By MARGARET DWIGGINS
CedarCreek Church, a megachurch which has already expanded into four other locations, will open a branch in Findlay in September.
Services will begin the weekend of Sept. 20-21 in the former movie theater at the Findlay Village Mall. Plans for the new church were revealed at CedarCreek’s Fam Jam, held last weekend at Riverside Park.
CedarCreek “is a nondenominational, Christ-centered and biblically based church,” said Mike Sell, who will be the pastor of the Findlay church. Services are “heavy on the multimedia, it will grab your attention the entire time you’re here,” he said.
CedarCreek first opened in Perrysburg in 1995. Sell said its founder and senior pastor, Lee Powell, a friend of his since high school, modeled it after Willow Creek Community Church in Barrington, Illinois, an evangelical megachurch that has a weekend attendance of about 24,000. The Associated Press says a megachurch is generally defined as a Protestant church with weekly attendance of 2,000 or more.
CedarCreek has weekly attendance of about 10,000, according to Rick DuShane, pastor of community care at the Perrysburg church.
Findlay will be the first site outside of the Toledo market, Sell said. CedarCreek’s other churches are in west Toledo, south Toledo and Whitehouse. There is also an “Internet campus,” which broadcasts live services from the Perrysburg church online.
Work is well underway to transform the mall’s former movie theater into a church, Sell said. Walls have been knocked down inside to make one large auditorium that will have 500 seats, with 23,000 square feet for activities and gathering space. Services in Findlay will be held at the same time as services at the other four locations: at 5:15 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday, and at 9 a.m., 10:45 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Sunday.
While each location has its own pastor and musicians, the message is broadcast live from the Perrysburg church.
“The experience that we have is one church, multiple locations, so you are going to get the same exact experience no matter what location you attend of any of the five campuses,” Sell said.
“I’m the pastor (of the Findlay church) so I’m the face of the campus for announcements and a send off and prayer,” he said.
There are five pastors who teach from the Perrysburg church.
Classes offered through the church are also identical at each location. Small groups, called LifeGroups, are another essential part of CedarCreek, Sell said.
“LifeGroups are small groups of people who meet and grow spiritually together, and that’s really a way to make the church more of an intimate experience. We have several groups throughout the city already,” Sell said.
“This church is already started. It’s just gonna get the walls now,” he added.
Sell said there were many families — hundreds, according to church literature — who had been attending weekly services in Perrysburg and Toledo for more than a decade who had been asking for a church in Findlay. The Fam Jam was started here three years ago as a way to raise awareness about CedarCreek in advance of its opening.
Services are casual and feature a band playing high-energy music.
“We try to find relevant contemporary pop rock that relates to the message we have that week,” Sell said. “It could be (from) a contemporary Christian band or a secular band that we think the lyrics fit the message.”
In place of a concession stand, the lobby will feature a cafe and bookstore.
“We really exist to make it friendly to them, so that when they walk through the doors their defenses are down. They get a smile and handshake and can grab a coffee or a soda and can have a service that relates to them, that’s relevant to their life,” Sell said.
Sell and his wife, Lori, who have two grown sons, will be moving to Findlay in July. They met on a blind date at Powell’s home before CedarCreek’s founding. They did not initially join CedarCreek because they were youth ministers at another congregation and didn’t want to leave, but they have been members of Cedar Creek for 12 years.
Becoming a pastor was a career change for Sell, 50, who until recently was in the medical device industry, but he became disenchanted and was in search of “greater meaning and significance,” he said.
“I took time to reevaluate my passions and goals in life. During that time of searching I got a call from CedarCreek where I had been attending and serving for over a decade. They asked if I would consider taking on the lead pastor role in Findlay. When I compared my goals after my reevaluation, they lined up perfectly with the call into ministry. I gladly answered the call as it was loudly ringing in my ear,” Sell said.
Sell does not envision Cedar Creek taking members away from churches already established here.
“If we fill our church with people from other churches we’ve missed our mission, because our audience is the spiritually restless and unchurched, which is 65 percent of Findlay, by the way,” he said.
“We care a lot about our communities that we’re a part of,” Sell said. “We’ll definitely be partnering with charitable organizations in the community to impact the community in a positive way, whether it be the homeless, the sick, the poor, the hungry.
“We partnered for year number three with City Mission at Fam Jam; those are the types of things that we care about, and we do our best to partner with organizations that fit our mission,” Sell said. That mission is “to love God, serve others and tell the world about Christ,” he said.
“We are so excited to be here,” Sell said. “I can’t tell you all the things I see on a daily basis that really make sense for us to be here. It’s great to be in this community. We can’t wait to open our doors.”
Online: http://cedarcreek.tv Dwiggins: 419-427-8477 Send an E-mail to Margaret Dwiggins
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