We attend a church called "LifeChurch.TV." Yes, the church's name actually includes ".TV." I know it sounds odd. Actually, my brother and sister in law have attended this church for several years. I will admit, when I heard that they watched the preaching on a screen each week, I was less than enthused. Seriously? When I heard there was more than one "campus" it sounded even more freaky to me--sort of cult-ish. They often wore their LifeChurch.TV shirts, or bracelets. They often talked about the sermon series or other things they did that seemed very...not church-like to me. Me--good 'ol Southern Baptist girl. =-)
Fast forward several years. We are looking for a church. We keep meeting people that go to the LifeChurch campus here in Tulsa. What is the deal with this church, I'm thinking? Maybe we should visit. After all, the location is pretty good for us, and they have Saturday evening church (in addition to several Sunday services, and online services)! Saturday evening church is good for our family for SO many reasons. Cool! So, we went.
We weren't quite sure how we felt when we left the first service. Our kids absolutely *LOVED* their classes, which was huge. As the daughter of a Children's Minister, I was impressed with what I saw of their children's program, and the facilities are great. Eric and I really SUPER loved the preaching. This guy is good--this Craig Groeschel guy. The people were super friendly. The music. The music sounded super wonderful but was honestly a little over the top for us. It felt a lot like being in a Christian rock concert rather than in the Praise and Worship portion of the service. Hmm....
The thing is, we kept coming back. And we kept being blown away by the preaching. We were really connecting with the words being taught. We were really excited to being a church that is so very ALIVE. Every week, people accepting salvation. Not just one or two people, but several people. We were excited to see the church doing things to really reach people where they are TODAY. We don't personally need glitz and glamour, but a lot of America *IS* drawn in by that. Then, the goal is that they grow in the Lord.
Then, it got WEiRD! This church tells people to take money from the offering plate if they are in need. WHAT?! This church challenges folks to tithe--promising to refund your tithe after 3 months if you don't see blessings from the Lord (He promises to bless those who tithe). WHAT?!
Eventually we decided to try another campus--South Tulsa. Same church. Same sermon. Same programs. Different praise and worship group. S. Tulsa is just a bit more laid back--a bit less "rock"--a bit more interactive (which is a better fit for us).
I won't lie. My inner S. Baptist girl still struggles with the concept of one church with one preacher, and several campuses. Every campus has its own staff, including a very involved pastor. We actually really dig our pastor at the S. Tulsa campus! It's not like a thing where people are walking around in a daze, worshiping Pastor Craig (the senior pastor). And the pastor's words are focused on the Lord, not on himself. Believe me, I have looked at that closely. Still, it's so different. I also struggle with the huge amount of "branding" (for lack of a better word) and production. This church is slick. Each campus resembles the other. It is high-tech. It is polished. If you go to one campus, it feels pretty much like going to another campus.
The thing is, IT IS REACHING PEOPLE. The church is growing like crazy. New campuses are being built (debt free) because the others are busting at the seams. The fact that each campus resembles the other feels good. I can go to "my" church--and feel right at home--in several different states. Without even realizing it, we have joined a "mega-church." WHAT?! We are not "mega-church" people. We had no idea that this is the 2nd fastest growing church in the country. When you're attending service, you can see that there are 400-600 people in the service with you, but you don't think about the other 5-6 services going on that weekend, bringing church attendance into the 2-4 thousands. It doesn't feel like a mega-church--or at least not what I always assumed a mega-church would feel like.
Here we are, having attended this church for about six months now, and I am excited. Maybe I want to be drawn to attend a good old fashioned musty-smelling church with pews from the 70's and a Sunday School class for each age-group. But that's not who we are. We have plenty of those church around--really GOOD churches--and we just haven't "stuck" anywhere. Right now, at least at this season in our life, LifeChurch is right for us. My little kids ask every day, "Is today church day?" My big kids cry at the thought of missing a week because they are invested in what they are learning in their class. And if we do miss a week, we have like 50 chances (literally) to take part in a service online (preaching and music).
It may sound like a very "consumer" church experience. It can definitely be that, if that's where you are. However, I don't think there is a church anywhere where it would be easier to get involved with service. I checked on an interest form that I'd like to find out more about missions. Got an email that night, with lots of ways to get involved (inside or outside the church building). Since there are several services, you can teach children's class in one service while still getting the fulfillment of the worship service at another time. Easy.
The next step is to get involved in a "LifeGroup." This is today's version of Sunday School in many churches.
Breaking this up into another post....