The Show Must Go On

In the summer of 2021, Steve Munsey, pastor of Family Christian Center (FCC) in Munster, Indiana, began a sermon series he called “Journey Through the Bible.” Indiana had just dropped its capacity restrictions for the first time since the start of the pandemic, and the church’s 2,500-seat auditorium was filled.

“I’ve been a pastor for 39 years, and I’ve never seen people so hungry for the Word of God,” says Munsey. “People are concerned. They wonder, why the violence in the cities? Why the killings? Why the racial tensions? Why the suicides? Why the depression? They wonder if this is the end of the world. They want to know the Bible to find out answers to these questions and more.”

Munster, located near Chicago, attracts folks from both Illinois and Indiana. FCC is the largest multicultural church in the area with a congregation that is 55% African American, 10% Hispanic and 35% Caucasian. One reason people are drawn to FCC is the church’s large-scale productions. For years the church has been putting on elaborate Broadway-style shows. During the Easter season, they have 1,000 actors, 5,000 costumes and 12 horses. The production is repeated over multiple weeks for thousands to see. At Christmas, they do a Scrooge-themed show that presents the gospel and features live animals and flying beds. They also do a show called Hotel Hallelujah that includes cars, motorcycles and fireworks.

“We’ve built the auditorium to be theatrical so that we can be a presentation to reach the lost,” says Munsey, who once had a giant whale built on the stage. “This is a sight-and-sound generation, so if they aren’t seeing it as they are watching on their phones and computers, I’m not reaching them personally.”

He used the whale as a prop when sharing the message “How to Get Your Problems to Spit You Out.” 

All the big productions and illustrated sermons are designed around the idea of having something congregants can invite their friends to. “If you don’t give your people bait, it’s hard for them to fish,” says Munsey. 

Even during COVID-19, the church maintained a strong evangelistic focus, both online and in person. They’ve even had more than 4,600 first-time guests since the pandemic started. 

Common sense says that if you have small crowds, offerings are small; if you have big crowds, offerings are big. During COVID-19, giving has been a bit of a mystery with offerings at FCC increasing by 200%.

Fifteen years ago, a fellow church leader told Munsey that the people who gave in the church would equal the volunteers he had. Munsey disagreed, telling him that Munster was located in a blue-collar steel mill area. It turns out, however, that the other leader was right, which caused Munsey to change his whole thought pattern regarding volunteers. He started a prison ministry and a job fair every month. Back when Munsey had that conversation with the other church leader, FCC had 1,700 volunteers; now that number has grown to 5,000.

“If you’re a church and you want to grow financially, numerically and spiritually, as a leader, get people to volunteer,” says Munsey. “That could be cleaning windows, planting flowers, making costumes, delivering food, whatever.”

He notes that 1,000 people typically ask to be part of the spring production. “Some of them are not even saved, but they want to be in the show, so we are discipling while they are participating.” 

Munster, Indiana
Senior Pastor: Steve Munsey
Founded: 1953
Affiliation: Nondenominational

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.