Multiplication Center

Unusual Ways of Taking Church to the People

February 12, 2010

Cowboy-church-from-Stetzer I received a question yesterday from a reporter who asked about unusual places people have tried to “do church” – as their way of taking the church to where the people are. This reporter has found a very creative example (I’ll post the link to his story here after he writes it), but the good-hearted evangelist he’s found with a very creative location is certainly not alone.

Some people have an image that churches start in this way: a denomination shells out a lot of money, builds a facility, appoints a pastor, and the people start coming. That sometimes occurs, but it is increasingly rare. It’s far more common to start with people: seeing lives transformed by the gospel, which causes people to invite their friends, which creates more momentum. Oh, and the facility where they meet is almost a secondary issue.

Gallloway-Dale&Margie-drivein2 Just this week I watched the online video from the 10th anniversary of Quest Community Church in Lexington, KY. It started as a Bible study with employees from an Applebee’s restaurant. Their locations, each of which they outgrew, included the conference room at a hotel and a former batting cage. This week I also listened to a video of Rick Warren who mentioned that Saddleback Church used 76 different locations, mostly schools, before finally settling on their own property.

worship-Taize-service-sign-Chicago-4th-Presbyterian Sometimes people have no choice but to meet in an unusual place. Seattle’s First United Methodist Church first met in a log cabin and the entire city of 30 people showed up! That was 1853. They are Seattle’s oldest church. They probably didn’t have many options. When Adam Hamilton began what is today one of the largest attendance United Methodist churches in the country, he couldn’t find any suitable meeting place other than a funeral home – so he named the congregation “Church of the Resurrection” to put a positive perspective on it!

church-multiple-use-Methodist-Korean-Berkeley-Heights-New-Jersey-Diamond-Hill-Montessori-School-too Other churches have historically met in unusual locations as well: While Thomas Jefferson was president of the United States, the largest church congregation in Washington met in the rotunda of the Capitol building. He even brought in the Marine Band to make music for the church service.

Other churches intentionally go to where the people are: The Cowboy Church network (see also here and here) typically holds their services at someone’s ranch, surrounded by horses. The hip-hop church movement (see examples here, here and here) uses everything from church facilities to hip hope clubs for their services that rap about the life-transforming power of the Lord Jesus Christ.

What are some unusual places you’ve seen churches meet, especially as they seek creative ways to take the gospel to where people are?

Recent Articles