Tim Lundy stepped to the pulpit with one of the toughest jobs of his
life. The 42-year-old pastor of Fellowship Bible Church wanted everyone
to not focus on the new building.
Forget it was the opening of Little Rock's largest church (200,000
square feet) and new home of the city's largest congregation (6,000
Never mind it was a high-tech, multi-media showcase under one roof,
with three choose-your-style worship venues and a children's area that
seems more inspired by Walt Disney than the Holy Land.
Look past the two cafes, bookstore, playground, sand volleyball court, and the
water cascading over the stones into the outdoor baptistery, with an outdoor amphitheater and soccer fields on their way.
Forget it cost more than $54 million.
Lundy wanted everyone to look past the building into eternity.
After “How Great Thou Art” was sung, the pastor stepped up to a
1,450-seat auditorium so packed it required a call for “scooch music” —
a pause to give everyone time to fill the few empty seats on the
Lundy, the “directional leader” and one of three lead pastors at
the church, thanked contractors, architects, staff and volunteers. He
reminded them of prayers at the site when it was a cow pasture, and he
introduced a video that included images of the construction.
“More than anyone, we thank God,” Lundy said, with hints of his Southern drawl.
Except to say the new building was “shabby” compared to Heaven, he all but ignored the new surroundings for the next 30 minutes.
Reading verses from Revelations, he urged everyone to prepare to
meet Jesus face to face. He appealed to them to let neighbors, families
and friends know how to get their names in the Book of Life so they
could enjoy eternity with God and avoid the agony of Hell.
“We are the army of God,” Lundy said. “The battle for the souls of humanity goes through us.”
To close the first sermon in the new location, Lundy invited
everyone to walk out of the auditorium and assemble around a towering
cross centered in the plaza.
A few worshippers raised their hands to the heavens and all sang “Amazing Grace.”
Super-sizing the Church
On May 18, the opening of the Fellowship campus on 1401 Kirk Road in
West Little Rock was a landmark event for the conservative
“megachurch,” a label typically assigned to Protestant, suburban
churches with more than 2,000 members.
It was also another milestone in the recent history of religion in
Arkansas. Nondenominational churches continue to appeal to more
wor-shippers, particularly young, affluent and suburban families.
Dave Travis, co-author of “Beyond Megachurch Myths,” said there are
about 1,450 megachurches in the U.S. — more than 10 times the number
that existed in 1980.
According to the Hartford Institute for Religion Research, its 6,000
members make Fellowship the largest church in the Little Rock area. It
is twice the size of St. Mark Baptist Church (approximately 3,000
members). New Life Church in Conway, Immanuel Baptist Church and
Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church have about 2,500 members each.
Statewide, Fellowship in Little Rock is the third largest, behind
First Baptist Church of Springdale with 10,400 members and Fellowship
Bible Church in Northwest Arkansas with 7,000, the Institute reported.
Travis, of Atlanta, said population shifts, increased mobility and
large tracts of available land in the suburbs have contributed to the
rapid rise of megachurches. However, the most significant factor is
that younger generations have become comfortable with “big” — whether
for school, work, shopping, recreation or worship.