Monday, July 28, 2008


I heard a cool term the other day: GigaChurch. It's a word for a church of 10,000 people or more. This guy claims to have coined the term in a Washington Post article.

As the article mentions, I too heard a few years ago that MegaChurches were on the decline, and would soon be replaced by smaller, more intimate churches from the emerging church movement.

But as everything seems to be fragmenting these days, so too has the church world fragmented. I don't intend a negative connotation with "fragmentation" but a good one - fragmentation means we have a multitude of choices today. Read my article on fragmentation at WorshipIdeas. MegaChurches and GigaChurches are springing up all over, far from dead, but you can also attend a small group, a house church, a video venue or watch a service on the Internet.

Another thing I've noticed that the article mentions is that when a MegaChurch reaches 5,000, growth begins to speed up and it often morphs into a GigaChurch. I've seen this happen in two local MegaChurches. One of them had been hovering around 4,000-5,000 last year this time and shot up over 10,000 during the holidays. And Newspring has been on a steady growth curve for years and will soon be at the weekly 10,000 mark.

The author sees smaller, thriving, mission-minded churches under 600 people co-existing with the Mega and Gigachurches.

However, if your church just doesn't care anymore or is wrapped up in political church drama it may not around much longer.

This so parallels the Wal-Mart effect in business that it isn't funny. Dumb little stores that do dumb little things will get clobbered by Wal-Mart who will do most things smarter, cheaper and better.

You can't compete with Wal-Mart if you're cheap and boring. Why go to your local, boring grocery store when Super Wal-Mart has everything they do, only cheaper? But Whole Foods thrives because they offer what Wal-Mart's grocery doesn't: class, ambiance, wireless and yummy, gourmet food items. Have you ever taken home a meal from their hotbar? Wow!

Little churches can't even begin to compete with the talent and programs of a MegaChurch, nor should they try. So what can they offer that the MegaChurch can't?

Loud Music

On Sunday, Newspring worship leader Tom Pellerin read us an email from the old man I mentioned in the previous post, the guy who approached the stage and wanted the music turned down seconds before the service started.

He was indeed a visitor from another (presumably traditional) church in town, and the email wasn't too bad. He enjoyed the service but was just worried that the music was at a level that could damage hearing. I wrote an article about this at WorshipIdeas.

However, I think the problem here is that the typical non-musician can't always comprehend what they're hearing, especially a visitor with traditional tastes. The drums and bass are very well mixed and punchy at Newspring and this probably alarms a traditionalists, causing them to think the music is louder than it actually is simply because they can feel the low end.

In the aforementioned article I have a link to a gadget you can get at your local Radio Shack for around $50 that lets you measure the decibels in your room. It's good protection against pesky deacons and elders who are constantly harping on the sound levels.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Instant Church 2

1470 people attended the second Sunday of NewSpring Greenville (last week the total was 1710) and I'll guess that's where attendance will hover for awhile.

A funny anecdote: as the countdown video reached zero, an old man approached the edge of the stage. Meghan, a vocalist, knelt down to see what he wanted, thinking he was a tech volunteer. Turns out he was just a random old man who thought the music was too loud and wanted it lowered.

I find that hilarious. Some old man goes berserk over the volume (as old people tend to do - you would think old people, who typically lose their hearing with age, would appreciate louder music) and targets a background singer mere seconds before the service starts. Those tactics might work at 1st Baptist but not at NewSpring.

Before you accuse me of making fun of old people, I'm not. I'm just making fun of cranky, controlling old people. My mid 70s parents sit in the audience and think the music's fine. My dad can't get over how well the sound is mixed.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Instant Church

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.