Religious Innovation in Sacramento
California is birthing another wave of religious innovation through a very active megachurch you may never have heard of -- Bayside Community Church.
Image via WikipediaTalk to any Californian. No one would have predicted a dynamic religious movement coming from Sacramento. Maybe San Francisco? L.A.? Sure. But not the distant land considered by many to be a suburb of the Bay Area. Now, Sacramento has built up a vibrant metropolitan community that participates, even accentuates, an interesting mixture of the the rich aesthetic and economic ethos of both Southern and Northern California.
With a nicely architectured site in Granite Bay, the large "mother church" of Bayside hosts several thousand attenders at their weekend services. At a glance how Bayside shares several characteristics with Saddleback Community Church:
- a growing urban population,
- an active economy,
- a range of cheaper housing options,
- and much land still available to build facilities.
The casual-yet-practical style of ministry includes:
- a clear-talking preacher who's written best-selling book,
- a musically-versatile worship pastor with muscle shirts and cool hair,
- and an army of smart back-room administration-savvy paid and volunteer staff who accomplish the welcoming, assimilating, and energizing ministry for this local population.
But all that's happening at the Granite Bay site is just a beginning.
Growing "Thriving" Churches
Bayside also has had great success initiating other congregations in the area - eleven so far, and more on the way. These churches aren't competitors but spiritual colleagues who together produce a dynamic, cooperative network of ministry around Sacramento.
The combination of enthusiasm and the practical demand of talking and training leaders led to the creation of the Thrive conference, now heading into its 6th year.
This conference is "hot." The 2009 conference completely "sold out" six weeks in advance. Over 2,600 attenders plus another 450 volunteers makes 3,000+ participants this weekend.
Thrive is cool, fun, and interesting. It brings together prominent speakers and authors from around the country Franklin Graham (son of evangelist Billy Graham and head of the non-profit organization Samaritan's Purse) was a highlight this year.
A re-run of last year's conference produced by Bayside is available on youtube:
And views into this year's 2009 conference are just now being posted:
Also, they are already planning for 2010 and making room for over 5,000 registrants. John Maxwell is a headliner, Hillsong worship is coming in from Australia, others are being confirmed.
The success of the conference (did I mention this year it sold-out six weeks early?) is spurring another new development, a new network for church innovation.
I'll write more about this new network -- what it highlights about American religion -- real soon.