At a time when confidence in religion is fading and many view the Church in a negative light, members at one megachurch are going against the grain and offering a different perspective.
Over the past two weeks, pastors at LifeChurch.tv, one of the largest multi-site churches in the country, "invaded" the homes of members unsuspectedly with a camera crew to find out why they love their church and to celebrate what God has been doing in their lives.
The moving "I love my church!" testimonies of individuals and couples whose lives have been completely turned around by Jesus Christ were shown via video to thousands of LifeChurch members this month to jumpstart the new year on an impactful note.
"Showing people is always more powerful than telling them," said Bobby Gruenewald, pastor and innovation leader at LifeChurch.tv. "By showing how God works in individual lives, it allows us to see Him operate on a more personal level, apart from the trappings of what most would call 'religion.'"
A Gallup poll last month found that most Americans (67 percent) believe religion as a whole is losing influence on American life. Just three years ago, half of the U.S. population had believed the influence of religion was on the rise.
In 2007, the Barna Group, a Christian research firm, revealed that only a small minority (16 percent) of young adults who are non-Christians held a "good impression" of Christianity.
While recent polls paint a grim picture for churches and Christians, those at LifeChurch.tv are illustrating that the power of God to transform lives is still at work.
After being "invaded" by LifeChurch.tv staff who showed up at their house unannounced, Brian and Courtney Gregg gave their unscripted account on video. They were on the brink of divorce before their small group at LifeChurch, or "LifeGroup," supported the couple with prayers. The couple's hearts softened and their marriage was saved.
"Because of them (LifeGroup) we're still married," Courtney said in the "I Love My Church" video series.
But the video went further to show how the couple has devoted themselves to following Christ. Courtney dedicated herself to the cause of saving unborn babies by providing mothers with anything they needed during pregnancy. By meeting those needs at no cost, Courtney hoped mothers would give their babies a chance at life. And many have.
"Do you love your church?" LifeChurch.tv staff asked.
"We love our church!" the Greggs responded.
In another illustration, Rosa was in an abusive marriage and left her husband, taking her children with her. With nowhere to go, she was led to LifeChurch.tv's food pantry and clothing closet called Mercy Ministries. While basic necessities such as food were offered to her, Rosa was most grateful for the spiritual food she was fed.
After experiencing the love of Christ, she now serves at Mercy Ministries, joyfully extending that love to others and helping change the lives of others.
"I don't bring bags of food. I bring the hope of Christ Jesus," Rosa said. "Why? He came to die for us to spend eternity in heaven ... and never hunger or lack again."
LifeChurch.tv staff also caught on camera the testimony of Mike, who grew up learning about God but distanced himself from God when his life began to fall apart. After divorce, Mike was drawn into satanic acts of worship, including cutting himself as a form of sacrifice in order to gain power. His path down the dark side led him toward suicidal thoughts until leaders from LifeChurch.tv, which his daughter had been attending, rushed in with prayers and support. Mike gave his life back to God is now an active member at LifeChurch.tv.
"We encourage people to have a relationship with Christ, and these stories show what that relationship can look like, and the power it holds for our lives ... an abused wife who finds healing and gives hope to others, a troubled teen whose life is turned around, a Satan-worshipper who finds redemption," Gruenewald said.
Gruenewald described the "I Love My Church" stories as "modern illustrations of the timeless truths found in the Bible – healing, forgiveness, redemption – all through the power of Christ."
"The idea of telling stories like this is as old as the Bible itself, which is filled with accounts of God transforming lives," he noted. "We've simply used the tools available to us today to capture and share them."
The series was a creative way to articulate LifeChurch.tv's vision which is to lead people to become fully devoted followers of Christ. LifeChurch.tv was listed as the fifth largest church in the country by Outreach magazine last year with over 20,000 members. Its main campus is in Edmond, Okla., and 12 other LifeChurch.tv campuses are located across the country.
On the Web: I Love My Church