Coordinates: Fellowship Church (FC) is an evangelical Christian megachurch located in Grapevine, Texas, a suburb of Fort Worth, that is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. FC is one of the largest and fastest-growing churches in the United States, with an estimated attendance exceeding 20,000. FC's pastor is Ed Young (the son of the equally-famous pastor of Second Baptist Church in Houston), who has pastored the church since shortly after its opening.
Though Fellowship is officially a member of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), as part of the "seeker sensitive" movement, it does not publicize its ties with the SBC and is not actively involved in SBC affairs.
FC started in 1989 as a mission church of the First Baptist Church of Irving, Texas, and was initially known as "Las Colinas Baptist Church". Approximately 150 members of First Baptist Irving relocated to the new church. FC initially met in a rented facility next to the Irving Arts Center and across from MacArthur High School, both of which would figure in its history.
Shortly after its opening, the membership hired Edwin Barry Young as its Senior Pastor. Young quickly convinced the church to adopt the "seeker church" style made popular by Bill Hybels and Willow Creek Community Church. One of the church's first actions was to de-emphasize its ties with the Southern Baptist Convention and change its name to "Fellowship of Las Colinas". Another move was to use contemporary music during the services, and to offer services on Saturday evenings. Most notably, FC adopted the concept of "age appropriate" teaching—children 5th grade and under are provided separate services at their level of maturity, and parents are encouraged (but not required) to send their children to those services. FC purports that several families, after initially being hesitant to return to FC—mainly due to its size and non-traditional approach to church—did so after finding out their children loved the activities.
The strategy proved highly successful, and FC quickly outgrew its original facility. Thus, it moved across the parking lot to the nearby Irving Arts Center. During this time, FC tried the concept of "simultaneous services"—one group would meet at FC's facility while another would meet at the Arts Center. The FC music team would play at one site while Young preached at the other, then midway through the services the teams would switch places. The concept proved unsuccessful and was quickly dropped, but continues in "FC lore" as from time to time Young mentions it in his sermons as an example of how FC is willing to try new, unconventional ideas in order to reach people.
Meanwhile, FC began to look for a suitable site for its permanent facility. FC discovered a 160-acre (0.65 km2) site on heavily-traveled State Highway 121 north of Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, which was being auctioned by the Resolution Trust Corporation. Though larger than FC wanted, FC did not have the option to bid on only a portion of the site—it had to bid on the entire site or not bid at all. FC agreed to bid on the site, and was the successful bidder; however, it had to quickly borrow $1.675 million to make the payment. Approximately two years later, the announcement was made that Grapevine Mills, a shopping mall, would be built literally across the street from FC. Unsolicited offers came in for portions of the FC property, and eventually FC sold a 23-acre (93,000 m2) parcel on the north side of the property for the exact amount it had borrowed earlier, thus allowing it to begin construction debt-free.
Meanwhile, FC outgrew the Irving Arts Center before its permanent facility was complete. It thus moved across the street to MacArthur High School. (As part of the lease agreement, FC agreed to install an upgraded sound system in MacArthur's auditorium.) In order to maintain the "age-appropriate" services for preschoolers and children, this required an enormous logistical feat each weekend—volunteers would have to unload several trucks early on Saturday morning (the building was unavailable until then), install temporary partitions and furniture in several areas, then after the final Sunday service tear down and reload all the items onto the trucks, and make the school building ready for use on Monday morning.
In April 1998, FC finally completed and moved to its current facility and adopted its present name. Young's father and Hybels spoke at the dedication service.
FC continued to experience tremendous growth. It initially bought a nearby warehouse and office building, which today serves as the church offices. However, instead of expanding the auditorium at its Grapevine facility (which was expensive to build since it required special acoustical material to muffle the sound of overflying airplanes—FC is located directly in the approach to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport), FC took another page out of Bill Hybels' playbook—the concept of the satellite church.
In early 2005 FC opened two satellite campuses—Fellowship Church Plano (which meets at a church-owned facility in Plano, Texas) and Fellowship Church Downtown (which was previously named Uptown when meeting at North Dallas High School.) As of June 2006, Fellowship Church Downtown meets at a church-owned facility in the arts district of Downtown Dallas.
Later in 2005, a third satellite campus was added—Fellowship Church Alliance (which met at Northwest High School in Justin, Texas, near Fort Worth Alliance Airport); however, in October 2007 the campus relocated to in a new facility west of downtown Fort Worth, near the museum district, and renamed Fellowship Church Fort Worth.
In 2006 FC opened a fourth campus and its first outside the DFW area—Fellowship Church Miami in South Miami.
Early in 2012, FC added an internet campus called Fellowship Live. Then later in 2012, FC added a second Florida campus in Midtown Miami. And soon after, added its eighth location in Columbia, South Carolina.
All satellite campuses act as extensions of FC; though they have live music and their own staff, all sermons are broadcast from the Grapevine campus.
According to an email from Ed and Lisa Young that was sent to members on October 25, 2012, Fellowship Church is going to start seven new campuses, the details of which will be announced on October 27, 2012.
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FC offers a wide range of activities and ministries for all stages of life. FC's "Home Team" ministry, modeled after the popular cell group system, allows newcomers to meet individuals with similar interests and geographic locations, which would not be otherwise possible due to its size.
FC operates a bookstore and coffee bar (The Source), which features mainly FC-logo merchandise and Ed Young's sermons and books.
One of the unique features of FC's facility is its outdoor baptistry. (FC does not have an indoor baptistry, a common feature in church architecture among churches which practice baptism by immersion; whenever FC does perform a baptism indoors it uses portable jacuzzis.) Built like an amphitheater, it is located within a lake on the Grapevine campus (the lake serves as a flood control pond for the property). However, it is physically separated from the lake (to keep whatever may be swimming in the lake out), and is heated similar to a jacuzzi. Notwithstanding that Texas weather is notoriously fickle and at times violent, only on a handful of rare instances have scheduled baptisms been canceled due to inclement weather. Another fountain on the campus (closer to the building) was the initial outdoor baptistry, and is used most often during winter months to allow individuals to more quickly enter the building after being baptized.
Grapevine (Home location) Downtown Dallas, Fort Worth and Plano all have Worship Experiences on Sundays at 10:00am and 11:30am. Fort Worth also has an additional service at 1:00pm on Sundays. Miami has Wroship Experiences at 11:00am and 12:15pm on Sundays. All Worship Experiences are identical in format and content. Special "age appropriate" programs are held for preschoolers and children through 5th grade during all FC Worship Experiences.
FC's Christmas and Easter Worship Experiences are among the area's most popular, and in order to accommodate the large crowds over 20 separate Experiences are held during a 3-4 day period. In 2004, FC was able to rent the American Airlines Center for its Christmas Worship Experience due to the NHL lockout which made the facility available; however, for 2005 it reverted to having multiple Worship Experiences at its campuses (11 at the Grapevine campus, five at Plano, three at Alliance, and two at Downtown).
In December 2005, Associated Press reported that Fellowship was one of several American mega-churches that would not hold services on Christmas Day, which in 2005 fell on a Sunday. At least one talk show host (nationally syndicated radio host Mike Gallagher, featured on local radio station KRLD) criticized Fellowship's decision not to hold services that day, since Sunday is the traditional day of worship in Christianity.
The night before Super Bowl XLI Fellowship gave away 2 tickets and airfare from its Grapevine Campus to the game, garnering widespread media attention as a way to attract people who do not normally attend church. Another media attention took place in late 2008, when Senior Pastor Ed Young encouraged the married couples of FC, as a plan of strengthening the traditional family, to engage in sexual intercourse every day for one week.
In September 2007, FC launched a website, ineed2change.com, in conjunction with a sermon series of the same name.
In February 2010, Fellowship Church and Ed Young were at the center of a controversy regarding Young's use of private aircraft in his travels. Young responded to the story the following weekend.
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