WASHINGTON – A flourishing church of twenty-somethings announced its newest multi-site launch in one of the toughest places in Washington, D.C. – Georgetown.
Mark Batterson, lead pastor of National Community Church (NCC) and a major leader in the theater church movement, spent two hours on a prayer walk in Georgetown Wednesday. Stepping on streets popular for high-end shops and restaurants and bustling with university students, Batterson had in mind the promised land.
"Part of the reason I love to do prayer walks is because of Joshua 1:3 – I will give you every place where you set your foot," Batterson wrote in his Wednesday blog. "I feel like every location we launch is promised land."
NCC is already meeting at three different locations throughout the D.C. area, including Union Station's Phoenix Theaters. The next stop in the Northwest quadrant of Washington, D.C. is the recently opened 14-screen Loews theaters, strategically positioning the church between Georgetown University and George Washington University.
Since Batterson's Georgetown announcement to NCC members on Sunday, the emerging leader has been in "launch mode."
"I love multi-site!" he stated in his blog. "I have this entrepreneurial itch that needs to get scratched periodically. But I also want to pastor one church for life. Multi-site is the perfect combo!"
Multi-site has bursted into the 21st century with now over 1,000 churches across the nation adopting the one-church, multiple-locations model, which is touted for wider reach, and especially targeting the unchurched. Approximately 70 percent of NCC attendants come from an unchurched or dechurched background.
Services have different worship bands and leaders at each multi-site but carry the same sermon from a pastor at the main church campus via satellite.
More than a decade after starting NCC with his wife Lora and son Parker, Batterson has grown his church to some 1,200 weekly attendants and opened a popular coffeehouse (Ebenezers), which serves as one of the three current multi-site locations.
And all of this has required some risk-taking.
"One of our core values is everything is an experiment. So we feel like if we're not making mistakes, we probably aren't trying enough new things," said Batterson in an earlier interview. We'd like to think we're in the research and development part of the Kingdom of God."
He's now praying for a second coffeehouse on the primary commercial streets of Georgetown – Wisconsin or M Streets.
Constantly searching for creative ways to reach more people, Batterson is a leading figure in the theater church movement which targets the marketplace. He has met with half a dozen pastors in the last year who plan to move into movie theaters in the DC area, some of which Batterson had already been eyeing for future launches, and supports getting a church into every theater in the district.
One of the largest churches in the D.C. area, McLean Bible Church, announced D.C.'s Uptown theater as its newest additional location for Sunday worship services beginning next year. McLean just recently emerged into the multi-site movement and has planned for nine satellite locations.
"I've learned that there are two very different approaches to ministry: my kingdom come and Thy kingdom come," Batterson stated. "I need to be continually reminded that it's not about me or NCC. It's about God and His kingdom expanding as He sees fit."
Launch Day for the Georgetown campus is set for Sept. 30.