More Changes Coming to ChangePoint

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In my posting earlier this year regarding my January 20 visit, I promised to revisit this Anchorage mega-church later in the year. To this end, I revisited ChangePoint on September 7, 2008 for the 11:30 a.m. service.

Traffic Nightmare
The traffic revisions on Raspberry have created a nightmare to get into this church. East & Westbound Raspberry traffic compete with outbound church and inbound Minnesota Northbound offramp traffic to Raspberry. There were short tempers aplenty this morning. These types of frustrations detract from the religious experience. Members and visitors alike should not have to experience them. I’m surprised ChangePoint and the MOA hadn’t worked this out prior to Raspberry Road’s eastbound extension opening.

Parking, once the Rasperry Road mess was negotiated, thanks to their talented and dedicated team of parking attendants, was swift and painless. They are to be commended for this level of attention to detail. This time, there were greeters at each set of doors who gave warm greetings. And there were bulletin passers at the doors to the sanctuary.

Amazing! No Drummer, No Church!
Uncharacteristically, the service did not start on time. The musicians seemed to be there and the musical leader was pacing around. Finally, the drummer came running down the aisle, got on the platform, and started an awesome beat. Obviously, at ChangePoint, if the band is not ready to play, it’s not time to worship. Clearly the music at ChangePoint is a big draw and entertainment. Maybe that’s why the band lead, the keyboardist, is on an elevated plane above other officiants on their gigantic platform. To me, the beat and full-fledged musical expression felt more dancefloor than church. Only the words on the screens had lyrics that sometimes indicated otherwise.

Dan Jarrell, the new lead pastor since Clauson’s departure, was accompanied by seven elders on the platform. His focus this day was to address the challenges posed by ChangePoint’s discovery they’d been offtrack for some time, rapid growth, mass defections of staff, plus persistent and looming financial concerns. Jarrell grouped the challenges ChangePoint faced in four key areas:
You can listen to his in-depth discussion/message by clicking here.

A Sampling of Solutions/Problems
A few keypoints Jarrell noted (bold) and my comments:

Return to the Word – The Gospel of Jesus Christ (solution)
Comment: This is the most obvious source of Christian belief. Great honesty, but sad to hear. Sadly many churches substitute feel-good programs, new member expansion, structure building, and social justice emphasis instead teaching and preaching the gospel. The Word of God must always come first and in great abundance.

Staff implosion due to dysfunction and outside consultants (problem)
Comment: Paul said it best in 1 Cor. 3:19 – “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.” This has happened so often in many other churches and mega-churches like ChangePoint. Mega-churches are big business and a thriving market for consultants.

Placing a ChangePoint sticker in member’s home windows (solution)
Comment: This attempt to establish and proclaim ChangePoint’s presence in member’s neighborhoods, further supported by building better relationships with neighbors may well create attitudes against them. In the past, as a community church volunteer, I’ve had many doors slammed in my face when approaching community neighbors displaying community and church stickers in the window. Stickers are meaningless.

Summing it Up
Jarrell summed it up by noting with frank honesty, “If we as a church can’t be obedient or faithful enough, we don’t deserve to stay here.” ChangePoint has tremendous challenges ahead of them in repositioning their ministry with the stated significant financial and internal organizational issues they face. As Jarrell articulated, solving them depends heavily on reorganizing elders, deacons, and, plus member training, retraining, and indoctrination with a heavy programmatic emphasis using the book/course, Gospel Transformation. ChangePoint is not alone. Other mega-churches are currently dealing with some of the same issues Jarrell addressed this day.

ChangePoint’s solutions appear to be very program driven. Only time will tell how this retooling works for them. They do offer a quality experience, but is it a quality experience people seek, or a greater connection with the gospel? I commend them for identifying and addressing crucial issues. In my previous review I concluded “…I entered, exited, was entertained, and left feeling empty”. This time I still felt pretty much the same, except I give them credit for addressing identified issues.

In the future, I will share how suburban Chicago’s Willow Creek Community Church, a nationally known mega-church and promoter of the same kind of church direction followed by ChangePoint, has come to grips with the recognition they’ve grown too fast, aided by awesome musical entertainment and zippy topics. But, they’ve ignored the needs of their core, committed Christian congregation. It is firmly believed by many that programs are not the solution. Believers really thirst to be taught the Bible, the meat of the Word, and more serious-minded scripture by preachers, who can, in a clear, expository style, share the blessing and gifts of the Word.

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