Tuesday, September 11, 2007

NewSpring Church Is Coming to Town

Pastor Perry Noble of NewSpring Church in Anderson, SC announced Sunday that they'll be the latest church to enter the multi-site church arena.

He said about 1200 people drive 30 minutes or more from Greenville and other surrounding towns to attend (around 8000 attend every Sunday.) I'm one of them. A few months ago I visited NewSpring on one of my "churching" trips (I enjoy visiting churches to see what they're doing) and fell in love with the place. They hope to have the new Greenville campus ready to launch around Easter 2008.

Last summer I visited worship media guru Greg Atkinson in Dallas. He shares my enjoyment of church-visiting and took me to several Dallas megachurches, as well as LifeChurch in Oklahoma City.

Churches out there are of a different breed - we have nothing like them in South Carolina. Things seem to be done on a grand, professional and quality level. The closest thing I've found around here is NewSpring.

Many of these churches are starting to do the multi-site thing, and LifeChurch has been doing it very successfully for a few years.

I'm seeing two trends in the multi-site world. Churches like Seacoast and Andy Stanley's North Point do things less expensively - usually meeting in rented facilities instead of building buildings. The North Point plant here in Greenville, Catalyst Church, as well as Seacoast Greenville are healthy, averaging a few hundred (I think Seacoast had around 325 the last Sunday Chris Sligh led worship before he went on the American Idol tour.) Catalyst meets in a rented theater, Seacoast meets in a rented middle school.

On the other hand, churches like LifeChurch spend big bucks on their plants. They try to make the plant nicer than the mother church - the theory being that they don't want people at the plant to feel like they're missing out. I visited both the "mother" LifeChurch and a plant and I actually liked the plant's facilities a little better.

You'll hear good men on both sides of the fence tout their philosophy - to build or not to build. Sure, it's cool to not spend money on buildings - Saddleback met in elaborate tents for years. But take it from someone who's been there - it gets real old real quick when you don't have a permanent home and have to set up from scratch every Sunday. A church where I worked met for a few years in a public school and it was all we could do every Sunday to make sure everything was plugged in and worked, let alone worry about music quality and worship flow. If you're not in a permanent home you're always in danger of being kicked out.

Big, beautiful buildings can draw the crowds. What mother can resist sending her child to a children's program that looks like something from Disneyworld? Look at my LifeChurch pics at Flickr. I used to be a fan of the cheap route but after my trip to Dallas I'm not so sure. It's only money, after all. If a nice, new building attracts the masses, great. More to hear the good news.

NewSpring staff visited LifeChurch a few months ago and I assume they're following that model. NewSpring is hoping to lease an old grocery store in a prime location (seen from a major highway near downtown) and renovate it with a state-of-the-art 1000 seat auditorium, complete with children's and youth facilities. Like most multi-site churches, everything will be "live" - a campus pastor and band - except for the teaching, which will be a real-time satellite link of Perry's preaching.

Since Greenville hasn't really seen anything like this (there is a WillowCreekish megachurch in town, but they don't seem to hold the same high standards as NewSpring) I'm eager to watch what will happen. Will it flop or fly? I've already heard grumblings from the church crowd, but they're not NewSpring's target, anyway (over 800 people professed Christ at NewSpring in August - that's their target!)

I suspect NewSpring Greenville will be a hit - great visibility plus an instant large congregation made up of a good majority of those 1200 Greenvillians who trek to Anderson every week. InstaChurch - it will appear like it's been going for years.

Perry's fantastic preaching doesn't hurt, either (I took my dad to NewSpring one week and he said Perry's sermon is the only sermon he hasn't slept through.)

Greenville churches: if you're bickering over music style, carpet color or other nonsense, you'll soon have much more to worry about.


Derrick Henslee said...

I'm excited about the church coming to a town near you! One thing that we've been able to do at is renovate existing buildings. We've got 12 campuses and have only built 2 buildings. The others have been renovated warehouses, theaters, and strip malls. The whole idea is to go where the people are in the best location for not so much money.

I really appreciate your blog and your thoughts. I think this new movement of taking a "Mega-church" level of excellence to a smaller community is great. It allows us to be a smaller church to our people. We can call our first time visitors and develop relationships with people easier!

Anonymous said...

Sometimes I have to wonder though is bigger better? The church I work at is not large by comparison to what you are talking about, but I have great relationships with the people and it feels more personable to me. Are they able to counsel to those in need in the congregation on the same personal level? Having all the bells and whistles are nice, but does the Holy Spirit get lost in all the glitz? Didn't Jesus "wow" the crowd just sitting on the Mount? I just pray that these big megachurches still have that personable feel and that those in true need don't get lost in the crowd.

stewart20love said...

The church no matter the size still feels like a cozy place. There are home groups .. for married usually 7 or 8 couples who meet once a week or every other week. There are several volunteer teams who meet up on occation. There is still plenty of one on one ministering going on. I was worried about the 4 identical services when i first started (well it was 3 then) what if the Holy Spirit moves? But i can say i have been in a service where the invitation is held longer and then i have been in one where the worship went longer .. they are the same message and songs... But God has the say in what happens when still.

Tom Becker said...

I just don't see anything new here. I think this church is one that made the top 20 or top 100 innovative and creative churches in America according from Granger Community Church. What's innovative and creative about it. I've been to a few mega churches myself in Texas, Illinois, and Pennsylvania and they are all pretty much copying each other. The pastors are all trying to be Ed Young and have a big building with a church name along with their own that is known among Christian circles. There is a big pride issue here and they are going to have to answer someday. They need to just get back to preaching the pure word of God, not a sugar coated gospel that doesn't offend.

Anonymous said...

Well if you think Newspring sugar-coats ANYTHING and doesn't offend people... then clearly you haven't been there! :) I've never heard a better, more to-the-point, in-your-face, honest rendering of scripture and its daily relativity. I highly encourage anyone who is the slightest bit skeptic about mega churches, for any reason, to go. Newsping is amazing and its just impossible to say anything negative about it!!