Friday, July 14, 2006

Invasion of the Church Snatchers

Quest Community Church, one of the fastest-growing churches in America, looks more like a cinema than a cathedral.

Sunday services, called "worship experiences," are held in a dark, windowless room. Giant screens cover the walls. Stadium seats line the floor. There are no religious symbols on display -- no hymnals, baptismal tanks, old rugged crosses or portraits of Jesus. Instead of tiny communion cup holders, Quest's seats have supersize beverage holders.

Quest is "a unique church with a pretty precise purpose: to transform unconvinced people into whole-hearted followers of Jesus," said Peter Hise, founding pastor.

The Lexington congregation tries to avoid church jargon. It has an "auditorium," not a "sanctuary." Churchgoers share their "stories" -- not their testimonies. The foyer is called an "atrium." The "ushers" are referred to as "the receiving team."

King James Version vocabulary (thee and thou, beseech and begotten) has been updated, but the spiritual values remain the same, Hise said.

"We're just trying to be 21st century," he said. "The ancient truth is spoken in modern language."

It's an approach that works.

In 1999, its first year, Quest had average attendance of 148. It climbed to 382 in 2002, 472 in 2003, 610 in 2004 and 1,024 in 2005. This year, attendance is averaging 1,434.

Easter Sunday, attendance reached 2,264 -- Quest's highest ever.

John Vaughan, founder of Church Growth Today and an expert on megachurches, says Quest probably will be among the 100 fastest-growing congregations nationwide for 2006.

For full article click here.

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