The local campus church also gives more people a chance to be involved in the work of the church.
“If you just have one location with hundreds, maybe thousands, of people, you have a lot of people just sitting on the sidelines and not getting involved,” Robie said. “The more sites that you have, the more people you can get in the game. Every single person needs something to do, and with the campus churches you have way more opportunities for involvement.”
That involvement, he added, enhances individual opportunities for connecting with other like-minded believers. To demonstrate, he holds his cellphone in the air.
“It’s like this cellphone,” he says. “Right now it’s searching for a connection. We’re the same way. We’re wired by God to search for and connect with other people. We’re wired to seek out and respond to authentic communication, which can only happen when people know each other and are known by each other.
“That’s the secret sauce,” he said, smiling and leaning back in his chair again. “People can search the Internet and find every sermon I give done better and more effectively by other pastors than what I could do. But they come here because of that connection. And that happens best in the smaller, campus congregations.”
Pastor Bill Young of The Rock Church also believes in the spiritual advantages of smaller, community-based churches, although he makes it clear he is “not opposed to the idea of a megachurch.”
“There’s nothing wrong with a bigger church,” said Young, whose ministry at The Rock Church includes locations in Salt Lake City, Sandy and Provo. “I would take a megachurch, no problem. But I would plant other churches out of it.”
Which is the type of megachurch Young finds himself drawn to: one that plants other churches or sends its members out to establish other independent churches in other locations.
“It’s in my DNA,” Young said, referring to his early days as a Christian, when he left his engineering career and home in Iowa to help plant new churches in Colorado. The establishment of The Rock Church in Salt Lake City was itself a planting effort from that Colorado church, featuring a core group of six families (“about 35 people, counting the dogs,” he joked as he sipped coffee in a Sandy bagel shop) in 1999 that has now grown to just under a thousand congregants at the three locations.
“This is what I know — we plant churches,” he said. “Statistically, you can reach more people by starting new churches than by just growing really big. But the main thing to me is how it feeds the spiritual hunger of those who accept the call to plant a church. There’s just something about looking at your congregation and saying, ‘We’re going to plant a new church. Who wants to go?’"
For example, right now The Rock has a church plant ready to launch in Romania.
“I’ve got three families who are ready to go plant that church,” Young said. “I have to keep holding them back because we’re not quite ready for them to go yet.”
Still, he said, “it just really strengthens you to watch as people apply their faith. I always want to be a part of that.”
Like South Mountain Community Church, each of the three locations of The Rock Church has its own pastor. And also like South Mountain, The Rock features live preaching at Sunday services, although the four pastors share preaching duties.
“We teach about Jesus,” Young said. “Our goal, our mission is to bring people to Christ, to strengthen them in the faith and then to send them out to follow where the Lord leads them.”
That can be scary, the pastor said. But he embraces English writer and theologian G.K. Chesterton’s observation that “the more I consider Christianity, the more I found that while it had established a rule and order, the chief aim of that order was to give room for good things to run wild.”
“The organization of the church is just the platform we use to see what God can do,” Young said. “We introduce people to Jesus, and then we wait to see what happens when good things run wild.”
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