One of Washington state's biggest congregations opened its largest church campus on Sunday. For the church, it's a greater opportunity to bring more people to Christ. For others, it's another "big-box building."
Christian Faith Center is the third-largest building project in Federal Way, Washington – only smaller than the city's Crossings shopping center and Wal-Mart Supercenter. Its main building is 219,000 square feet and includes a sanctuary that seats 2,500 which can be expanded to 4,500 seats. And that's only the first phase of the $70-million building project.
Like many megachurches, Christian Faith Center houses a production studio, a cafe, espresso stands, a book store, Bible school, and a game room.
"This isn't big for Microsoft, this isn't big for Boeing, this isn't big for the Seahawks. So why's it big for a church?" asked co-pastor Casey Treat, who says the competition isn't other churches but such large venues as Disneyland and the mall, according to KOMO TV.
With an average weekly attendance of about 8,000 at two campuses, the Christian Faith Center congregation has been eight years in planning for the new Federal Way location and not all have welcomed the megachurch.
"It's too big," said Shirley Gulbraa, who lives near the church, according to The News Tribune. "To me, that's another big-box building."
Controversy over the size of a new megachurch building and fears of increased traffic are nothing new for churches seeking expansion. But former Federal Way Mayor Ron Gintz believes the community will benefit from Christian Faith Center.
"The people that go there hear a good message and go out and act on that message," he said, according to the local newspaper. That means helping people in need through food banks and other programs, Gintz explained.
To ease traffic, the megachurch is paying $6.5 million to widen the street and improve road and traffic conditions, which are required by the city.
Christian Faith Center had begun with 30 people, most of whom were drug addicts and ex-alcoholics, in 1980. The founding co-pastor was a former drug addict himself.
Now one of the largest churches in the Northwest, the megachurch has held simultaneous Sunday morning services with co-pastors Treat and his wife Casey shuttling between two church campuses in a helicopter. Casey Treat is planning for a helipad at the new Federal Way location.
Closing one of its two original campuses and opening a larger facility in Federal Way, Christian Faith Center is aiming to expand its reach in the Northwest.
"It's the opportunity to bring more people into the body of Christ," said James Gossler, 43, of Federal Way, according to the local Tribune.
Christian Faith Center is celebrating the new opening over the next two months with special events and services. The megachurch is scheduled to build a $12-million K-12 private school on the new campus next year.