FLOWERY BRANCH — While some churches are having to reduce their seating capacity to create the illusion that they have a critical mass of people attending their worship services, some few churches are building greater facilities to accommodate their growth.
Christ Place Church in Flowery Branch is one of those churches that has enlarged its facilities and is now enjoying the benefits of having a brand new, “modern, state-of-the -art” building that sparkles with beauty. The facility includes 78,000 square feet of new construction and provides a multiplicity of amenities for members and guests.
In addition to the 2,000-seat worship center, the church has a spacious, bright, inviting lobby, a capacious coffee shop and café, and a merchandise store selling t-shirts, Columbia fishing shirts, polo shirts, hats, coffee mugs, journals, and more. The new building also has a guest services room or connections room with cozy accommodations and a fireplace where church members and guests can relax and chat before and after the worship services.
According to the Gainesville Times, “The worship center offers theater seating, all on flat ground with raked seating on the sides. There is no balcony in the new space as in the old. On the wall just above the stage are 80 feet of LED screens displaying a video of the services for anyone with any sort of vision impairment.
“The sound equipment and lights have been updated with about 80 moving lights and sound [that will be tour quality].”
The initial cost of the mammoth project was estimated at $18.2 million.
Preparing spiritually for the opening day
For weeks prior to the first services in the new building, church members and the staff of Christ Place were on the church’s Facebook page expressing their delight over the beautiful features of the new facility and urging people from far and wide to come and be a part of the opening day services on September 16.
On the first Sunday in the new worship center the congregation nearly filled the building for both services, the choir was large, the pastor was animated, and his sermon was powerful.
Prior to the long-awaited Sunday, Pastor Crook emphasized that the opening day was all about Christ. He exhorted, “Ask God to get your heart ready to worship. Psalm 84 is a great place to start. Read it and listen to the heart of an expectant worshipper, who declared, ‘I long, yes, I faint with longing to enter the courts of the Lord. With my whole being, body and soul, I will shout joyfully to the living God. A single day in Your courts is better than a thousand anywhere else.”
‘This is God’s place’
The Christ Place pastor reiterated, “Let us remember that this is not about us. Worship is not about me. It’s all about Christ and reaching others who do not know Him. The Psalmist said, “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to Your name goes all the glory of Your unfailing love and faithfulness” (Psalm 115:1).
The sermon of Pastor Crook on the first Sunday in the new worship center was based on Psalm 84 and he emphasized the absolute importance of Christ’s presence and preeminence. He stated, “This is God’s place. This is God’s worship center. Everything we do as a church is about the presence of God.”
Before concluding his message, Crook declared, “I will tell you the worst thing about hell. God is not there. The presence of God cannot be known, felt, or experienced in hell.”
The people came – 3,771 of them and 21 individuals became new members of Christ Place Church with five of them professing their faith in Christ.
Expository preaching essential to growth that remains
Jeff Crook became the senior pastor of Blackshear Place Baptist Church (now Christ Place) in 2004. Since then, God has blessed by adding 4,000 new members, bring the congregation to more than 8,000 members. More than 3,000 people have been baptized during the past 14 years.
The Christ Place pastor is an expository preacher and there are many who believe that expository preaching is essential to the kind of growth that remains.
Dr. Jensen Petersen, Baptist pastor and president of Crosspoint Ministries, explains, “While preaching itself may not necessarily increase church attendance, expository preaching, however, will grow a church spiritually, intellectually, and numerically.
“There is a difference between catching an animal and keeping an animal. To catch an animal, one uses bait, which is often small amounts of food or something resembling food, in an attracting atmosphere. Keeping an animal, like a pet, requires full meals, but when an animal is fed well, it will return again and again. Preaching for church growth is moving away from trends, tricks, and gimmicks (bait), and moving to full meals – expository preaching.”
Rolling out the red carpet
On Sunday afternoon, the church rolled out the welcome mat to the community and had what they called the Atlanta Highway Block Party from 5-9 p.m. The church had inflatable games for the kids, activities for the teenagers and adults, six food trucks, and a professional fireworks show. An estimated 2,000 people came to see the church campus and enjoy an evening of fun and fellowship.
Christ Place Church is only several hundred yards from I-985 and those traveling on this heavily trafficked thoroughfare can see the church site which will soon have an 80-foot, metal, illuminated cross near the front door of the church auditorium.
The cross will be easily visible both night and day and will remind all who see it that Christ Place Church is all about Christ and his atoning death for all mankind.