Thinking Beyond the Walls

Attendance had grown so much at Wrightsville Assembly of God in Wrightsville, Pennsylvania, that church leaders decided it was time to expand. They made plans to buy a property, but the seller backed out of the deal. 

“The church was on board with moving forward, but then we didn’t know where or when that would be,” says Lead Pastor Aaron McNatt. Not sure what to do next, he began contemplating Isaiah 54:2: “Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your curtains wide.”

“I thought, How do we do that if we can’t fit more people in this building?” says McNatt. “Then the Lord reminded me that he’s not limited by square footage.”

McNatt started looking at communities within a 15-mile radius of the church. Five miles away from Wrightsville is Columbia, which has a population of more than 10,000 people. Columbia also has a centrally located open-air market where vendors sell fresh produce on weekends. 

So, the church decided to rent the market on Tuesday evenings for a month, bringing their ministry team, hospitality team, security team, worship team and prayer team to offer “pop-up” church. 

Between 100–125 people showed up each Tuesday. One attendee came from 30 minutes away to satisfy her curiosity about what a pop-up church would look like.  

“That’s the person we’re doing this for,” says McNatt. “We were convinced that if more people could experience God’s presence, their lives would be changed. It’s the taste-and-see-the-Lord-is-good mentality. 

 “We wanted to bring down all the hurdles,” he adds. “It helped that people were already comfortable coming to a community place.”

The experience inspired church leaders to think outside the limitations of their building, prompting them to offer pop-up services for Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday at the local high school auditorium. 

“We took the pop-up church evangelistic model and what would be a typical outreach strategy, and combined the two to accommodate the largest-attendance Sunday of the year,” says McNatt.

Christy Heitger-Ewing
Christy Heitger-Ewing

Christy Heitger-Ewing is a contributing writer for Outreach magazine. In addition, Christy pens the “Now & Then” column in Cabin Life magazine. She also writes regularly for Christian publications such as Encounter, Insight, and the Lookout. She is the author of Cabin Glory: Amusing Tales of Time Spent at the Family Retreat.