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Church Benefits From American Connection
A church with an unorthodox vision is prospering and growing in Niagara Falls.

Two years ago, an idea launched the Church at the Falls in Niagara Falls, Ontario:  to present the Gospel in the unorthodox setting of a movie theatre.

Life Church supplies free materials…. There is no catch…

Starting with 15 attenders, the congregation aimed to be a “welcoming place” especially for people who had disconnected from church life, explains Pastor Brandon Duff. “When unchurched people think about church, they wonder ‘What’s expected of me? What’s it like beyond that front door?’ ”

The cinema’s familiarity proved an easy entry point and the Church at the Falls now has 100 regulars, ranging from tattooed 18-year-olds to more sedate folks in their 60s.

Duff credits a number of things for the growth – partly the culture’s “spiritual hunger” and partly the church’s diligence in finding better ways “to reach people and help them walk closer with God.” But arguably the largest factor is a recent connection with Oklahoma-based Life Church.

Starting in 1996 from founder Craig Roeschel’s vision – and 40 congregants worshipping together in a two-car garage – Life Church now has more than 50 churches in its network and 15 campuses in North America and the United Kingdom.

Life Church supplies free materials for anything from children’s curriculum to downloadable sermons to any church that asks. There is no catch, says Duff. “Roeschel believes God has provided resources that should be shared.”

Sermons by Roeschel or a guest speaker, taped on Saturday nights, have “solidly evangelical, really topical messages that leave you looking inward,” Duff says. This steady supply of resources has freed Duff to focus on other areas of his ministry such as relationship building. The result is growth. Apart from a slight dip at the

outset in January 2009, they’ve seen an attendance increase of 20 percent.

The Church at the Falls is happy with the materials, which Duff says are sensitive to cultural differences. “Great resources are available from the United States but too often they have that American feel. Life Church is working hard to be global in its communication.”

For churches interested in forging an alliance with Life Church, there are three “levels” of commitment, Duff explains. His church started off using the occasional video message or children’s material. Then they moved to the next “network” level, which means an official affiliation and promise to use Life Church teaching every Sunday morning. This level provides resources and a support network but still allows the congregation “to craft a church specifically for our region within a Canadian context.”

The final level is to become a fully planted “campus,” with the local pastor coming under Life Church leadership. “There is potential for us doing that,” Duff says.

“We’d benefit from the network of staff and the financial resources but we’re happy where we are with this growth. I hope our story will encourage other parishes, especially small, struggling ones, to maximize their leadership by taking advantage of these great resources.” 

Originally published in Faith Today, September/Octber 2009.

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