exposed” evolves, it will undoubtedly remain a topic of interest and discussion within and beyond Alabama.


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