The College Football of the Church

This is an article I wrote for the Church Planter Collective

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Several years ago I did a lengthy interview with Pastor Don Wilson of Christ’s Church in the Valley (CCV) in Peoria, Arizona. The interview was part of my dissertation research for Asbury Seminary. Don is a remarkable and humble guy who planted CCV about 25 years ago. CCV now is the largest church in the state of Arizona with about 20,000 attending every weekend.

Don’s office was smaller than mine and was very simple in its décor. As we talked, it became clear that CCV was an institutional embodiment of Don’s passion – people. As the conversation progressed past statistical information, Don lamented how a large church can quickly become very impersonal, program oriented, and lose focus on people.

“The real ministry of CCV doesn’t take place on this campus,” Don declared. “It’s in the neighborhoods and backyard barbeques. Our focus these days is to downsize our on-campus programming in order to encourage people to do ministry where they live.”

If you have been to the CCV campus, you can immediately appreciate the irony. CCV has an amazing church campus. From the outside it looks like a Scottsdale resort. The inside is as beautiful as ANY church I have seen.

When I pushed Don on this irony his answer has stuck in my head for a long time – “Down the road at Arizona State, their football team gets more attention and more money than any other athletic program at the University. If you are on the volleyball team or the lacrosse team, this might really bug you. But the truth is, the football team brings in more than enough revenue to pay for all of the other athletic programs at the University.”

“Weekend services are the college football of the church. They are not the most important things that we do by a long shot. They are not the most effective way of doing ministry. But weekend services are what pay the bills. We spend a disproportionate amount of time and energy on weekend services so that we can do other ministries that are more effective.”

In recent years there has been a lot of conversation about “missional” verses “attractional” models in church plants.  I think what I learned from Don is that it doesn’t have to be an either/or deal.  What if we allowed the attractional part of the church to be the empowering force behind the missional part of the church?  What if attractional and missional were symbiotic instead of competitive?

Dana Hicks