Calif. Megachurch Cancels Services to 'Be' the Church

A Vista, Calif., megachurch canceled all worship services over the weekend, leaving no excuse for Christians to stay in the pews and out of "being" the church.

"So many people think of a church as a self-contained religious club – but it's not," said Pastor Larry Osborne of North Coast Church. "A healthy church is a community of Jesus-followers who live out their spiritual commitment 24/7."

Over 6,000 North Coast attendees were expected to live out their commitment over the weekend as they tackled 139 community service projects at 70 sites throughout North San Diego County. On Oct. 25 and 26, the church closed its doors for a "Weekend of Service" and providing churchgoers the opportunity to show the love of Jesus.

On Saturday, participants completed a lot of prep work for painting, landscaping and other renovation projects, according to a church news update. The temperature rose to 90 degrees but the church community still went on strong, kicking off the Weekend of Service "with a bang."

The weekend event takes place every 18 months and is the culmination of the small projects North Coast engages in regularly.

"Our weekly service projects and our Weekend of Service are simply one more way help our members understand that church is what we are, not just something we go to," said Osborne in a released statement.

The Weekend of Service aims to mobilize the entire Vista congregation of some 7,000 weekend attendees. The event is almost entirely volunteer-led.

"We get a chance to all come together and accomplish huge tasks that we can't do without everyone in our church pitching in," said Community Service Pastor Casey Yorman.

Last year, some 5,500 people participated and worked together on 92 projects at 54 sites, yielding $1 million in materials and labor.

North Coast had drawn a little controversy and concerns from other Christians when it first canceled worship services for community service work. The Vista church might have been the first megachurch to close down all its services to serve the community, according to Osborne.

"What we tell people is 'this week, we're going to be the church instead of going to church,'" Osborne commented, noting that critics have become fans of the Weekend of Service and that this year, North Coast has received no complaint.

North Coast's Weekend of Service is not part of a similar campaign organized by World Vision, Zondervan and Outreach, Inc. The three major Christian organizations have encouraged annual "Faith in Action" campaigns in which Sunday services are canceled and the entire congregation engages in service projects that day. The National Faith in Action campaign was held Oct. 12.