Van Dyke Intro from Amber Reid on Vimeo.
Lakeshore Campus: Lutz, FL, opened in 1985
North Campus: Land O’ Lakes, FL, opened in 2010
Weekend Services: Lakeshore: Sat. 6 pm, Sunday 9:30 & 11 am; North: 11 am.
Senior Pastor: Matthew Hartsfield
Affiliation: United Methodist
Facilities: 1200-seat auditorium; school cafeteria with room for 150-200.
Average attendance: 2500 per week
1 Corinthians 9:22 (NIV) gives Paul’s principle for reaching people: “I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.” Senior Pastor Matthew Hartsfield lives this out in the way he leads his church. “A guiding motto for Van Dyke Church is ‘purpose over preference,’” Matthew says. “It’s not about my preference or the congregation’s preference. It’s what will lead us to the purpose of reaching people for Christ.” For Van Dyke Church, the means for saving some in their community have changed just as the community has changed.
When Matthew became the pastor 17 years ago, TVs only had one input, the internet was text-based, signs were permanent, and scoreboards merely kept the score. People simply didn’t expect video everywhere they went, least of all at church. Accordingly, multimedia was virtually non-existent in Van Dyke’s original building. “The extent of its media capabilities was a light switch on the wall,” Matthew quips.
Today, video is everywhere. “People watch HD video on their phones,” says Executive Director of Worship Ministries Jeff Calhoun. “Without even thinking about it, you’re used to a high level of quality.” Digital signage has replaced backlit plastic signs, and scoreboards run full-motion video. “People today encounter very engaging media wherever they are,” Matthew says.
How does the church compete?
Perhaps “compete” is the wrong word. “People come to church because they are hungry for a connection with God,” Jeff Calhoun says. “They don’t really come to be entertained. But we do recognize the culture that we live in.” Adapting, then, is a better way to view it. However, they are not adapting the message of scripture. Far from it. “How do we set the table so that Jesus Christ can be served?” Matthew asks. “It’s not that we’re trying to play catch-up or imitate culture. It’s just creating an atmosphere that people actually feel normal in.” Connecting visually has a long-standing precedent. “Jesus knew the right kind of compelling metaphors to use, and he created the right visuals for them by putting himself in a boat or on a hillside or any kind of compelling setting,” Mathew says. “If Jesus did this, then we need to create the right settings, the right visuals.”
Can you imagine a pastor showing up in a boat at the nearest lake on Memorial Day weekend? Visuals today are created with technology, which requires money. “Media in the church is worth investing everything we have because there are high stakes involved,” Matthew says. “There are souls at stake, hurting families, disillusioned people who need to experience everything that Jesus has to offer. Who are we to say that we should be presenting the very best message the world has to hear in a subpar, substandard, less-than-excellent way?”
No church spends its entire budget on technology. How does Van Dyke maintain perspective? Paradoxically, the key to quality media is simplicity. Van Dyke Church feels no pressure to outdo themselves every week. “We provide an opportunity for people to come together and experience God in worship through song and the presence of God as he speaks. That’s really pretty simple,” says Jeff. “If we can add a visible element that’s not a distraction, not clutter, but enhances the overall communication, then we’ll do that.”
Learning when to add and when not to add is much more art than science. What is clutter for one church might be perfect for another. “A lot of that happens in hindsight,” Jeff says. “As you go along, you become a little more judicious. There’s not a formula or a failsafe metric. Week by week you have to be aware of what’s worked in the past but also be willing to push the envelope.”
Media is a constantly changing dynamic. The key is to make sure that it’s constantly adding to the experience rather than distracting or taking away from it. As Van Dyke’s ministry continues to grow, they are finding that their ratio continues to improve in that area. Using media to enhance and amplify the message without getting in the way is the goal for this church and for many others around the world. How are you using media at your church to enhance and amplify the message?
Vision Editor—Jim Miller
Wed, June 2, 2010
by jmiller filed under