Jackson, Tn - It's a Sunday morning in Jackson, Tennessee, and for David O'Rouke, on this particular Sunday, it's a day of uncertainty and possible change. O'Rouke, who has been a long time member of the popular Longview Baptist Church, which has over 15,000 members, has ventured out into the unknown, paying a visit to the much smaller but friendly congregation of Mt. Olive Baptist Church on the outskirts of town. With just over 300 active members and a 4 member praise band, Mt. Olive's worship service is a far cry from the massive production that occurs every Sunday at Longview. There are no video projectors, no high definition screens and only one drum set, yet there appears to be joy and life among the congregation. But lately mid-sized more compact congregations such as Mt. Olive are becoming more and more attractive to Christians, who, after years of flocking to mega churches have begun suffer from what some call "poor soul economy."
"I want to be careful what I say here. I don't want to leave the impression that there's something wrong with Longview," O'Rouke told TBNN. "Believe me, I've loved being there all these years, but I've come to the conclusion that perhaps I just don't need that much church in order to truly worship and know God. I mean at Longview there's always some program going on, some trip, Bible study, fellowship or meal. I like some of that stuff but not every night of my life. And if I miss one Sunday School event, I get all of these calls asking me where I've been. I need something in church that's smaller, more compact and efficient. I think a smaller church like Mt. Olive will help me go further in my Christian life but without having to waste and use up so much of my energy."
Lately churches like Mt. Olive have been given the title of a "hybrid church." A hybrid church is essentially a church that's large enough and vibrant enough to demonstrate good spiritual health, but yet still basically small and compact, not overusing the resources and times of its people. With so much going on in the world, hybrid churches are beginning to see growth in popularity all over the country.
"We've had 20 new people show up in the last month," said Rev. Albert Hoffman, pastor of Westminster Presbyterian in Eutah, Georgia. "For as long as I've been here, we've had about 100 people on Sunday mornings, and then all of a sudden people started showing up here and there, just out of nowhere. It's really an amazing thing."
Whether or not "hybrid churches" will catch on permanently remains to be seen. One thing appears to be clear though, and that is people seem convinced that now is the time to find new and better alternatives to traditional church, and that we should have less dependence on mega church evangelicalism.