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Gwinnett Center will temporarily host mega-church

Photo by Brian Giandelone

Photo by Brian Giandelone

DULUTH -- Gwinnett Church, a new North Point Ministries satellite church campus, announced this week that it will begin holding services at Gwinnett Center beginning Oct. 2.

This temporary home for the new church will house members until a permanent building is constructed on Peachtree Industrial Boulevard in Sugar Hill, about two miles south of Ga. Highway 20.

In a Tuesday evening webcast, Gwinnett Church lead pastor Jeff Henderson said that this launch is "going to be a great journey." Henderson is the former pastor of Buckhead Church, also a North Point Community Church satellite location. That campus draws about 6,500 adults and 800 students and children to weekend worship services. Henderson left that position in January to begin laying the groundwork for launching the Gwinnett Church campus.

North Point Ministries is no newcomer to the concept of launching new campuses, and while Henderson expects some bumps along the way, church leaders expect the evening services to alleviate many of the logistics problems churches often encounter when meeting in leased, shared space.

Bob Strickland, North Point Ministries' multi-site Director, said that sites for new church campuses are selected based on specific criteria. Gwinnett Church is no exception.

"We look at who the people are who are attending today. There are a lot of attendees in Gwinnett County at our Alpharetta and Browns Bridge locations."

According to Strickland, church planners "drop a pin" in the middle of a 20-minute drive circle. "That's about as far as you can expect people to drive when they've been invited to church," he said.

Locations are also selected that allow people already attending a North Point Ministries church to move to the new location. "We pull DNA from one of our campuses and transplant it. That way, people are walking into a North Point church, even if it's brand new," Strickland said.

While building the new facility in Sugar Hill, which will be built on 50 acres the church purchased, Henderson said the focus is on a smooth and successful launch of Gwinnett Church at Gwinnett Center. He expects the construction process for the permanent building to take about three years. The rental agreement the church has with Gwinnett Center extends through the end of this year.

Based on several factors, "We may stay at Gwinnett Center the entire three years, or we may make another choice after this year," said Strickland. The final decision hinges on several factors, including attendance and ministry needs.

North Point Community Church launched Watermarke Church in Canton earlier this year. This latest addition will rank North Point among the largest mega-churches in the Southeast. Other locations include Buckhead, Alpharetta and Cumming. Andy Stanley, son of renowned Atlanta pastor Charles Stanley, founded North Point Church in November 1995. In a 2010 survey of U.S. pastors, he was named the 10th-most influential preacher in the country.

North Point Community Church has been ranked in recent surveys as one of the most influential churches in the United States. Weekend attendance for all of the church campuses averages about 24,000 people.