Scott Kingsbury, theChurch.at creative director: "This is a place that broken people come to and know they won't be judged, know it’s a safe place, a place of restoration."
Tulsa is part of the Bible Belt, and there’s no shortage of traditional churches around town. But newcomers to theChurch.at tend to be either unchurched or folks who have, for whatever reason, turned away from the denomination of their youth, pastors say.
“This is a place broken people come to and know they won’t be judged, know it’s a safe place, a place of restoration,” Kingsbury says.
TheChurch.at is First Baptist, but many wouldn’t realize it, as it’s not something that is advertised or emphasized, and it doesn’t look or feel like the other Baptist churches that surround it, pastors say.
“Instead of being church proud, it’s ‘Let’s be Jesus proud,'” Hixon says.
To facilitate the massive amount of outreach it undertakes, theChurch.at is structured as a collection of “community groups.” About 85 percent of its members belong to these small groups that meet at homes. Volunteerism, delegation—and accountability—are created through this structure, which also helps keep the cost of community service low.
Volunteerism is emphasized, and in fact theChurch.at does not offer adult Sunday school classes, but rather touts the motto “come an hour, serve an hour.”
“We are not a church with community groups, we are a church of community groups,” Kingsbury says. “We are not an affluent church. … We program based on how community groups can be involved. It’s how we do ministry.”
With theChurch.at attracting so many new or recently returning believers, there’s a plethora of Christians young in their walk and a shortage of mature believers. It’s a challenge pastors say they have begun to address through strategic partnerships with nearby churches as well as an emphasis on leadership training.
“We are becoming very aware of the fact that evangelism is huge, but we do need to grow people more deeply,” Frank says. “We are working hard to train people in discipleship.”
Himaya says he is confident in the future of his church, and that of Christ’s kingdom.
“Jesus told us he is going to build his church, and the gates of hades would not prevail against it,” he says. “Building the church does not rest on my shoulders. God is doing it.”
THECHURCH.AT Broken Arrow, Okla.
Senior Pastor: Alex Himaya
Affiliation: Southern Baptist
Growth in 2012: +821 (29%)