Chuck Swindoll, popular radio preacher, prolific writer, and president of Dallas Theological Seminary, has founded what some church-growth experts are calling an "instant megachurch."
"Preaching is my first love," Swindoll told CT in explaining why he agreed to lead the new Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, a once-sleepy farm community north of Dallas.
The church already has 2,000 members and is growing each week. It began last-October when Swindoll started Wednesday night Bible classes in the club room of the Stonebriar Country Club, part of an upscale community.
"They had 200 people show up the first night," says Swindoll's aide, Emily Edwards. "That went to 400 the next week and doubled again the third week."
The church has advertised only once, and the attendance jumped from 1,100 to 2,000, according to associate pastor Mark Dane, who is married to one of Swindoll's daughters, Colleen. No more advertising is expected until the church moves into larger quarters.
Still, more and more congregants pour into the rented gymnasium of a community college where Swindoll holds two services each Sunday. They sit in white plastic lawn chairs that were bought in several trips to Wal-Mart.
"They love us at Wal-Mart," says Edwards. "We just kept going back to buy more chairs. We've about cleaned them out."
None of this is particularly new to Swindoll, 64. For 23 years he was pastor of the First Evangelical Free Church in Fullerton, California, which grew to 6,000 members under his leadership.
Preliminary ground preparation began this month on a 2,500-seat multipurpose building on 60 acres of prime real estate in Frisco. The $7 million project is just the beginning phase. Ultimately, several buildings, including a 6,000-seat sanctuary, are to be built on the site.
"God is at work here or this would not have happened," says Swindoll, who identifies naturally with Texans: he was born in El Campo, 75 miles southwest of Houston.
Frisco Mayor Kathy Seei, who has seen the town grow from 6,000 to 27,000 in the past ten years, says the city has accelerated street projects to help the new megachurch. "You could have worse things happen to you than having 6,000 Christians coming to your city," she says.
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