Dr. George Bullard, a Southern Baptist church growth expert whom the FGBC has used as a resource on a number of occasions, is this week featuring the Raleigh, NC, Grace Brethren congregation on his weblog. Reproduced here by permission is his report–quotes about the church are taken from its website.
A View from the Congregation: Hope Community Church, Cary, NC
Although it has grown from 30 people to over 3000 in weekly worship, Hope Community Church at www.GetHope.net is not a congregation about size.
“Hope may seem like a large church, but if you get to know us you’ll discover that in many ways we’re small. In fact, we’re actually a network of small groups. If you’d like to develop authentic and enduring relationships with others, then you’ll be glad to know new groups are forming all the time.” [web site]
Although it has just this week moved from the gymnasium of a Christian school into its own worship center, it is not a congregation about bricks and mortar. “Our vision is not about bricks and mortar. Buildings are just tools. We [trusted] God to complete this tool where children, teenagers and adults will be impacted by Christ for years to come. This [was] a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build something significant for God’s Kingdom that will outlast us.” [web site]
Although it has all the right staging, video projection, band, singers, and worship leader, it is not a congregation about performance. “Our services are designed for everyone to enjoy–even if you’ve never been to church before. Whether you’re a Christ-follower or a spiritual seeker, we’ll communicate the truth from the Bible in a way that’s easy for you to understand and apply to your daily life. And when you visit us, you’ll meet friendly people who will help you find your way around our facilities and answer any questions you may have.” [web site]
February 5th they will take the next step, same journey, as they are calling it, and celebrate the grand opening of their new auditorium. Until then they are practicing in the new worship center by holding their worship services there.
Hope Community Church was founded in 1994 by Mike Lee, his family, and several other families who intentionally moved to the Cary, NC, area from various places around the country.
The congregation is affiliated with the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches. After only 12 years, it has the largest attendance of any Grace Brethren Church.
Mike is a friend of mine. He has a wonderful spirit. He is attempting to lead a congregation that requires boldly going where he, his pastors and staff, and his elders have never been before. They are building their congregation’s journey while in flight. And, doing a really great job.
Until now it has done this in rented or borrowed locations, spending the past several years in the gymnasium of Grace Christian School on the same acreage where is has now built its worship center, plus education and fellowship space.
Parking is a real issue with limited parking at its primary site. Many worshipers ride buses from a restaurant parking lot a half-mile away, or walk from an empty lot 100 yards down the road from the church facilities and across a busy street.
With all these barriers, what makes Hope so attractive? It is a serious congregation that loves to worship God. It is an excited congregation that loves to make people laugh in the midst of great fellowship.
It is a doctrinally sound congregation that loves to dialogue about your faith journey as a committed Christian or a seeker. They do this formally in small groups or around a cup of Starbucks coffee in its gathering area.
It is a permission-giving congregation that celebrates the priesthood of believers and supports its congregants in many ministries that touch the lives of hard-to-reach target groups. It is a well-organized congregation that in spite of all its high-tech gadgets is successful because it is a high-touch fellowship.