Life Church uses comedy, modern culture to reach members

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With an informal atmosphere, a pastor who studied comedy under Tina Fey and a new location at a local elementary school, Life Church is far from typical.

Life Church, which had its first official service in March at SVSU’s Malcolm Field Theatre for Performing Arts, is built on breaking church stereotypes.

“We want to be a church for people who don’t like going to church,” said Jonathan Herron, founding pastor. “The whole idea is we want Sunday morning to be a place where, whether you go to church every week or you don’t go at all, we want you to feel comfortable.”

The church has been having weekly services for about six months, and Herron explained that average attendance is about 150, including about 25-30 SVSU students.

One student, communication and graphic design sophomore Hope Sweigart, began attending the church around early June and is now involved with the worship team and children’s ministry.

Much of what she loves about the church is the people who attend.

“The people here are amazing,” Sweigart said. “They’re very welcoming (and) inviting.”

This week was the church’s first service at its new location, Sherwood Elementary on Shattuck Road.

This location will allow it to reach the same region of people in a unique atmosphere more affordably.

“Through the change from SVSU to here, I don’t think that kindness, that open-arms kind of feeling, is going to go away,” Sweigart said.

As people are already traveling from as far as Alma and Caro to attend, the location change shouldn’t be a problem, especially with the church’s unique niche.

“If someone is looking for a place with a sense of humor that’s not going to judge you, but that’s going to be honest about our faith, people will drive an extra 5 to 6 minutes to get here,” Herron said.

The first service in the new location featured baptisms instead of a typical sermon, and was in between two series of messages preached by Herron.

The previous message series, consistent with the church’s contemporary feel, was called “Angry Birds in the Pew.”

“Let’s be honest, people see Christians as very judgmental, very hypocritical, very anti-this, anti-that, and I agree,” Herron said. “So we spent a couple weeks going in the Bible and saying, you know what, Jesus called those guys out, too.”

The series was a call for Christians instead to share a message of love, hope and grace.

Next week the church will be starting a series called “Love, Marriage, Baby Carriage,” which will address relationships, dating advice, singleness and related topics. The series will conclude on Nov. 3 with a live, open Q&A where the congregation can text in questions that Herron will respond to.

Long term, if the church switches from a “portable” church to a permanent location, Herron explained they’d be interested in getting an already-existing venue instead of building a new building. The long-term vision is to have the Bay/Tittabawassee area be the central location, with additional Life Church chapters in different regions of Michigan.

The services at Sherwood Elementary begin at 11 a.m. More information can be found at lifechurchmichigan.com.