LifeChurch.tv has been named the most innovative church in the country by Outreach magazine.
With a weekly attendance of more than 18,000 people at nine separate campuses and over the Internet, LifeChurch.tv is the largest congregation in the Evangelical Covenant Church. Not all pastors, however, experienced as much success as Life Church founding pastor Craig Groeschel did with his multisite and new age approach.
"When LifeChurch.tv began in 1996, 40 members met in a two-car garage equipped with just a borrowed overhead projector and two construction lights purchased at Lowe’s for $19.99," explained Outreach magazine in its announcement. "Ten years later, the church has been named No. 1 on our list of America’s Most Innovative Churches, primarily for its ability to leverage the latest technology available for its nine multi-state campuses, 18,000 members and thousands of weekly visitors, many of whom are window shopping Christianity.”
LifeChurch.tv, born out of Oklahoma City and now in Edmond, is currently in cities throughout Oklahoma, Arizona, Texas and Tennessee. All nine campuses look at the same clock and incorporate live satellite video teaching each week. The Internet campus was launched in April 2006.
"Life Church never set out to be a tech-church," Bobby Gruenewald, pastor and innovation leader for Life Church, told the magazine. "We were just passionate about reaching people, and God."
The passion to lead people to Christ led to the innovative multi-site and Internet model. "It's the best expression of reaching people that we know and we'll continue to do it," said Groeschel at an A2 Conference last year involving top church leaders.
Not all church leaders agree with the approach. Some see it as a controversial model for ministry. Some raised concerns about the satellite distance between the attendant and the preacher and others wonder if this is a church as the Bible defines church or if it is a "wal-marting" of the church.
But, "the world is too diverse for just a few churches to reach," Groeschel had told a group of innovative church leaders, including megapastor Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Community Church and Erwin McManus of Mosaic at the 2006 conference.
Even Groeschel had been a skeptic until he imagined a church without walls.
"What if the church was no longer bound by walls," he imagined. "What if geographic limitations were erased. What if the church redeemed technology and used it for the glory of God."
What convinced him even more was when the eight out of the nine campuses grew. The one that didn't was the church he was physically teaching at.
"My presence is unnecessary for the spirit of God to work," Groeschel noted, "because it's not about me. It's not about you."
Groeschel does not promote his church model as "the best way," but rather as a way to do church. And the multi-site approach is the best way that Life Church adopted to reach more people for Christ.
Some of the latest developments at LifeChurch.tv include a new website called MySecret.tv where people can anonymously confess their sins online. The site was launched in August and since then, more than 1,500 confessions have been posted, the magazine reported.
Life Church was ranked the seventh most influential church in the country by The Church Report in 2006.
A new campus is slated to open in early 2007 in northwest Oklahoma City, making it their 10th campus.
"Without apology, I will do whatever it takes to grab people's attention," Groeschel told Outreach.
The top 10 most innovative churches according to Outreach magazine are:
2. Granger Community Church
3. North Point Community Church
4. Fellowship Church
5. Mosaic Church
6. Seacoast Church
7. Community Christian Church
8. National Community Church
9. Mars Hill Church
10. New Hope Christian Fellowship O'ahu