A Megachurch’s Vision and Purpose

The vision given to Central Christian Church – LV & Henderson, NV

I write as being a member of the board from 1983 to 2010 when our church was then averaging 470 in attendance.  We live in a city that is known around the world as “Sin City”.  In 1981 I read an article describing how a few ladies on the east coast were constantly in prayer for a spiritual revival.  It spread across America in the 1800’s and was one of the largest revivals ever.  It was like God could do that in Las Vegas.  Can anything good come out of “Sin City” I thought?  As I look back it seemed to me that Christ took over.  We had a change of senior ministers and Gene Appel, a young 24 year old, became our senior minster.

Every Tuesday morning at 6:30 a.m. for three years we would meet as a board and pray that God would give us a vision and mission as to what our church should be doing in Las Vegas.  Pastor Gene became acquainted with Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago.  It became our vision and mission to evangelize the Las Vegas area.  We started transitioning from a very traditional church to a church that wanted to make a difference in the lives of those non-Christians working in the gambling business and other areas.  If the church could change the evil city of Corinth in the New Testament, Christ could change Las Vegas.

The ministry’s decision was what must we do to make Sunday’s services comfortable for those who were not going to church or felt uncomfortable when they did come.  Changing from a traditional church to a church wishing to evangelize the community caused many traditional Christians to feel left out. It was clear that not everyone could accept our mission to connect the unconnected to God and help them become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.  The first Sunday that drums were played in a worship service, some thought the devil had entered the church.  (I am bias; I have two grandsons who play drums for the church.)

It wasn’t long before a number started leaving our church.  However, we were seeing more converted and joining the church than were leaving.  There were many hours in prayer and discussion in how do we meet the needs of both.  We finally recognized we couldn’t, we had to choose.  We had to stay with the mission and vision we believed Christ had given the church’s leadership.

It became apparent that traditional Christians that were not missionary minded did not fit and left.  Yet, we were seeing these people going to smaller churches and really making a difference.  They were becoming lay leaders in those churches and with their tithes and leadership those small churches became stronger and grew into large churches.  Churches started spreading throughout the valley.  We probably have more churches in Las Vegas than most any large city in America.

Many traditional Christians and particularly small church pastors were very critical.  They spoke of us as being so liberal that we were just tickling the ears, what they wanted to hear, of our people.  I do not think most Christians realize the importance of churches that have been given a vision to evangelize and assist in bringing sinners to repentance. We could be considered feeder churches.  This means that we are able to reach those who other churches would never reach spiritually.   Then Christ calls many to smaller churches because Central is not intended to meet the need of every Christian.  Christians must believe that Christ can use both large and small churches.  We are all on the same team having been given different visions and missions.  The early church in Acts had similar problems and missions.

Under the ministries of previous pastor, Gene Appel, and current pastor, Jud Wilhite, Central’s senior pastor, I have to believe that when many thousands have been converted over these past years, our church is doing something right.  Most Christians do not understand the prayers that have been given seeking Christ’s direction that we were doing His will.

Billy Graham was rarely criticized for evangelizing and then leaving town.  Many mega churches are doing the same thing, yet are continually criticized for doing similar to what Dr. Graham did.  Last year 7,242 repented and were converted at Central and many hundreds were baptized.  I have to believe the vision and mission we had in 1986 was from Christ.    We won’t know the answer until we get to heaven.  In the meantime, there is no doubt in my mind that Central’s intent, for the past 25 years, was to execute the vision the Elders believed Christ gave to them.

I say “glory to God” when I see, on special occasions, over 40,000 attend on a given weekend.  (A mega church is any church larger than 2,000.  About 1,300 Protestant churches in America.)

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