We had a first time visitor who is here for baseball camp -- he is trying to get into major league baseball and currently here for that purpose. He is from Charlotte, NC and after the service he met me in the hospitality room where we greet visitors and share refreshments and conversation.
He loved the service and was very eager to talk to me. Several Celebrators were also there with me to hear this conversation and they found it a blessing as well. He said...
"You know Pastor Deanna, this was an amazing service and it reminds me so much of my church back home in Charlotte, only on a smaller scale but I'm telling you, you guys remind me SO much of my church it's uncanny."
I said, "what's the name of your church?"
And he said, "Elevation Church."
He said, "You guys are Celebration, and we're Elevation. You call your people, "Celebrators" and our pastor calls us "Elevators." The direction of your service - the videos, the energy and vibe of the place, the way you communicate things, the passion for people to come to Jesus,,and well...to be honest you actually sang songs that our worship leader has written...I mean that pretty much put the icing on the cake..."
I said, "well all this should come of no surprise to you when I tell you that I read your pastor's blog daily, his wife's blog daily, listen to every sermon he preaches, read his books, and devour every worship song your church puts out there. That might have something to do with why our church feels just a little bit like Elevation although we are much smaller in congregational size. I haven't met your pastor personally nor ever walked into the doors of your church but I have learned a lot through them from afar simply by taking in everything they put out there in media."
He was really blessed by that. And I was blessed by his comments.
Elevation Church isn't just a 'church' -- it's a move of God. In five years they have gone from zero attenders (Pastor Steven and Holly started the church) to 11,000 attenders! They have so many people coming to Jesus there it is mind blowing. They aren't just gathering a big crowd they are bringing a passionate uncompromising message and are producing hard core disciples.
We aren't trying to copy Elevation church by any means, but we have learned from them. For that matter they aren't the only folks we're learning from. We are uniquely us at Celebration, however I'm a firm believer in gleaning from others all the positive things we can. As Rick Warren says, "All of us are smarter than one of us!" I believe that to a degree, you can be mentored from someone and not even meet them personally. You can grow through reading others books and blogs and listening to their podcasts and so forth. You can even be mentored by someone who is...dead! Look at all the people who are impacted by the writings of Oswald Chambers, myself included.
In the past year we've been so blessed at Celebration to have people who have contacted us and told us they have come to Jesus through listening to our podcasts. I have personally had three people who became my friends on facebook who came to Christ through reading my status updates and then contacting me and asking for more information. This blows my mind!! Is God amazing or what? These new believers are friends from long ago that I've become re-aquainted with on facebook. They ended up coming to Jesus from what started as just STATUS UPDATES!!! Who'da thunk it? Two are now attending church in their cities, and the third is a "shut in" who can't leave their house (due to illness) but they consider CC their church and "attend" every week through listening to our podcast and devouring everything we are putting out there online in blogs, facebook, etc.. I am humbled that we have this opportunity to disciple someone who doesn't even live here. I never imagined. We will soon be livestreaming, not just podcasting, to better serve these friends. (We are encouraging these folks to find churches in their cities and working to introduce them to pastors and churches, however in the case of the one who is shut in, she doesn't have that choice.) This is one reason we should be really thoughtful about what we put out there in media, even on our status updates. People are learning, listening, and quite possibly making a life/death/heaven/hell decision based upon what we post! Wow. Sobering to think about.
To learn from others in this way doesn't mean that you become a carbon copy but you receive what good things they have to impart. It's the principle of I Corinthians 11:1.
I have learned so much through the ministries of Pastor Steven Furtick, Holly Furtick, and Elevation Church and just want to give them kudos for what they have invested into my life through their media. Everything except Pastor Steven's books are put out there for FREE. What a blessing! Even their chord charts are all FREE! Seriously. You can just download them off of the church website.
I also just want to remind fellow believers that what we put out there either draws people closer to Jesus and the truth of His Word, pushes them further away, or just causes them to not care one way or the other. The last two options are ones I'm not personally comfortable with.