7 Dynamics Making Auburn Community Church Dynamic

POINT OF THE POST...

There is no sliver bullet to create a thriving church, but at Auburn Community Church, we find a few elements that help them thrive.

YOU GOT THE POSITION...
YOU'RE THE LEADER...
NOW WHAT?

What makes a dynamic, thriving church? 

I get this question a lot. I recently experienced one of the most dynamic church services of my life. I’d love to share what I saw (in this post) and explain how you can use some of these spiritual and leadership techniques, too (next post). 

Have You Heard of Auburn Community Church?

A few weeks ago, my family and I had the privilege of attending Auburn Community Church (ACC). We were at their 7:00 p.m. service – their fourth of the day.

My oldest son is a student at Auburn, so War Eagle! He’s been attending ACC since they reopened after Covid lockdowns. My son is a drummer, so he quickly engaged with the worship team. But he equally dove into small groups and volunteering, too. He grew up with me pastoring Woodstock City Church, so seeing a PK (preacher kid) in church as a college student is pretty special for his mother and me.

Our ACC experience was quite remarkable. It was their “baptism Sunday,” and my oldest son was being baptized. ACC’s senior pastor, Miles Fidel, invited me to dunk my son. We never pushed our kids to be baptized, believing it was best for them to wait until they were ready for that every-so-public declaration of faith. He was now ready, and he wanted it done in his church.

Everything about the service was exceptional, meaningful, and well-orchestrated while feeling organic. There were 25 people baptized in our service. Apparently, 75 others were baptized in the previous services. These weren’t spontaneous, emotional baptism decisions. These 100 people underwent a baptism process to ensure they were ready to go public with their faith and share their stories.

In groups of 8 or 10, each person read their personal, 2-minute story from an index card. When a group finished sharing, the band led the congregation in worship while the group walked off stage and stepped into the baptismal waters.

Man, it was special. But if I can, I’d love to put my emotional bias for Miles and ACC aside and share what I saw in this church.

ACC is a THRIVING Church!

As I mentioned, people often ask me what makes a church thrive in today’s environment. There is no one answer. No silver bullet. However, we can learn from what we see from others. We can investigate models, methods, and strategies.

ACC is thriving, to say the least. Perhaps some of what I saw and experienced that day can give us all some insight. 

The Fuel for ACC’s Fire

It’s not an accident. It’s not the random favor of God. Miles isn’t a celebrity pastor. And it’s not because college students are hungry to be a part of a church body.

From what I’ve seen and heard, what’s fueling their fire is:

1. A Clear Rally Cry

And I don’t mean a mission and vision statement. I assume they have these. Or maybe their rallying cry is their mission and vision. I suspect part of their fuel is their unabashed passion around these two words:

JESUS WINS.

Across the back of their auditorium, the statement “Jesus Wins” is engraved as a reminder. The statement is on the LED walls in the corridors leading to the auditorium. But any church can have a statement. It’s ACC’s passion for the statement that is making a difference.

This church believes that Jesus wins. And they want everyone to know! And experience winning in Christ, too.

To this point, of the 25+ baptism stories I saw, nearly all ended with “Jesus wins,” including my son’s story.

2. A Competitive Spirit

I know. This could go awry quickly. But not at ACC.

ACC isn’t competing with other churches. They are competing against anything and everything Jesus is fighting against. Hence their rallying cry, “Jesus wins!”

You could feel the competition in Mile’s voice and message that night. They are in a fight for the souls of the Auburn community. They know God does all the hard work, but they believe it’s their job to fight, too. So they do. They fight. They refuse to lose to the enemy. After 10 minutes in their service, I was ready to charge hell with a water pistol! Honestly, it’s been a long time since I felt this way.

Call it passion or enthusiasm. I call it a competitive spirit where the entire church believes Jesus can and will win, and we get to play on the winning team.

3. An Organized Organism

You can’t scale anything without organization. This is challenging in a church, as the Body of Christ is a living and active organism. Like our body, though, carefully designed church systems keep the organism functioning and healthy.

Pulling into the property of ACC was a joy. Parking volunteers covered the lot, helping those leaving exit quickly while those like me arriving find parking. The parking experience was well planned, taught, and executed by volunteers.

As we walked to the front door, clear signage pointed me and my family to check in for a baptism member. We were then introduced to our personal concierge for the service. We were taken to our center section assigned seats where everything was perfectly planned to allow us to exit our row to watch our son be baptized. Mind you, this was happening times 25.

The service was beautiful and well-planned, too. It wasn’t flashy. It wasn’t entertainment. It was passionate. You could tell every single person on the stage fully believed that, you guessed it, Jesus wins. I suspect nobody gets in front of the church, or even portions of the church, without being sold out to this rally cry.

This was a complicated service, but it was planned and therefore flowed and progressed well. Miles taught about the importance of baptism, but he kept to his time. Miles seemed to understand he was no more important than anyone else. Perhaps he realized he was less important than the individuals going public. It was their night for Jesus’ glory. I sensed that Miles’ posture is always one of humility.  

The band was prepared. Every inside volunteer was prepared. Everything was seamless and free from distraction.

All of this planning allowed what must have been 1,000 in the service to fully engage freely as the service narrative progressed.

4. Fun!

NOTHING was boring about this service. Or ACC, for that matter. The place felt electric but not counterfeit, manufactured, or manipulated. It was the power of Jesus on display in the lives of people and the utter celebration of life transformation. ACC decided if heaven was celebrating, we should, too.

Honestly, it felt like a party, complete with confetti cannons, air horns, and glitter explosions. Yet meaningful and poignant. This doesn’t happen by accident. It was planned. Almost like the Holy Spirit was alive and active during planning!

5. Truth in Love

I hate the term “seeker sensitive.” That may shock you, knowing I was on staff with Andy Stanley and North Point for 13 years. But we were never “seeker sensitive.” We were “seeker comprehensible.”

Sensitive means you are so concerned about not offending anyone that you say nothing to everyone. That’s not Andy! Or North Point, or me, or Miles. Miles did an excellent job explaining baptism and the Gospel, but in love. Miles and ACC felt accessible and understandable to outsiders. That matters! A lot!!

I listened to 25’ish stories of people who learned the truth through ACC in a way that didn’t push them away but drew them in.

6. Connection over Content

Miles is a gifted pastor, leader, and preacher. But it was apparent he wasn’t the center of this church. Yes, Jesus is the foundation, and He wins, but connection is the cornerstone of the ACC experience. 

Connection to God, to others, and to self.

In this service, all three were on display. We were allowed to connect with God through worship and Miles’ message. We connected to others through their stories and celebrations. And we connected with ourselves as Miles gave us all time to process what we’d seen and heard.

7. Creating a Movement, not Hosting a Service

It felt clear that ACC isn’t hosting church services on Sundays because that’s “what churches do.” ACC focuses on making disciples through inspiring and supporting individuals along their faith journey. That’s why their church feels more like a movement than a church.

The name “movement” says it all, though. A “movement” is an act of steps leading to progress. ACC is in the movement business, not the church service hosting business.

Again, this may not be the case every Sunday, but nobody left the service I attended wondering if a next step of faith was available. Nobody was unsure if ACC, Miles, and the staff were for them. And nobody felt alone in their struggles.

People aspire to something better than their current circumstances. The church is positioned to support their spiritual discipleship journey to this aspirational future. And nothing, and I mean NOTHING, creates more momentum than life transformations.

Drawing Some Conclusions 

In the next post, we’ll talk specifics for you and your church. For now, let’s all consider these seven elements, what they mean to ACC, and what they could mean for you.

Until next time,

GET THE BOOK AND BONUS MATERIALS