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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

THEATER CHURCH: A look inside a Theater Church Launch

Theatre_1Last week, we talked about the increasing number of churches that are using movie theaters as their facilities.  As a follow-up, check out this interesting from the Richmond TimesDispatch.com on the successful launch of Velocity Christian Church in Indiana:

Nine-year-old Ben Atkinson took his mom to church yesterday.

When he saw advertisements for Velocity Christian Church, Ben wanted to check out the new congregation that meets at Short Pump Regal Cinemas in western Henrico County.

He and his mother, Julie Atkinson, were among about 580 people, including about 130 children in Sunday school, who attended the church's first day of services - four in all - at the movie theater.

"There were a lot of kids . . . I cried quite a few times, things went so well," said Kathy Lutz, who helped with the children's ministry.

Julie Atkinson, who lives in Short Pump, said she and her son "came to see what it's all about and maybe learn about Jesus in a different way. I grew up Catholic. The boys are Catholic. I go to church periodically. The kids wanted to come here."

Ben, whose two brothers were home sick, added: "I love music a lot."

There was plenty of music.

Simultaneous services - one with a rock'n'roll band, the other with a pop country band - are held at 8:30 and 10 a.m. Ben and his mother attended the 10 o'clock country-music service.

Four other theaters were used for children's programs.

Projected on the movie screen behind the band were the words: "Velocity Christian Church" and a giant "V."

After the music was a video of people listing questions they would ask God. The answers ranged from, "Why are we here?" to "God, why are you an absentee landlord?"

Velocity's lead minister, Tim Cole, welcomed worshipers and urged the congregation to stand and talk with each other about their questions for God. "This is a place where we talk with each other on Sunday mornings. We are not just spectators and performers," Cole said.

He introduced a five-week series of video sermons by Kyle Idleman, preaching associate at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Ky. The 15,000-member Southeast Church is a major funder helping start Ve- locity Church.

Yesterday's sermon was based on the Genesis story of Abraham and Sarah having a child in their old age.

In a nearby theater, worshipers in the rock-band service watched the same sermon. After the sermon, Velocity's worship leader Chris Barras told the congregation: "God loves you and cares for you.. He's like a grandpa."

Barras invited the congregation to "eat a little bread and drink a little juice. It's called Communion." He stressed that participation was voluntary. The offering was collected in popcorn buckets. It was stressed that no one was obligated to give.

After the services, Cole explained that the church rents the theater just as any other client would for meetings. He said Velocity has no immediate plans to build its own church.

Dan and Mary Raper, who haven't been going to church, walked from their nearby home to the theater. "It's a modern-day take on church. The use of multimedia is appealing," Mary Raper said. Her husband added: "It was fun and engaging. We will come back."

Lee Dematteo of Partlow in Spotsylvania County said, "What a great way to worship. It's relaxed. No dress code. It's just one large group of people walking toward God."

Lance King, associate pastor of nearby Gayton Baptist Church, came to support the new church. "Churches are not in competition," he said. "We are all on the same team helping people find God's grace. Our church staff has been praying for these guys and these folks."

Larry Hatch, a member of Velocity's launch team, was pleased with the first services.

"It went great," he said. "It's pretty exciting."

It does sound exciting to me as well!  :)

Todd

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[Barras invited the congregation to "eat a little bread and drink a little juice. It's called Communion." ]

This concerns me, greatly.
1 Corinthians 11:27-29
"Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body."

Communion is a serious sacrement that should not be treated so ... unsacred. Each time we partake of the bread and cup, we're not just eating food and drinking, we're connecting to our Lord in His sacrifice and His ressurection, our salvation. This is why Paul is clear on the nature of the involvement - it isn't something to invite those who aren't Christian to partake in, nor should the focus of the sacrement be a snack in the middle of service, instead, it should always point people to Christ.

While I'm all for making services friendly and welcoming to pre-Christians, I'm not for altering the nature of the sacrements.

Posted by: Paul Davis | Mar 21, 2006 9:41:50 AM

I would like to know more about what the children's ministry does. Seems like they need a play area with toys,,, for the younger ones (under first grade)?

Posted by: Bernie Dehler of FreeGoodNews.com | Mar 21, 2006 10:02:31 AM

Paul... yeah, I'd like to hear the whole context of the communion introduction before I'd make too much criticism. This is an offshoot of Southeast Christian; and I'm pretty sure they do the communion thing every week there.

There's been an interesting discussion over at Christianity Today about Jack Hayford's recent article about using communion with unbelievers that really has some up in arms. You should check out that article as well.

Todd

Posted by: Todd Rhoades | Mar 21, 2006 10:07:31 AM

Paul Davis:

"Communion is a serious sacrement that should not be treated so ... unsacred."

Paul, have you ever studied the passage you quoted regarding the Lord's Supper (it's not referred to Communion, which is what the Catholic Church began calling it a few hundred years ago) and it's purpose?

You might ought to look into it, honestly. If so, I believe you'll see that what we call "communion" or "the Lord's Supper" is nothing like it was then, as to its purpose and principles.

And, yes, non-believers were invited to partake of the Lord's Supper, or more accurately the "love feast," in the Early Church.

What we do today is a sham and is as hollow as your criticism and yet we get all worked up when someone doesn't "do it right."

Posted by: Ricky | Mar 21, 2006 11:29:47 AM

OK... back on topic... Theater Churches.

:P

Todd

Posted by: Todd Rhoades | Mar 21, 2006 11:47:18 AM

I don't necessarily have a problem with this "communion", it seems like it was an introductory kind of thing. Maybe some had never participated in a communion before and had no idea what the "bread and juice" thing was about.

Now, I would be infinitely more concerned if, six months or a year from now, they're still just eating bread and drinking juice, and the significance of the symbology had not been taught. But, sheesh, ya gotta start somewhere...

Posted by: Gene | Mar 21, 2006 11:53:56 AM

Knowing these guys personally... it is exciting for them. Chris has done Camp for me, and Tim I'd consider a friend. I hope all goes well with this church launch.

Posted by: Gman | Mar 21, 2006 2:53:59 PM

BTW it is Virginia - not Indiana.

Posted by: Gman | Mar 21, 2006 2:55:09 PM

I don't want to harp too much on the whole communion issue, (and it's a BIG issue I think) because Todd wants us back on target (and Ricky, a little research into Church History and the patristics in the first 2 or 3 centuries might be a surprise for you on communion. What I've read indicates they didn't even LET unbelievers be around for the communion part of the service!) however, one would hope that what appears to be a lacksadaisical attitude toward the sacrament/ordinance/whatever-you-call-it is not indicative of a similar attitude in other areas. I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume it isn't and that they're on the level. I'm further going to assume for their benefit that they were improperly quoted...

So...

...I was really touched by the other pastor of another area church that showed up for their first service! Way to go! And the fact that they made church really accessible, the "no dress code" thinking... way cool! they obviously got one couple to say they'd come back! AWESOME! This is the way to do church!

Posted by: Peter Hamm | Mar 22, 2006 8:28:27 AM

I don't know about this one Todd... TBN has a lot of them on their program listing now...

Posted by: Clairvoyent 1 | Mar 23, 2006 9:26:35 AM

I have friends who've gone to a Methodist theater church in GA, and friends who preach at a Baptist theater church in Honalulu. For those churches it was a practicality issue as much as anything else. The theaters aren't in use Sunday am, and are set up for sound and lights and have comfy chairs, and somewhat sticky floors (eeww).

It does lend a more casual (seeker-friendly?) atmosphere. I love it that the other pastors are supportive.

Posted by: Abbey | Mar 23, 2006 1:13:50 PM

You have to find real estate where you can find it. Bravo! There are some vacant outdoor movie theaters in the country...just a thought for any church planter (not a new idea though).

Posted by: Dan Moore | Mar 23, 2006 3:25:48 PM

Intoductory communion

Christian rap

Christian rock

Media savvy worship services

etc, etc, etc

What ever happen to "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:" Mt 28:19

Are these the substitutes for preaching the gospel, Has the gospel lost something here at the beginning of the twenty first century?

Has hollywood and the entertainment industry prevailed to help the weakened gospel to stand to its feet again?

How did it get through al the previous centuries without this help?

Posted by: Rev Michael Bresciani | Mar 24, 2006 9:41:47 AM

What a great first service. Todd, can you give us an update say six months from now. Having done church planting I know everyone is amped up for the launch service, but I'd like to see how they're fairing a few months from now. Hopefully they'll be doing well.

Posted by: Bert | Mar 27, 2006 10:40:29 AM

This is not a big deal, and has no bearing on the story, but Velocity Christian Church is in Virginia, not Indiana.

Posted by: Dennie | Mar 29, 2006 11:42:22 AM

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