In some people's minds, church is expected to be flat and unexciting.
But an environment where people are so excited that they want to talk about church all the time and create buzz in the community should be the norm for a church, says Andy Stanley, well-known pastor of North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Ga.
"When churches are designed around equipping people to live and ... integrate the words of Jesus into their everyday lives how can that not be exciting and why wouldn't there be a lot of people and why would people ever be embarrassed to invite people to their local church?" the prominent pastor preached Sunday.
Stanley has come across rumors that his church of some 19,000 attendees is a cult. But he can understand why some would believe that. The congregation is very involved and at the same time very happy, whether they're directing traffic, teaching Bible study or worshipping.
Such an environment was foreign to Cindy, the mother of a teenager who had quickly become integrated into the church and began volunteering. Cindy, who was attending a different church, decided to check out North Point, concerned that her son was attending a cult, Stanley narrated.
When she arrived on campus, she noticed everyone was happy and thought it was like Disneyworld. "This can't be right," she thought. But after experiencing everything and hearing the message, she became a regular attendee.
"I believe that this should be normal for church," said Stanley. "I don't mean the style ... I'm talking about excitement and energy."
North Point, which currently has three separate campuses, functions with the help of thousands of volunteers every weekend, and as an introduction video to Sunday's message indicated, they are all serving because they love their church.
"Why wouldn't every church be energized around the message to the point that people want to serve and want to give?" the lead pastor pointed out.
"The reason several thousand volunteers do what they do ... is because those volunteers understand that we're not simply parking cars, we're not simply taking care of kids ... [but] we're creating irresistible environments that when people come into those environments there's kind of an aha moment as they begin to connect with not a church and not a message and certainly not a person but they begin to connect with the relevance of the Gospel and the relevance of Scripture as it relates to their everyday experience," Stanley said.
What else should be normal for the church? he posed. Experiencing almost every Sunday people being baptized.
"I can't imagine an adult being a Christian their whole life and never sitting in an auditorium and celebrating, clapping and weeping ... to see somebody say 'my life has been changed because of the words and teachings of Jesus."
"If somebody attends a church for five, six, seven weeks and there's no celebration of life change, they need to wonder 'what the heck is wrong with this church?'" said Stanley. "What we're doing ...should be normal."
The local church, the pastor added, should be about "come and see" and the apostle Philip noted in the New Testament.
"The Bible says the church is the body of Christ which means the closest that anyone will ever get to being with the person of Jesus is being with the body – the church," he explained. "It's when you're with the body of Christ and it's functioning like it should function ... it should be a come and see environment."
"Fifteen years ago we decided we wanted to create a whole bunch of come and see environments – not a show – that could be as close as we know how to make them to being in the presence of our Savior, the Lord Jesus."
North Point Community Church is one of the top five largest churches in the country. Stanley's message on Sunday, titled "I Love My Church," was designed to encourage more people to volunteer and create "irresistible environments" so that the community could be impacted.