I have seen a number of things that really have interested me over the years. I am a curious leader. But I am not much for the latest fad or “stream.” I think the simpler the better. And I am concerned that sometimes we confuse marketing formats for the latest thing God is doing.
Probably the most haunting thing I have seen as a consultant is a church in Oregon. They number eight thousand. The preacher was medium. They had about 1/3 the staff a church would normally have. They had no distinctive message; they filled their auditorium every Wednesday night for a prayer service that was quiet and uneventful.
They had led thousands of people to Christ. Their service included three choruses led by a young leader and an older man on an organ. Then without fanfare the pastor spoke.
They did have world-class children’s ministries. Everything else I would call good but not great. All I could figure was that love of the community was the glue. These people loved each other. And the place hummed. I have never seen anything like it since.
The other most exhilarating experience I have had was at Larry Osborne’s church North Coast Church in Vista, CA. My wife and I spent a Sunday there. Larry had six services taking place at the same time on Sunday morning (the full compliment ran twice). Each had a different venue in music. The thing that caught my eye was that the traditional service had as many young people as older. I liked the Edge service where the music was so loud your ears bled. My wife didn’t like it and went on to the contemporary service.
It was the most ingeniously simply thing I have ever seen. I am really curious why we don’t hear from Larry in events very often. I think he is on to a format that is as potent as the multi-site movement.
Larry is one of the few significant leaders I haven’t met. I have friends who have worked with him. I think it would be worth anyone’s time to visit Larry and his team and learn how they do what they do.
Again it was the simplicity of all they do that caught my eye. And yet in its simplicity it was creative. Larry has written a couple books that are worth reading. The best is Sticky Church. He represents no particular movement or stream. They just present Jesus in different forms and its great.
The other astonishing church to me is Mars Hill in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Rob Bell is the leader. Rob is a media master. The folklore is that he started with 1000 people and started with an expositional series on Leviticus. I believe it. It is an utterly astounding place with at least 10,000 people. Rob is probably one of the top four communicators in the country in my opinion. He really doesn’t pitch for any movement – emergent or otherwise. He is just Rob. Rob who presents Jesus.
I recommend anyone who has the time and money to visit Mars Hill. I think you really kind of just absorb the heart of a place. I know I do.
The thing I noted in all three of these places was:
- None of them want to neither be nor see themselves as a model for anyone.
- They are simple in their approach.
- They key on evangelism.
- They challenge me to be the best I can be.
- None of them have anything to sell.