Lights, camera, Jesus
City Impact’s West branch is now holding its services in a movie theatre
Going to church has become a cinematic experience for a congregation that has found a new home of worship — at the movie theatre.
Members of the City Impact Church West branch now regularly attend Sunday morning and afternoon services at the local Westgate Event Cinemas, in Massey, West Auckland.
Unlike traditional churches, you are allowed to take food inside — with families treating themselves to popcorn and ice creams while listening to the pastor’s sermon.
Although unconventional, Pastor Joe Manase said the idea to hold church services at the movies came off the back of years of trying to find a suitable building for their new church branch.
“We’d heard that there are churches around the world that started to use cinemas and we thought: ‘You know what? They’ll have the comfiest seats, the best air conditioning, the greatest screen and the best surround-sound system.
“We do church right there in the middle of the cinema.
“There are people lining up to come to church and people lining up to buy tickets to Avengers at the same time.”
Each week, members arrive early to set up; bringing in band instruments for praise and worship, plants for the stage and a portable pulpit for the preacher.
Bible scriptures and lyrics for songs and hymns show up on the cinema’s big screen during the service.
The church uses two cinema rooms — one specifically for children’s worship — and there are moves to hire out a third theatre by next year to cater to youth.
City Impact, launched by founding pastors Peter and Bev Mortlock almost 40 years ago, officially launched its West branch at the movies in April.
Since then, the congregation has grown to about 300 people; many of them young families.
They had also attracted people who had come to the theatre to see a movie and found out a church service was on next door.
Manase acknowledged church at a movie theatre was not the norm, but said it did not take away from the Christian message they were sharing. “What we are religious about is the methods of hope in Jesus Christ. We’re married to our methods, but we’re very flexible with the way it is delivered, knowing that every generation will have different ways of engaging.
“More of the world is happening online and [via] technology. We’re conscious about the way the world is changing.
“It’s a society we’re a part of ... and so we will always be changing things up to make sure that we’re engaging the most people as possible.” Church at the movies is open to all — and no tickets are required to attend.
In the fight to spread the good word, Pastor Joe Manase is competing with the Avengers (below).