Full-court Praise

On Christmas Eve, Fellowship Church in Grapevine, Texas took a unique approach to presenting the gospel to thousands of people. They held two innovative services at American Airlines Center in Dallas with 34,800 people attending.  (19,400 attended the 3 p.m. service, and 15,400 attended the 6 p.m. service.)

“We were very interested in allowing more people to experience Fellowship Church and the Christmas service,” explained Lawrence Swicegood, the director of communications for Fellowship Church.  “By putting it in American Airlines Center, a neutral site, people were able to invite their friends and say, ‘Hey, why don’t you come with me to American Airlines Center and see what Fellowship Church is doing for Christmas Eve?’ The results of that were very successful.”
Fellowship Church’s music team opened the service with a choreographed rendition of “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” and their praise team followed with “Winter Wonderland.” The focus then shifted towards Christ as Ed Young, pastor of Fellowship Church, told the audience about the real meaning of Christmas. The 90-minute service ended with traditional carols sung by the choir and the crowd, including “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “O Come Let us Adore Him” and “O Holy Night.”
“I think people were surprised at the level of professionalism of the service,” Swicegood said. “Technically, it was as good as a Broadway show.  Biblically, it was as powerful as anything you would experience in your church building, and the gospel was presented in a very straightforward way.”
Having the Christmas Eve services near downtown Dallas also helped promote the January 16 opening of their satellite churches in Plano and Dallas.
In Plano, worshippers will meet in a 1,200-seat sanctuary at a converted furniture store building, and in Dallas, they have will services at the North Dallas High School. Both churches will have campus pastors, live bands, Bible study groups and recorded sermons. Young’s sermons will be viewed on a high-definition television screen measuring 17 feet by 34 feet.
“We’ve had so many people coming from all over the Metroplex, and many people have said they wished they lived closer to Grapevine,” Swicegood explained.  “Through satellite and technology, Fellowship Church in Grapevine can be experienced in Plano and Dallas.”
From the start, the desire of Fellowship Church has been to reach up in worship, reach out in evangelism and to reach in through discipleship.  Fellowship Church began as a mission of First Baptist Church of Irving in 1990 and met for several years at the Irving Fine Arts Center.  In 1998, Fellowship Church moved into its current location in Grapevine, with more than 7,000 people attending.  Today, more than 17,000 people attend Fellowship Church each week. 
“Fellowship Church is known for its creativity and communication,” Swicegood said.  “We have very innovative programs for all ages. A lot of times, people have preconceived notions about church. The local church has the greatest message of hope, salvation, forgiveness and love. … Yet, so many times, it is communicated in the most boring and irrelevant manner. We don’t change the message of the gospel at Fellowship Church, we just present it in a very compelling, creative and culturally relevant manner.”
Leann Callaway is a Dallas-based freelance writer.


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