Church of the Highlands continues to see growth
In a rare interview, ABC 33/40's Edward Burch sat down with Pastor Chris Hodges at Church of the Highlands.
Right now, membership is at 60,000. Normal attendance is around 38,000 -- that's still more than the population of Tupelo, Mississippi.
The church doesn't market itself, instead it builds a population by word of mouth -- and, by making church an "experience."
"We're in something, only God could have done," said Hodges. "We're just one church, on one mission."
Hodges believes the size of his church helps achieve that mission.
He says, "As large as (Church of the Highlands) is, it still feels very small. We have a job to do on the planet, and that is to help hurting people, and to reach lost people."
Hodges says "small groups" reach more people on a weekly basis -- and continue to draw in new believers.
"More people attend their small group every week," said Hodges. "They're more faithful to their small group every week than they are Sunday services. We have more people in groups than we do in church on Sunday."
Church of the Highlands is non-denominational. Hodges grew up attending a Baptist church. We asked, what made him want to start a church like Church of the Highlands.
"I wanted to create a church experience, that people enjoyed and didn't have to endure," said Hodges. "Here's the words we use over, and over: 'make it relevant' so that it really applies to everyday life."
Hodges says he continues to find ways to make his church new and fresh, while staying true to the message of Christianity.
"I think people ought to go to church and make it the most fun and exciting part of their week," Hodges explains. "It has to be powerful. I think the things that keep people coming back is that their life is changed."
While church attendance across the nation drops, his continues to grow. Already, new campuses have sprouted up at Grandview and Gadsden -bringing the total to 14 campuses across Alabama.
"They've done studies, they ask people why they don't go to church? Or, why did you leave church? And the number one reason is (it's) boring. So it has nothing to do with God. It has everything to do with something we can fix," Hodges said.
Hodges says, to continue the success, this principle must remain true.
"God's word is holy, it never changes. Methods can change," said Hodges. "We don't have to do it the same way, we just have to believe the same thing. I think we're always asking ourselves is there a better way to communicate it? Is there a better way to reach people? Because the goal isn't to be right, it's to be effective."
Hodges says the goal right now is to stay within a two hour drive of the Birmingham metro area, but that 20 different new locations for campuses are in consideration.