The Church Tour Wrap-Up

Posted: July 23, 2010 in Uncategorized

A speaker at the Exponential conference recommended that new and potential church planters should visit as many churches as possible in order to worship without pressure and to learn.  I have visited six different churches in the last few months (The Journey in St. Louis, The Village in Flower Mound, TX, The Cathedral in the Arts District in Dallas, Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Sojourn in Louisville and Covenant Life in DC).  and was blessed to worship without worrying about sound or the air conditioner or my own teaching performance and to learn a great deal!

Long before the church tour, Revolution was heavily influenced by several prominent churches such as Mars Hill in Washington and Calvary Chapel in California due to their high conversion rate (i.e., the percentage of people who met Christ at or through the church–40% plus at Mars Hill and roughly 70% at Calvary Chapel).  Thus, I preach largely verse-by-verse as Chuck Smith does and then call the church to worship after the sermon as they do at Mars Hill. 

Furthermore, the quotes we insert between worship songs was inspired by a pastor’s conference I attended last year in Grand Rapids and I think Ryan Rolfe would admit that our postmodern stage (which is wicked awesome!) was influenced by Andy Stanley’s Catalyst conference in Atlanta.

What did I learn from the church tour?  (1) even in a church plant that largely attracts twenty and thirtysomethings, keep your place very, very clean!  You could eat off the bathroom floors at growing, influential churches like The Journey in St. Louis and The Village in Dallas.  This may seem elementary, but it is easy for a dude like me to forget! (2) Loud music is fine.  If there is one consistent criticism of Revolution, it is that the music is too loud but I found that every church I visited (save the Catholic cathedral, of course!) boasted a praise band that cranked it to 11!  (3) Mix classic hymns with new worship songs.  Even more liberal churches like Mars Hill Bible Church in Michigan peppered their praise with reworked hymns.  Let’s face it, there is depth there. (4) Recruit warm volunteers and make sure they are clearly identifiable.  I was greeted warmly by volunteers wearing laminates at every growing church. Moreover, they each had a connection table with at least 2 smiling members ready to answer any and all questions…oh, and FYI, nearly all of the smiling volunteers were women! (5) Location! Location! Location! NOPE.  Many of the churches I visited were among the top 100 fastest growing in America according to Outreach and nearly all were fairly difficult to find and were parking headaches!  (6) Don’t overlook the kid’s area.  All of the churches pushed their children’s program with gusto and many had impressive places for the kids to learn and play.  Mars Hill Bible Church has lost thousands of members as Rob Bell has drifted farther left but still attracts a large number of families thanks to an amazing children’s area. (7) Sacred space matters.  The churches with the highest percentage of people singing loudly to the Lord were areas where the worship team had clearly thought about the atmosphere (i.e., fairly dark, candles, etc.)  We are physical beings and the physical counts! 

Finally, bold preaching is key. All of the growing churches are led by men who preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ with clarity and intensity.  Many of them (notably Matt Chandler) are even beginning to speak out on cultural issues as well (praise God!).  Truth never goes out of style!

Now, please don’t get me wrong, it is never appropriate to just copy another church.  We all minister in different contexts and, like missionaries, we need to study the immediate culture in order to make the Gospel sensible but we can still learn a lot from communities that are clearly making an impact for the Kingdom.

May this bless you all as it has blessed me.

Grace and peace,

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