In 2001, 15-people gathered together and began what is now NewSpring Church with its main campus in Anderson, SC and satellite campuses in Greenville and Florence, and of-course the WWW.
Now, in 2009, over 10,000 worshipers gather at NewSpring campuses to worship the Lord each week!
In 2001, I finished my 4.5-years at Indiana Wesleyan University and began working as an Intern in the Youth Department at Wesleyan Headquarters. In the years that followed, I began to hear about this new church and some of its founding members as they began sprouting up on the Internets to share their lives with the rest of us.
I took special interest because at the time, my family lived in Spartanburg, SC – a mere hour-and-a-half from the NewSpring, Anderson campus.
In July ’06, Jess and I and our 2-month old Ella traveled to South Carolina from Indiana to help my folks pack all of their belongings as they were moving to Pennsylvania. While there, I set up a meeting with my web-friend, Ken Wilson who was one of those founding NewSpringers and motion-graphics guru on staff at NewSpring. He graciously hosted me in his home for some coffee and then ushered me around the new building NewSpring had built before we said our goodbyes and I headed back to Indiana.
Fast Forward three-more-years…
I was back in South Carolina for our Wesleyan Bible Bowl Nationals competition at Southern Wesleyan University – which happens to be only 20-minutes from Anderson, SC and as a part of the week we knew we would have an opportunity to worship somewhere on Sunday before heading back to Pennsylvania with our team.
NewSpring was an obvious choice!
I Twittered Ken and told him of our plans to worship at NewSpring and he made plans to sit with us in the service, even!
We arrived on campus just before 9AM and the first sign we read from inside our 12-passenger van was “TURN ON YOUR EMERGENCY FLASHERS IF THIS IS YOUR FIRST VISIT TO NEWSPRING”. I turned them on, obviously.
What took place next was nothing short of incredible – each of the parking attendants that we passed from that point on went “bonkers” at noting our flashing lights. They yelled, “Welcome to Newspring!” Some even threw dollar bills into our open windows. (just kidding, but maybe this could be considered in the future?)
We were directed to a parking lot that was close to the main entrance of the church and before we could even get out of the van we were met by an eager volunteer who was more-than-excited to see us and get our story. I told him who we were and where we were from and even that I had planned to meet a NewSpring staffer (Ken) in the atrium upon our arrival. He quickly gave each of our team (8 of us) FREE coupons for a drink at the NewSpring Coffee Shop and overwhelmingly made us feel welcome. The coupon was blue and stood out for other volunteer greeters to also take notice and overwhelm us with welcoming smiles and greetings. I was waiting for the “Good Game!” butt-smack, but never did receive one of those…
As we mingled in the atrium, a couple from our team hit up the coffee bar and got drinks. I walked to the “bookstore” and picked up Lee McDerment’s new album, “A Matchstick in the Dark” for $10. A couple of our students picked out some sweet NewSpring t-shirts and then we met Ken’s assistant who informed us that Ken was “running a little behind” but would be down as soon as he could. I told her not to worry him with our arrival at all and that we were quite capable of finding seats and worshiping together without him if need-be. She thanked me and was gone a matter of seconds before Ken showed up, relaxed, coffee-in-hand and eager to meet our group and give us the inside-scoop.
Ken gave our group the quick history lesson on NewSpring and the story behind the new series’ graphics (just to make me drool) and then we walked inside the worship center after receiving a “bulletin” (I don’t think they call it that) and a pen to use to take notes. I already noted FREE public WiFi, so I was eager to take notes with my iPod and Evernote App.
I did feel a bit giddy about the whole experience and tried to keep my cool in front of my students and our other adult-coach, Brenda as we found a row of seats capable of sitting our crew of 9. The auditorium was full and I was a bit worried we would be split up. Thankfully we sat together and waited for things to begin. The countdown timer finished and Lee and RoseAngela appeared via pneumatic stage-risers from behind pyrotechnic explosions (joking again, but can you imagine?).
Lee and RoseAngela and the band led us in an interesting worship set that reminded me that not all “mega-churches” are about the newest/loudest/hardest music as they gave us a mix of current songs AND some re-done hymns that I grew up on, too! The mix was a pleasant surprise. The quality was incredible, and the audience was very much a part of the experience. I was worried that “worship” would take place on stage and not in the seats. This was not the case!
Perry Noble came on after the series video and a couple who danced “in rhythm” for the opener. He came out and instantly applause erupted from the congregation. After a few seconds of applause, some even stood and before too long most of the church was standing and applauding their pastor.
I was a bit nervous at first about this response, but quickly gauged that Perry was taken aback and as he sat with his head hung humbly low, his response to the applause proved his genuine sincere heart. He was blown away at the response. He had been gone for 5-straight weeks and this was his first week back in the pulpit. 5-weeks had been the longest stretch he had been away since founding NewSpring.
The sermon was great – and being able to take notes on Evernote made it even better!
I also happened to attend on a week that Perry had a heart-to-heart with the people about some of NewSpring’s in-the-community situations. he acknowledged rumors and told the people that they didn’t have to defend their church – that if God was truly behind the growth and success of NewSpring, then God would continue to provide for them! It was a powerful statement and I was glad to have heard Perry’s response to some of the slander.
After service Ken took us on a short-tour of the new Student Ministries building where of course our jaws dropped as we gazed upon the Fusion Ministries facilities. My students each gave me the “you’ve got a lot of work to do” look and some comments.
What a great experience each of us had that week. As we parted ways with Ken and all of the NewSpring facilities, I thanked God for the chance we had of worshiping outside of “our box” on that day.