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N.C. purpose-driven church wins church health award

LAKE FOREST, Calif. (BP)–Integrity Church in Burlington, N.C., started with a core of four families in January of 1997. Today it averages more than 500 in attendance in three services. The Southern Baptist church, pastored by Bud Wrenn, was presented a ‘Church Health Award’ at the Purpose Driven Church conference at Saddleback Community Church in Lake Forest, Calif., May 17.

In ’98, Integrity rented storefront space in an outlet mall. It grew from two, to three and now six spaces. It is closing on purchase of the mall by the end of May.

Wrenn has steadfastly stuck to the purpose driven model, with classes 101 through 401 in places. The church has one church plant already — running about 80 after three months in nearby Elon College — and is looking for another church plant opportunity to its East, near Hillsborough or Durham along the I-85/40 corridor.

“I can’t explain what we’ve done,” Wrenn says, “but I’m enjoying it.” He insists, “We’ve probably done more wrong than right. It’s amazing how He continues to take our lemons and turn them into lemonade.”

That is precisely what Wrenn says God is doing with the lives of many who join Integrity. “The lives that are being totally changed is what amazes us,” he says. “We had no idea how this would go in this area — the buckle of the Bible belt — which is steeped in tradition. But now some who were among our opposition are our supporters. God continues to amaze us by showing us how sufficient He is.”

Integrity’s staff has grown to three full-time and one part-time ministerial staff, and two full-time and one part-time support staff. They lead what Wrenn calls a “pretty classic” purpose-driven ministry. “We decided, being a church plant, to take a methodology and stick with it through thick and thin and wait around a few years before making major adjustments. Some of our adjustments have been more cosmetic than anything; they don’t move too far outside the overall methodology.”

The music style is contemporary, though in consideration of the culture, it also leans toward Southern Rock. “My teaching is just that — teaching — not preaching,” Wrenn says. “We use the outline style that Saddleback uses.”

One adjustment Wrenn has been able to make plays upon the biblical knowledge that many in the Burlington area already have. “I go for more Biblical stories and use them as background more than classic Saddleback teaching,” he says, “because we’re in the Bible belt and a lot of these people — even if they were not previously churched — are familiar with Jacob, Sampson, etc.”

Wrenn says Integrity is a “last resort” church to many who visit. “A lot of people who have largely been unchurched and might have tried a church here and there, it’s like if they don’t find it at our church, they’re not likely to find it,” he says. “As a result, a lot of heavily damaged lives come in. But so many marriages have been healed, so many lives changed. We’ve seen so many folks who were able to get over their guilt and now lead fruitful lives because they’ve finally understood the Gospel.”

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  • Victor Lee