By Tammie Gercken
Drexel First Church of God and Pastor Gary Campbell are following through on their vision of a better way to experience worship. They have created a contemporary worship program they call “The Venue,” and have invited the community to join them for worship starting Easter Sunday at 10:30 AM. Campbell explained that The Venue will take place simultaneously with the church’s traditional service.
Attendees will have the choice of going to the traditional service in the sanctuary, or heading over to their Family Life Center in the same building to attend The Venue. “Both (worship) styles are truly celebrated,” Campbell said. He said The Venue will feature café-style seating with tables where parishioners can spread out their Bibles and study materials, and even enjoy a drink and fellowship with like-minded believers. A high-tech audio-visual system with Wi-Fi capability will not only provide praise and worship music, but will also live-stream Campbell’s sermon from the traditional service, and allow Venue attendees to text, Facebook, and tweet their reactions on the screen in nearly real-time. “People can share their thoughts with the group about how they are impacted by the message,” Campbell said.
Visitors to The Venue are encouraged to come as they are. “You can come in shorts and flip-flops and tattoos—we don’t care,” Campbell said.
Campbell, who became pastor of Drexel First Church of God five months ago, said he was attracted to the congregation’s energy and open mind. “I saw they had a passion for the community and were not settled into tradition,” Campbell said. He said members got excited about his idea of a different way of presenting church. “Church today has become a list of dos and don’ts,” Campbell said. “The culture has come to see the church as something negative, and they’re skeptical of it. I started thinking about what the church would look like if Jesus Christ were here. He said in the Bible that he didn’t come to the world to condemn it. That’s why we’ve come up with a casual approach, where there are no rules, and people can come as they are and experience worship in a safe place, without fear of rejection or condemnation.”
Campbell said he plans to focus on positive Christ-centered messages that are “alive and relevant to people’s needs and connected to everyday living,” that will help each member grow in his or her personal relationship with Jesus. “Our goal is for people to come and have a transformational experience of Jesus Christ,” Campbell said. “You have to make a connection with him first, and then all the other things fall into place. Our church has a love for people no matter where they are in life. We want to model to them living out joy and what it means to be a Christian.”
Campbell said national leaders of the Church of God are looking at The Venue’s model and hoping to get other Churches of God to implement similar programs. Drexel First Church of God is located at 200 Oakland Ave. in Drexel. To find out more about The Venue, contact the church at 828-437-1456.