November 12, 1995 in Nation/World

Crowds Challenge Church

By The Spokesman-Review
 

The coffee bar at Life Center Foursquare Church goes through more Starbucks than a small diner.

The congregation downs at least 600 cups during the traditional fellowship hour on Sunday mornings.

Mega-churches are minicorporations - and not just on Sunday mornings.

At Life Center, 12 pastors and just as many full-time staff members keep the church at 708 W. Nora running seven days a week.

Most evenings, the 102 parking spaces in the church’s lot are filled as members attend everything from martial arts classes to marriage counseling.

Some courses routinely offered carry names like “LC 101: Basic Beliefs” and “LC 201: Basic Practices.”

On Sunday mornings, members must park as far as three blocks away because of the crowd.

“We need a lot more parking than we have,” said Executive Pastor Rick Noll.

“Three blocks is about as far as people are willing to walk to get to church.”

There are more teachers and aides in the Sunday school program than at many elementary schools.

More than 70 people teach children ages 2 to 12. Another 18 staff the nursery for infants and toddlers. Thirty-two people teach and care for children during Wednesday evening services.

As a church gets bigger, the bureaucracy gets bigger, too, and the congregation has less contact with its senior pastor - who is usually the primary reason behind the growth.

“Five years ago, I could look out and tell you who’s there and who wasn’t,” said Joe Wittwer, senior pastor. “And now I look out and I don’t know half the people.”

In order to maintain personal relationships among the congregation, Life Center sponsors hundreds of small groups.

From sports teams to supper clubs to intensive Bible-study groups, the pastors encourage everyone to get involved.

“We really have to work hard at maintaining that sense of community,” Wittwer said.

“Because we think that spiritual growth is a process, not just an event.”

, DataTimes MEMO: See related story under the headline: And a multitude gathered

See related story under the headline: And a multitude gathered

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