On Sunday, I worshipped (in-person!) at North Point Community Church, just outside of Atlanta, Georgia. North Point is a non-denominational church with 8 different campuses across the Atlanta area. If you add the worshipping attendance at all 8 campuses up, North Point averages over 35,000 people worshipping together every weekend.
North Point is led by Pastor Andy Stanley. Pastor Andy is a dynamic preacher and author. He also hosts a monthly leadership podcast that is widely distributed. I have been a listener to this podcast for several years.
North Point works hard to make everything easily accessible. They had police officers at the church entrances directing traffic. The lanes into the multiple parking lots were well marked and there were a ton of volunteers outside, wearing bright yellow vests, directing your way.
As I walked across the lot (guided by crossing guards) I think I heard a half-dozen times, “Good morning! We’re glad you’re here.”
The building itself is of newer design. From the outside, it looks a bit like a mall. And there were greeters scattered all over, with a “welcome center” by each entrance, staffed by volunteers. All the volunteers were wearing matching t-shirts that said “Summer Sundays” on them. It made it very easy to know who to ask questions.
Inside the lobby, there were banners outside of a room that just said “First time?” and there were people there to answer questions and give directions.
The worship itself was in a large auditorium that seated approximately 3,000 people. The “production values” of worship were really high, with lighting, sound and video. Pastor Andy greeted the crowd and gave announcements. The band played 3 or 4 songs, and then one of the pastors from a different campus spoke by video feed.
The way they did the video was incredible. During a prayer, all of the band equipment was moved out of the way on giant mobile platforms and a very large screen dropped down. The pastor was then projected on the screen, but at “life size” and at “floor level.” From where I was sitting, it took about 20 seconds to forget that he was preaching remotely from another site. It just seemed like he was right there walking around on the stage.
After he finished, there was another time of prayer, and then a closing song, and then Pastor Andy came back out and thanked and dismissed the congregation.
What impressed me was the intentionality with which everything was done. I could tell that the volunteer greeters knew exactly why they were dressed in matching shirts, and why they were all “glad to see us.”
The musicians were clear in their role. They created energy for worship without their egos “getting in the way.”
And the incredible technology all served the purpose of communicating the preacher’s message and God’s great love.
Now to be fair, North Point is not a Lutheran Church, and there were some significant departures from our theology and doctrine. But I knew that going in. And I wasn’t there to evaluate or critique it. Rather, I was interested in seeing how they did what they did and what we could learn from that.
Churches like North Point, or Saddleback (which Lori and I visited in June) can seem so large, so beyond the scope of what other churches can do, that you could wonder if there is value in visiting. But what I learned in both of these places is the critical importance of intentionality in ministry. We need to know “why” we are doing what we are doing…and maybe even more importantly, we need to communicate that to everyone who is participating.
I really liked the way Pastor Andy framed it in the announcements: “North Point is a very large church, but we think we do a good job making it feel like your church.”
I’m grateful for the opportunity to visit places like North Point. I’m thankful for the intentionality with which they do what they do. And I’m curious about how we can communicate that same intentionality. We have a mission. We know why we do what we do, because:
“through Jesus’ love, we welcome, connect, learn and serve.”
That is our “why.” I’m looking forward to working with our leadership to make sure we can, with great intentionality, relate all of our ministries back to that mission statement.