It used to be a Kroger. Now it’s a church, and I’m sitting on what was once the frozen pizza aisle.

On the stage, a small band kicks off the service with a hymn that sounds more like The Avett Brothers than Hillsong United. I don’t want to say their style is plain; that sounds too critical. “Simple” may be better.

“Simple” is an adjective that Church Project—a six-year plant located inside a converted grocery store just north of Houston—uses to describe itself. “Biblical. Simple. Relevant.”—the tagline is emblazoned on a black and white sign outside of its building. Their goal as a congregation is sharp: “We want to change the way people see Christ, Christians, and the Church.”

As the service continues, this vision emerges like a series of cardboard figurines in a pop-up book. There are no colored lights or flashy multimedia designs, no heavily structured transitions or fog machines. When one part of the service is done, the person holding the mic passes it off to the next leader in line. Their lead pastor, Jason Shepperd, preaches an expository sermon from 1 Thessalonians. He doesn’t exhort from atop the gray-carpeted risers; instead, he sets up on the floor, peering directly into the front row. His words are clear, and he doesn’t mince the text. There are some garnishes, but mostly meat. (Come to think of it, his podium is about where the deli counter stood.)

As I mill around after service, I’m surprised to run into half a dozen people I grew up with at another church. “I just got tired of all the ‘production,’” one friend tells me as we talk about how she eventually made her way to Church Project. ...

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