By Kent E. Fillinger
What do you get when you combine an empty Harley-Davidson store with generous giving? No, this isn’t a bad joke. The answer is a growing church.
LifePointe Christian Church, located in Elk Grove, California, launched on February 23, 2003, with a nucleus of about 60 people. It initially met in a local school on the edge of town. The church soon was averaging more than 200 in attendance, and after a few years was averaging more than 300. Then there was some stagnation, said senior pastor Chris Delfs, even though “the congregation loved the church and there was a great dynamic.”The recent recession hit the Elk Grove community hard. A growing region began to see population declines. LifePointe struggled financially and ran significant deficits during this season. The church tapped into seed money that had been set aside long ago to help purchase property and/or a building. “It was like a Joseph thing—we had stored up funds that could be used in the lean years, and we used this money to cover our deficits,” he said.Delfs had preached on financial stewardship yearly, but in 2010 he challenged his congregation to tithe for 90 days. With that, the financial picture of the church immediately changed. Church giving almost met the budgeted need for the first time in several years, and the giving continued to grow. LifePointe hired a youth minister with the additional funds.
The church appointed a “growth team” to look for property. A member in the church was friends with the owner of a vacant Harley-Davidson building in the center of the community, right by the highway. The leaders prayed over the building and then met with the property’s owner, but learned the building was too expensive. Then the church discovered the building’s owner couldn’t sell the building because he was under water on the mortgage.
The creative solution was to lease the former Harley-Davidson building. The opportunity was presented to the church, but Delfs explained it would cost $600,000 to retrofit the building and purchase needed equipment and supplies. The church responded, with 91 families giving $325,000 in the next 90 days, and $453,000 over 18 months.
Investing money in a facility the church didn’t own was something of a risk, but it has paid off. LifePointe conducted its first service there in December 2011, and the church grew 47 percent in 2012, from an average attendance of 341 to 501. LifePointe is now averaging more than 600 in attendance—almost double its pre-move attendance. “It’s a whole new church,” Delfs said. The church realizes leasing a facility isn’t ideal for the long-term, but it does have a home for the next seven years, which positions it to keep growing.
“LifePointe is a genuinely friendly, caring community, and our strategy from the beginning was for each person to bring a person,” Delfs said. This focus has created a contagious environment of expectation—everyone knows someone is going to invite someone, so it motivates everyone to care and take time to greet others.
In every worship service LifePointe stresses the value of small group involvement. “Transformation is the goal for each person, not just sharing information,” Delfs said. The church also hosts several all-church events throughout the year to help people connect with others, including an all-church weekend campout retreat and an all-church mission trip.
Due in part to some transitions, Delfs and his team have been understaffed for more than a year, so he is in the process of hiring and restaffing three ministry positions. Delfs hopes this will enable leadership to give time and attention to every ministry so the church can continue growing. He also wants to see LifePoint expand its missions outreach locally and globally.