Church of the Highlands continues to grow - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Church of the Highlands continues to grow

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In slightly more than a decade the Church of the Highlands has grown from less than 400 members, to more than 18,000!

Church of the Highlands is called a "multi-site" church because of its campuses across the state.

Multi-site churches produce music, worship, and prayer at each satellite campus. The idea is to create a sense of community during the service, while remaining true to the brand and identity of the church, no matter where it is located.

Layne Schranz, associate pastor of Church of the Highlands has been with the church since its inception.

"The growth we've seen at the Church of the Highlands over the eleven and a half years we've been a church has been absolutely astonishing," says Schranz. "Now we have a campus in Woodlawn, we have a campus in Auburn, Tuscaloosa and in Montgomery."

Schranz says, through the multi-site approach, the church and the message of pastor Chris Hodges can reach a greater number of worshipers.

"Here at Church of the Highlands, we have twenty services we offer between all our campuses and pastor Chris (Hodges) is only speaking live at three of those locations," Schranz explains. "So a lot more people attend Church of the Highlands where pastor Chris is not standing on the stage of the room where they are attending."

Sermons are broadcast from the main campus off Grants Mill Road to satellite locations like this one in Pelham.

There's even an online campus here.

However, some question the connection worshipers feel from watching a sermon on a screen.

Schranz says, "I've pastored our first video campus and our second video campus. What I've realized is worship is where people interact with God and during the worship time, there's just this dynamic happening that I don't believe could ever be on video."

Schranz says, many church members already are comfortable seeing the message 'on screen'.
 
"When pastor Chris is on that stage preaching, most of the people in the room are watching him on a video screen. They're not looking at him physically even when he's standing on the stage," Schranz says.

For Schranz, the growth of the Church of the Highlands and its expansion to multi-site locations
is nothing short of divine intervention.

"We know that what has happened here is not of our doing. We're not talented enough, smart enough, good enough at our jobs to see something like this happen," says Schranz. "So we know there's a supernatural blessing here that we want to continue to see God do great things here, but it's been remarkable to see the growth here."

The Church of the Highlands envisions several more campuses opening in the Birmingham area and across Alabama.

The hope is to launch a campus in the north Birmingham area in the next year and another campus in the Oxford/Anniston area by fall 2013.

Beyond these satellite campuses, the church is streaming into state prisons.

For the last few years, small groups have gone to prisons across the state. Now, they are bringing that same Sunday experience at the campuses to the prisons.

They say sharing their message with these incarcerated men and women can end up changing lives for the better.

"We're just giving those inmates hope, we're letting them know that God still has a plan for their life, there's still a purpose to their life," says Schranz. "They can be forgiven, they can be healed and set free from the things that have tormented them in their life and it's really exciting to see God working in their lives."

Bibb County correctional facility was the first facility to offer worship experience every Sunday.

That has since grown to include Tutwiler prison. The Church of the Highlands forsees adding even more prisons to its ministries.

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