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Church packs American Airlines Center; 34,800 attend 2 Christmas Eve services

GRAPEVINE, Texas (BP)–It wasn’t a Dallas Mavericks NBA basketball game or a rock concert that drew thousands to the American Airlines Center during the holidays, but two Christmas Eve services sponsored by Fellowship Church in suburban Grapevine.

The two innovative services at American Airlines Center drew 34,800 people — 19,400 at a 3 p.m. service, 15,400 at 6 p.m.

“By putting it in American Airlines Center, a neutral site, people were able to invite their friends and say, ‘Hey, why don’t you come with me to American Airlines Center and see what Fellowship Church is doing for Christmas Eve?’” said Lawrence Swicegood, Fellowship Church’s director of communications.

“The results of that were very successful,” he said.

Fellowship Church’s music team opened the service with a choreographed rendition of “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” and the praise team followed with “Winter Wonderland.” The focus then shifted to Christ as Ed Young, pastor of Fellowship Church, told the audience about the real meaning of Christmas. The 90-minute service ended with “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “O Holy Night” and other traditional carols sung by the choir and the crowd.

“I think people were surprised at the level of professionalism of the service,” Swicegood said. “Technically, it was as good as a Broadway show. Biblically, it was as powerful as anything you would experience in your church building, and the Gospel was presented in a very straightforward way.”

Having the Christmas Eve services near downtown Dallas also helped Fellowship Church promote the Jan. 16 opening of satellite churches in Plano and Dallas.

In Plano, worshipers will meet in a 1,200-seat sanctuary at a converted furniture store building. In Dallas, services will be at North Dallas High School. Both churches will have campus pastors, live bands, Bible study groups and recorded sermons. Young’s sermons will be viewed on a high-definition television screen measuring 17-by-34 feet.

“We’ve had so many people coming from all over the Metroplex, and many people have said they wished they lived closer to Grapevine,” Swicegood said. “Through satellite and technology, Fellowship Church in Grapevine can be experienced in Plano and Dallas.”

From the start, the desire of Fellowship Church has been to reach up in worship, reach out in evangelism and to reach in through discipleship. Fellowship Church began as a mission of First Baptist Church of Irving in 1990 and met for several years at the Irving Fine Arts Center. In 1998, the church moved to its current location in Grapevine, with more than 7,000 people attending. Today, more than 17,000 people attend Fellowship’s services each week.

“Fellowship Church is known for its creativity and communication,” with innovative programs for all ages, Swicegood said.

“A lot of times, people have preconceived notions about church. The local church has the greatest message of hope, salvation, forgiveness and love,” he said, noting that Fellowship Church doesn’t change the message of the Gospel; “we just present it in a very compelling, creative and culturally relevant manner.”
Leann Callaway is a freelance writer in Irving, Texas.

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