Cover Story

Out of one, many

"Out of one, many" Continued...

Issue: "NextGen worship," July 26, 2008

While Methodism's multi-site approach birthed a denomination, today's multi-site pastors try to birth large churches. Browning is quick to reject the moniker of denomination in describing his network of worship centers, but the two organization types function similarly in some ways.

As Pastor Aguilar makes his closing Sunday morning remarks at CTK Burlington, a much younger and smaller congregation files into the rear café of a Lynnwood, Wash., coffee store some 50 miles south. Pastor Shahram Hadian welcomes his fledgling flock of fewer than two dozen before calling his wife and two young children forward for baby dedications.

Standing in front of a portable screen operating PowerPoint notes on his personal laptop and trotting to the side of the room to correct the levels on a small sound board, Hadian is a picture of simplicity-and representative of just how broad the multi-site movement can range.

Yet even amid that humble worship service, Hadian's congregation emphasizes a global perspective. "The international centers bring to mind that people around the world are paying a much higher price for their faith than we are," Browning says, his voice tightening with intensity: "Four of our leaders were burned to death last year in India. We have leaders who are beaten down regularly for their faith. For us in America, who have a pretty easy environment to be able to work in, that's been somewhat of a kick in the pants."

Sermons in the sun

A California megachurch hopes to give away building funds and hold services outdoors

By Mark Bergin

Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, Calif., has a problem not unlike many fast-growing evangelical bodies: It is running out of room.

The 4,000-person suburban congregation hopes to construct a new facility soon on 138 acres of private land just west of the city limits. But building plans for the proposed 3,000-seat sanctuary defy church conventions. The blueprints include no foyer space or coffee bars, no windows or doors, and no walls or roof. Cornerstone intends to hold services outside.

The idea of constructing a massive outdoor amphitheater in lieu of a more traditional brick-and-mortar structure developed out of church leadership meetings on financial stewardship. Lead pastor Francis Chan, a resolute advocate for simplicity and generosity, has instilled the virtue of frugality into his congregation and staff. Chan has downsized into a 1,000-square-foot home for his family of six in the interest of devoting more personal resources to caring for the poor.

"We have a desire to give more money away," administrative pastor Todd Tucker explained. "We just completed our fiscal year and committed in our budget to send out 50 percent of the money we spend. So in looking at the need to expand we don't want to sink tons of money into a building. Every time we meet outside, we'll realize that we're making a sacrifice to give money out."

Cornerstone's application for a building permit is under consideration in Ventura County. If approved, the site would function much like a public park, with community ball fields. The plans also include some traditional buildings, including a 1,000-person capacity multipurpose gymnasium, a necessity should rain or unusually hot temperatures ever invade a Sunday morning.

The site would also house administrative headquarters and warehouse facilities for Children's Hunger Fund, a partner organization largely funded with Cornerstone monies. Classroom and office space for a church-sponsored Bible college and a small chapel round out the plans.

Though hardly an economy project, Cornerstone's decision to forgo a traditional auditorium could save the church as much as $20 million, about 50 percent off the sticker price.

Tucker told WORLD the congregation has proved largely receptive to the innovative idea: "You have people who are a little apprehensive about it, but it's shaken us all to really think through how it does make sense to sacrifice here so we can give more away. And there is something exciting about coming together as a body of believers outside."


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