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. LifeChurch.tv is simply the most amazing church I've ever experienced.
With 9 campuses (one is virtual!) LifeChurch.tv 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 LifeChurch.tv 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 mysecret.tv, 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:Ever dream of a praise set that flows seamlessly from one song to another? Music is the glue that ties your praise songs together, but some classically trained keyboardists have trouble improvising. WorshipFlow.com can help, with simple keychanges and underscores. Download a free sample.