Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Want to visit a cutting edge church to recharge your creative batteries? How about Saddleback? Status quo. Mosaic? Overrated. Willow Creek? They had their heyday in the late 90's.

Surprisingly, I found the most innovative church I've *ever* visited not in a major metropolitan area like LA or Chicago, but in Oklahoma City, of all places. is simply the most amazing church I've ever experienced.

With 9 campuses (one is virtual!) has a combined weekly attendance of 17,000 people. It's one of these video church networks I've been talking about lately.

Greg Atkinson and I visited the South OKC campus first, then caught the second service at the main campus north of town. Each location has 6 service options.

Unlike other video churches that operate on a delay (perhaps playing the sermon on video or DVD,) LifeChurch simulcasts the services live to all their campuses. Each campus has its own band, worship leader and campus pastor. The music may vary, but when the sermon begins, what you see is what's happening at each campus.

LifeChurch really puts effort and $$ into their plants - I actually liked the auditorium of the south satellite better than the main location. The children's facilities are top-notch... Disneyesque, actually [see pics, link below.] The signage, decor, coffee and bookshop are all first rate.

What sets apart, though, is the overwhelming sense that these people know what they're doing, and it's not in the typical 2nd rate church way.

Like most seeker churches, the emphasis here seems to be on the sermon. The music was wonderful and more participatory than similar seeker churches, but not really long enough to satisfy those with a worship bent. I heard some Starfield songs as well as a rocked-up version of Lakewood's "You Are Good."

The sermon [although I wonder if that word really can describe what's happening here] is where I connected. It was the most meaningful God experience I've had in a long, long time.

What made it so meaningful was a skillful, artful blend of a movie clip and pastor Craig Groeschel's talk. This week's theme was "At the Movies" and featured clips from the recent Johnny Cash flick that highlighted his tough childhood and his eventual turn to Christ [quite a solid testimony.]

Most pastors integrate a video by preaching a sermon point then announcing "watch this clip!" Here's what was genius about LifeChurch: I sometimes couldn't tell when the movie clip stopped and the preaching started - it was that seamless and professional.

Craig's sermon points were previously filmed at different locations... a cemetery... an old house... it wasn't just a talking head at a pulpit. He usually preaches live and is broadcast live, although this particular week the entire sermon was recorded.

One of my favorite moments of the service was a clip of Johnny and June making their way to an old country church and a choir could be heard in the background singing a hymn. The clip transitioned to Craig wrapping up his sermon, but you could still hear the audio of the choir, which slowly faded into silence. It was almost like watching a documentary. And unlike many seeker churches, I heard solid stuff - talk of sin, repentance and a need for Christ. The south location reported over 200 professions of faith last month.

Check out my pics from the trip, link below. But before I sign off, a few quick impressions:

1. Coordinating graphics are a subtle clue that a ministry has it together. Their fonts aren't cheesy. Colors match and are used throughout the ministry, everywhere from coffee shop signage to seat colors and decor. Notice the cool font used for lyrics [see pics, link below.]

2. I saw some very unique signage - words projected on the hallway walls [see pics, link below.]

3. The guy running the song lyrics was singing along.

4. The stage lighting was exciting and appropriate. I counted at least 10 robot lights.

5. A brilliant use of the Internet. The .tv Internet domain suffix is rarely used, so they probably have it all to themselves! An upcoming sermon series is at, and is a takeoff of similar, popular website. I'll bet they register a new domain for every new sermon series!

6. Keep an ear out for new worship leader Stephen Cole - I'm sure you'll be hearing more about him in the future. He's the freshest, most engaging worship leader I've seen in some time - a great vocalist and guitar player. Stephen is the worship pastor at the main campus in Oklahoma City.

7. Instead of a keyboard pounding "Just As I Am," a movie score orchestration faded in as a backdrop to Craig's sermon wrap up (invitation.) The orchestration was probably taken from a commercial stock music library, but the effect was absolutely beautiful and added weight to what Craig was saying. Props to a church that can rock, but isn't afraid to use some classy music.

Visit their extraordinary website:

See pics from my visit at my new Flickr page:

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Panda said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
macray61 said...

Saddleback status quo? Mosaic overrated? Willow Creek passe? Come on brother. This is "the church" we're talking about. One kingdom. Not "my kingdom is more cutting edge than your kingdom".
I get excited about cutting edge churches too and love to visit them, but you make it sound like if you're church is not "cutting edge" (by YOUR definition) then God has moved on to bigger and better.
We're doing as much as we can to be relevant to our community without leaving a lot of wonderful, godly people (read old-timers) in the dust of our "cutting edge-ness". Where are those people going to go to church if we say "We want to be cutting edge. Love it or leave it." I find it interesting that many of these "cutting-edge" churches are coming back and adding a traditional music venue to their services (Saddleback and Fellowship of the Woodlands to name two).
I applaud your desire to get out and see how different churches are being relevant, but at some point you've got to echo what Jesus said to his disciples when they tattled on someone for casting out demons in Jesus' name, but not following them. "Do not hinder him, for there is no one who will perform a miracle in My name, and be able soon afterward to speak evil of Me. For he who is not against us is for us." (Mark 9:39-40)
I hope that the first comment was not removed simply because they disagreed with you. If so, this one won't make the cut either.

Anonymous said...

Hey Don,

I just got communication from someone that they found us through your web site and I followed the link. I found the link to your blog on that site. Although you mention that one campus is "virtual" you didn't expand, and I just wanted to let you know that our campus is exactly like the other "physical" campuses, with our own worship leaders (we broadcast from 2 different campuses), worship pastor, and community. I just wanted to let you know that our campus is amazing and engaging and to allow others to be a part of the experience, even if they aren't near one of our locations. I'd love to hear more from you and the response you get to this entry. Thanks for spreading the word! Alison - Internet Campus Administrator, -

daniel-sahn said...

Hey! I'm on staff at the OKC campus of and I'm really excited to read your blog. Thanks for the kind words!

Don Chapman said...

Don't get your pants in a wad - the comment was removed because some moron stuck a spam ad in here.

And I guess you forgot the title of the blog... WorshipIdeas... as in I love to visit churches to get... ideas... and didn't really get any ideas at Saddleback, Mosaic or WillowCreek because they're... status quo... more power to them... they just didn't get any of my creative juices flowing.

Then I visited LifeChurch and got... some... ideas! Chill, dude (assuming macray61 is a dude.)

Anonymous said...

I'm a member of, and I am thrilled to know that the nmessage is getting out! Our mission @ Lifechurch is to lead people to become fully devoted followers of Christ. The more people talk, the more people can hear and be touched by the gospel! As to being too cutting-edge for "old-timers", we have a good bunch of "the greatest generation" that attend experiences. There's even ear plugs at the information booth for 'em, in case the music is too loud!

Here's to being cutting edge!

God is Good

Anonymous said...

I am a member of and wanted to say thanks for the great feedback. God is doing a unique work through Pastor Craig and it's exciting to see people connect to Christ in a BIG way. Come back anytime.. we'd love to have you.
God is Good...All the time!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the kind words about As a new member of LifeChurch, I am thrilled at the opportunity to invite and influence others. Our church really give me an opportunity to bring non-traditional and traditional Christians to worship as one. WE MEET PEOPLE WHERE THEY ARE AT AND CHALLENGE THEM TO DO BETTER. GOD IS AWESOME.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I have been a memeber of LifeChurch since I moved to OKC 5 years ago. When I first moved here I checked out several , came to Life, and never left. I think it is so awesome to think of how many lives are being changed weekly. Pastor Craig's passion and presentation of the word is such that even my friends who don't like church LIKE church....Thanks for spreading the word

Anonymous said...

I've read and re-read your blog and stumbled over the idea that you keep coming back to...that you were so "inspired" by the service, but as I tried to digest your blog, I couldn't help but noticing that what 'inspired' you was their technical prowess, and smooth transitions. Is that really what qualifies as inspiration? Is that really what church is? And ultimately does this all become a critique of what is and isn't "cool". I don't want to throw stones at at all. They are very good at what they do, and obviously very successful, but in 10 years what will we have moved on to? 10 years ago it was Saddleback and WillowCreek and every church in America sought to emulate them. In 10 years we'll have moved on from LifeChurch and they, too will be passe. We exalt the model and the apparatus, and recycle and refine the ideas until there's very little Church to them anymore. We use meaningless buzzwords and say that by using them we are reaching the lost, yet Christianity in America is sliding into oblivion (statistically). For all of our coolness, people are still missing the life changing Gospel and we're left bragging about how great our church is. THAT is a conversation I would dearly love to see us all engage in.

Don Chapman said...

Perhaps you should re-read my blog once again. I said "The sermon [although I wonder if that word really can describe what's happening here] is where I connected. It was the most meaningful God experience I've had in a long, long time."

Oh yes, I am also inspired by technical prowess and smooth transitions. Quality excites me. I simply don't understand people on this blog who argue for mediocrity. Me, I want to be in a remarkable church.

What I do here at this blog is write about my experiences at creative, innovative churches. The purpose is to inspire other churches to be better.

Anonymous said...

I understand your point Don, but don't misunderstand me. I'm not arguing for mediocrity...that's not the case at all. All I'm saying is that if the sum total of what's inspiring is the technical directing of a worship experience, then what separates worship from various forms of entertainment. What's the difference between church and an episode of "Heroes"? "Heroes" might be moving and inspirational, but is it really a connecting point for people to be with God as a community (which is really what church is, right?)

I'm fine with technical excellence, and I'm in a line of work that demands it. I've had opportunities to be part of tremendous events that have huge technical requirements, yet the point of the technical excellence was to foster a connecting point for the people to each other. Tech for it's own sake is empty. I DO expect technical excellence, but that is merely a shadow of the goal.
At the end of the morning, were you connected with any other believers in a meaningful way? Is that possible at any other place besides your home church? Is it possible to have any idea of the true impact and excellence of a church when we're only spectators? What do you think about that?

Don Chapman said...

I think it's this simple - I go to a cool church, get touched by God and write about it.

I've written on this blog about visiting other cool churches and not getting touched by God.

It's really not that complicated.

Jared Bowie said...

Props to you man! I've attend LC and agree with you totally...don't let anyone cut you down for what you are saying. It's ridiculous that someone would seem to be offensive on this.

Oh and by the way. They now have a "Second Life" campus. Second Life is an online community get to actually walk into one of the LC campuses, pick your worship leader / campus and then go on from there. It's sweet. You sit in the 3d auditorium and watch the message being played on 3d projection screens!

Jared Bowie