A few days ago I hopped on a jet to southern California and began my 12-day journey with the research crew from 20sChurch. Heather, Maria and Taylor are three college students who are going from coast-to-coast this summer studying what churches are doing to reach 20-somethings. I'm learning a lot from them, and am privileged to be their chauffeur and roadie in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and the San Francisco area.
Today we attended two churches--Reality LA in Hollywood and Hillsong LA in downtown Los Angeles. They are about 12 minutes from each other and seem to both be drawing a high percentage of 20-somethings. However, they couldn't be more different.
Reality LA -- I could easily picture someone who studies megachurches saying these guys do it all "wrong." The parking is terrible (most people walk from a parking lot four blocks away) and the facility is old. They purposely leave the singers in the dark so you can't see their faces. Their transitions are choppy and announcements too long. They have a total of "zero" moving lights (and only two spotlights for the speaker) and they don't use video--as in none. We stood for 36-minutes straight (that explains few people in the 50+ age range)--and they do loooooong series (they literally last for months).
It's all a recipe for failure, right? You can't grow a church that way. No one will come! And yet young adults are coming by the thousands--not dragged to church by their parents or forced to attend a Christian college chapel. They are getting out of bed early Sunday morning to worship passionately and study the Bible. They are banding together to make a difference in the world, and they are engaged in community groups throughout the city.
Hillsong LA -- They could be described as the "total opposite" of the first church. A brand new start-up (last week was their first "weekly" service), this is a high production event. I'm guessing they arrive in the middle of the night to hang the speaker arrays, complex truss system and Hollywood-level lighting and sound. The service is perfectly programmed and the arts are excellent with a capital "E." Transitions are tight and every aspect of the service has been considered. The energy in the room was electric.
So who are they attracting? The exact same demographic. The place was packed with young adults (i.e. 20-somethings) who were excited, passionate and driven.
Neither one is doing church wrong. And neither church is doing it right. They are both doing what God has called them to, and in both cases, it is working. They are each very committed to loving their city and making a difference in the lives of real people with real problems.
This weekend it was reaffirmed for me--there is no right way to do church. If anyone tells you they are doing church the right way--run away! God has gifted humble leaders with a unique thumbprint--and it's only important that we be true to how He has wired us.
The 20sChurch team says that 20-something are looking for authenticity, relevance, a challenge to make a difference, and an opportunity for community. I saw all these characteristics at play in these two churches.
Way to go Reality and Hillsong teams! You are shaking it up in Los Angeles, and as a fellow believer, I'm incredibly proud.