Can you imagine arriving in a town, renovating an old grocery store into a church, opening the front doors and hoping people show up? Then, what if 1700 did show up? (and several got saved on top of it!) That's exactly what happened to NewSpring Greenville last Sunday in Greenville, SC - the largest satellite church launch in the country to date.
I had the opportunity to play in the band on this historic Sunday. What a pleasure to see a church that wants to be excellent (if you read this blog you'll find this isn't the norm!) and receive God's blessing.
NewSpring Greenville is doing the video satellite thing - a live simulcast of pastor Perry Noble's sermon is beamed through the Internet from Anderson to Greenville (and also to future plants in other cities.) NewSpring Greenville has a campus pastor, youth pastor, children's director and other staff as well as a live worship band led by worship leader Tom Pellerin (of the band Overflow.)
When the technology is in place in a few weeks, the sermon broadcast will go a step further. A huge screen the length of the stage will drop after the music and an almost holographic, high definition image of Perry will be projected from Anderson. In other words, there won't be different camera angles - there will be a single, fixed camera filming Perry and this wide angle image will be projected on the wide screen in Greenville. Perry will walk across the stage in Anderson and also appear to be walking across the stage in Greenville!
I was so excited about the launch I had trouble sleeping Saturday night - it was like Christmas morning. What I was eager to see was just how many people would attend. The whole thing is a no-brainer - at least 1,000 people drive from Greenville each week to Anderson, and most pledged to attend the Greenville campus (amazingly, the Anderson campus did NOT lose 1,000 people, but were actually UP 800 from the previous week.) It's an instant church. Now people will start coming to Greenville from nearby Spartanburg and Gaffney. I don't know NewSpring's plans, but it certainly would make sense to leapfrog church plants - plant another church in Spartanburg in a year or two, and on and on.
What I'm finding perplexing and sad is how snippy some of my friends who go to other local churches are reacting. One friend blew up and told me how "stupid" NewSpring is and wondered why people go there. I pointed out there sure are a lot of stupid people at the church - 8,948 at both campuses. I took another on a tour of the new building and he criticized everything he saw. Another friend, a pastor of a tiny church in Anderson, so ranted and raved over lunch about what a terrible place NewSpring is that I lost my appetite.
It looks like my blog post from 2006 is coming true. In that post, I wrote "The multi-site revolution will be a call for churches to get their act together. If you insist on operating like it's 1963, you might not be too long for this world. If you're just now considering using contemporary music in your worship, you're 20 years behind. If your church is full of politics that strangle your ministry, you just might be put "out of business" by churches who are more concerned with seeing people reached for Christ."
It's high time churches stop being so petty and start moving. No, you don't have to be like NewSpring, but mixing excellence with Godliness might be a good place to start.
Watch a video about NewSpring Greenville on a local news channel.
Greenville Newspring blog.