When we moved to Minnesota, we knew we wanted to find a church to call home.
I had one stipulation: “I won’t go to a big church”.
We tried out a few churches that seemed like good fits on paper, but didn’t feel comfortable calling any of them “our church”. The church shopping, for lack of a better term, was getting tiring. Someone told us to try Eagle Brook Church. I laughed because I was SO NOT GOING TO A BIG CHURCH. Cody grew up in a large church though, so I though I’d better go so we could rule it out together.
Our first week at Eagle Brook Church was the last week they were housed in the local high school before they moved to their permanent site. We enjoyed the teaching, but we didn’t feel like we got an accurate feel for the church. September 28, 2014, we attended our first service at the campus.
Ruling out a big church
I went in with an attitude. The building looked so fancy (I later learned that city codes actually played a big role in that). The kids spaces had a rock wall and video games (and can kids really learn about Jesus if they aren’t coloring pictures of bible characters when they get dropped off?). I noticed that there weren’t any adult classes happening on Sunday mornings and frankly, a lot of the message felt a little more surface level than I wanted it to.
Even though my list of complaints was a million miles long, but still, we kept coming back. There was just something about the kindness of the staff and volunteers that made us feel welcome.
Still, I stood firm. I would NOT go to a big church because it’s “impossible” to get to know anyone. PLUS not all the messages go as deep as I want them too, so what’s the point of church if not to meet my needs? (Oy that hurts to write now, but I REALLY believed it).
I told Cody we had to meet people or I was OUT. We started volunteering, and the people were amazing. Cody and I attended short term small groups and met even more people. We joined small groups and got more involved, and with every interaction, this big church felt a little bit smaller.
Before we knew it, we had been attending for four years. WE were now members of the church, volunteering many times a week, and we ALWAYS see familiar faces. However, I didn’t realize how many of my “megachurch” stereotypes I was still holding on to.
‘Big churches don’t go deep enough’
This was a tough pill to swallow. I grew up in a church that read lots of passages and talked about the Hebrew and Greek roots to things and went DEEP. I didn’t always feel like I got a lot of practical application for my life, but I figured soaking up all this knowledge would help make me a better Christ-follower somehow. Along the way, I took on the belief that a good church always went very deep.
I’ve come to learn that the church isn’t for me. The church isn’t for people who love the deep learning stuff and have been reading the Bible their entire lives. The church exists to reach the people who don’t yet know about Christ. People who don’t know Christ need to learn about His deep love for them and practical ways they can share His love with others in their lives.
Now, going deep IS important (and when you’re not being super cynical like me, you can see the deep points in every message too). However, going deep isn’t always for the masses and the nonbelievers and the new believers. That’s why small groups exist. Our church provides resources for going deeper and building connections with other people. Going deep is also what my personal time with God is for. Sundays are for reaching others and gaining practical application.
‘They don’t have enough programs’
What kind of church doesn’t have AWANA and Mom’s bible study, and multiple commissioned missionaries? How about Thursday Men’s Group and Adult Sunday school? And Operation Christmas Child? The list goes on and on and on.
Eagle Brook does have partners, missions trips, and opportunities to dive in to small groups on your own, but those things are THE thing. EBC’s mission is “empowered by God to reach other’s for Christ”. When there are too many programs inside the church, the mission gets jumbled up. It becomes self-focused instead of others focused. Eagle Brook is SO intentional about devoting time only to things that are the best use of the resources God has given us that also reach the mission.
‘Kids are just having fun, not learning about faith’
This one I got over pretty quickly when I started serving, but I still hear it a lot from people in the community.
Think about your experience in Sunday school. I had amazing teachers and learned a LOT, but I hated the first 20 minutes. You know, the time where you wait for everyone to get dropped off and make some craft that ties in to the lesson, and depending on the teacher, sometimes can talk with your friends and sometimes have to sit in silence?
At Eagle Brook, this drop off time (and the pick up time) is filled with games and activities that allow kids to enjoy time fellowship with other people who love Jesus. They interact with adults who love them, and meet kids from their own school and community that believe the same things as them. PLUS a fun environment like that makes kids want to come back, and when they come back, they learn more about Jesus.
Every lesson is packed with Biblical truth and practical application designed just for the kid’s age level (from toddler through 5th grade). We have SO many kids making first time decisions to follow Christ, which shows me that fun and faith don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
The Truth about big churches
What it comes down to is this – what started as just a small church outside the Twin Cities is growing with such incredible momentum that it can only be because of the Holy Spirit at work. In the last two years, 10,000 people have come to faith in Jesus for the first time. TEN. THOUSAND. That kind of life change doesn’t happen when a church is focused on superficial things like being the “cool” church or the “feel good” church. That change can ONLY come from God blessing our mission to reach others for Christ.
And what a fool I would be to miss out on God at work.