Last December, during the public debate about Christmas, Without Walls International Church in Tampa, Florida, decided to take a bold stand. "To Hell with the Word 'Holiday,'" proclaimed a banner hung from the church's building near the Tampa airport. "Put Christ Back into Christmas."
"That was a great, great accomplishment for us," Without Walls's media-savvy senior pastor Randy White told Christianity Today. National news outlets, including CNN, descended on the church, giving Randy an opportunity to spotlight the church's position.
It may seem contrarian for a megachurch to be so outspoken and controversial, but Without Walls's feistiness is part of what has made it one of the country's fastest-growing congregations.
And while Randy's penchant for publicity might attract visitors, what keeps them coming is the 25,000-member church's ability to empower all sorts of people to succeed. Randy and his wife, Paula, host of the nationally broadcast TV show "Paula White Today," keep outreach to the down and out at the center.
Without Walls's Master Pastor Internship Program teaches people not only how to start their own ministries, but also how to live productive lives. "We get them acclimated back into productivity," Randy says, "[with] social skills, how to write a check, how to dress properly, grammar. We take it through every step that you can possibly take."
Maria Garves heard about the church while stationed with the Army in Bahrain. Upon returning to Tampa, she enrolled in the nine-month internship program. "It is the greatest thing I've done, aside from marrying and having children," she says. "I went 1,000 miles to find out I had the Holy Spirit in my backyard."
As part of the program, Garves was on parking duty the day she ...