This weekend was the first of several “vision trips” for us. Over the years, the vision we have for our church plant has been influenced by what we have experienced in churches we have belonged to as well as other existing churches and ministries that we have spiritually benefited from. While we are so grateful for our rich spiritual foundations, we also want a well-rounded perspective.
We aren't out to copy anybody, but there are a number of places where certain aspects of their church culture really resonate with us. There are parts of our vision that we see being done very well in some of these places. So, we want to learn from these churches and experience it firsthand.
One such place is The Rock Family Worship Center in Huntsville, AL. So, our family made the 4 and a half hour drive this past weekend. We had a blast! It was not only a fun and refreshing time for our family, but we also got some clearer direction as church planters.
Here are my 3 observations from our trip:
Never judge a book by its cover or a church by its website.
I had visited therockfamily.org before visiting the actual church and was quite impressed. The website gives the visitor a concise vision of the church, complete with awesome graphics and photography. (There are obviously some pretty creative people at The Rock.)
I also LOVE their core values listed on the website:
Our heart’s desire is to:
Love the Father Jesus lived for,
Love the Church Jesus paid for,
and Love the World Jesus died for.
Perfect ingredients for an awesome church, right?
But what the website didn’t tell me is what kind of neighborhood the church was in or even what the exterior of the building looked like. I expected a huge multi-million dollar facility sitting on a hundred acres of well-manicured lawn in a well-to-do Huntsville suburb.
But, what I actually saw was this:
And this is the main campus, not a recent campus addition. It's a renovated space that shares a lot with Office Depot.
And literally 200 ft behind the church is this massive housing project.
I was gushing with excitement! What a perfect place for a church! I could already tell by pulling into the parking lot what this church is really all about -- being Jesus to a community.
The Rock is a church that has grown exponentially in the 16 years of its existence. They could have moved out of the neighborhood and built a marvel of a building on the outskirts of town. But instead of moving out of the neighborhood and building “up,” they apparently chose to stay and “build out,” expanding to 3 services at the main campus, planting 4 other campuses scattered around north Alabama, and an online campus that reaches thousands more every weekend.
The Rock is a church that is diverse. Diverse because it genuinely reflects the community in which it is planted.
The Rock is a church making a difference in their community and influencing a whole region.
Jesus is the center.
The Rock talks a lot about Him. They talk about Him like He’s not a historical figure, or even a religious figure. They talk about Him like He’s real! They talk about Him like they are crazy about Him. There’s a vast difference between a learner and a lover. Churches are full of learners. The Church today needs more lovers. And these people love Jesus.
The worship. The message. Everything pointed to Him.
Jesus is at the forefront, and people are being transformed by meeting Him. That’s what it’s all about.
Honor creates an environment for growth.
One huge thing that stuck out to me was the way the leadership talked about the people and how the people responded to their leadership. There seemed to be a reciprocal love in the room. The Rock Family is a good name for the house. It really was a family. And as a first-time visitor, I felt like I was part of that family.
Love empowers people. It makes people believe they can be who God says they are and do what God says they can do. And when you get a bunch of people together who are empowered, growth happens.
There’s something in the DNA of The Rock that so resonates with the vision God has given us for a church plant. We’re so encouraged. And I’m so glad we got to hang out with The Rock Family this past weekend!