This month, across the nation, churches will be filled to capacity with those who—whether weekly attenders, twice-a-year, or for the first time—will be celebrating the birth of Christ. In Georgetown, Celebration Church will be presenting their annual Christmas at the Movies series with the hope of drawing families and non-church goers to hear the Christmas and gospel message in a unique, entertaining, and relatable way.
IT IS CREATIVE
Celebration Church is known, among other things, for regularly shattering the traditional paradigm of “church”, and Christmas at the Movies is a stellar example of what church leaders and “dream team” of volunteers, dancers, singers and musicians do best. Over the first three weekends in December, attendees will enjoy spectacular live and multi-media presentations crafted around popular films, designed to illuminate spiritual truths that are often lost in modern culture.
Lori Champion, who co-founded Celebration Church with her husband, Joe, explains, “Our approach to church has always been to be relevant in style, yet timeless when it comes to the truth of God’s Word. There are wonderful precedents for that throughout the history of the church. We also see that modeled by the biblical disciples; reaching out to the culture in a language people can understand, without compromising the message of Christ. For example, Paul, in Acts 17, quoted modern poets and philosophers of the day in his sermon on Mars Hill. Jesus used popular phrases of the day and relatable analogies to communicate to a particular culture; whether it was to farmers or fishermen, he spoke in parables to open their eyes to His truth. Jesus was a creative communicator, yet his creativity wasn’t for the purpose of entertainment, but for eternal impact.
“During the holidays, we know families are looking for things to do together, and Christmas at the Movies is a perfect opportunity.From our Celebration Kids wing, where there are photo ops with movie characters, and age-appropriate movie presentations, to the ‘big screen’ adult experience, there is definitely something for all ages. It is also a time for those in our church who are gifted in music, dance, or production to let their talents shine. I’m always amazed at the gifted people we have in our very own congregation and community.”
Lori was ecstatic that last year’s program brought in more than 9,000 people per week over the three-week run, but looking beyond attendance, she is more grateful for the significant spiritual impact that resulted, as several hundred people stepped into a personal journey of faith. “I love having the chance to share the Gospel through movies people are familiar with. I am excited about what this year holds and all God will do.”
Services at the Westinghouse Campus (601 Westinghouse Road, Georgetown) are Saturdays at 5pm and Sundays at 9:30 and 11:30am. The Central Austin Campus (1006 W. Koenig Lane, Austin) services are Sundays at 11am.
IT IS AUSTIN
While these three words might seem ambiguous, to Celebration Church Pastors Joe and Lori Champion they were a beacon to a path of faith and obedience. After 10 years of church ministry and many years of prayer that God would lead them to the city where they would plant and spend the rest of their lives building a church, Joe and Lori got the answer they were seeking. The Champions sold their home, packed up their three young sons, moved to Williamson County, and left the rest of the details up to God.
What started nearly two decades ago with an eager, yet fledgling congregation of 54 (including more than a few of the Champions’ visiting family members) has grown to thousands and is spreading, not just across central Texas, but around the world. About their growth, both in number and location, Lori says, “We were told then, and we believe now, that we are stepping into other people’s prayers. We are not just supposed to make an impact in Georgetown, but around Austin and the whole area. It has never been about the numbers; we have always focused on the health of our church, seeing one person at a time discover their God-given purpose and the growth takes care of itself.”
IT IS COMMUNITY
Celebration Church has been taking care of community needs for nearly 20 years, but Christmas is an opportunity to serve people in a bigger way.
Lori explains, “Celebration is our name, so holidays are right up our alley. As well, Jesus is the reason for the season, and we exist as a church to bring hope, light, and celebration to people’s lives.” She says the church’s mission during the season is to help those coming face to face with the stress that may accompany this time of year. “Our church has always been as much about what happens outside of our walls. The season seems to start earlier and earlier every year, and does not always live up to the dreams people have, whether due to a difficult family dynamic or a recent loss.”
Not only does Celebration’s pastoral care team respond to a greater number of counseling calls and needs within their church family, this season they helped provide nearly 4,000 Thanksgiving meals to people across central Texas. They are also working with the National Guard to provide gifts and wrapping for local families, and will provide gift bags for 700 inmates in regional correctional facilities.
For those who are concerned about feeling lost in a large church, Celebration Church intentionally works to create the closeness of a small town. “We’ve always said, ‘As our church grows larger, we must grow smaller’, and we primarily do this through our small groups ministry. Hundreds of groups for all ages and stages of life meet in homes, businesses, and at our church throughout the week,” Lori says, “to minister to the ‘felt’ needs of our church members, and it is always extended to the community.”
IT IS THE FUTURE
Since 2000, Celebration Church has had numerous “homes”, including a library, a hotel, and a strip center. Finally, in 2005, through what can only be described as divine provision, the church was able to buy acreage along IH-35 in Georgetown, and in 2016 opened their current 80,000 square foot campus “on the hill” on Westinghouse Road. More importantly however, over the last nineteen years, that faithful group of 54 has grown to over 14,000 members and regular attendees in their Austin/Georgetown locations.
Today, the Celebration Church vision is materializing through two satellite campuses in the Austin metroplex (with more on the horizon); twelve campuses and a world-class school in Mozambique, Africa; a campus just outside of Naples, Italy that serves American armed forces with an English-speaking service, and locals with a service in Italian; an accredited university in Georgetown; and weekly virtual services and special events inside eight regional correctional facilities.
Begun in 2018, the Celebration Central Austin campus nurtures university students, young professionals, and those new to Austin and looking for family. “We saw people who were like us; we moved here and didn’t know whom to have Thanksgiving with, or to do life with. When we strive to answer their needs on Sundays, they’ll know they are part of a family, a community, and they belong here,” says Lori. “Sometimes people stumble over form, but God’s message is the same for every generation. We are here to give them something alive, and relevant to them.”
Not surprisingly, the success of Celebration Central Austin has brought about the launch of a Southwest Austin campus scheduled to start services on January 19, 2020. The church is welcoming to, and hoping many will see it as a great opportunity to grow with a church from the ground up.
Pastors Joe and Lori simply want people to fall in love with their Bible because, as Lori says, “We can’t depend on one service a week to make it work. This message is for every day and what happens in Georgetown is the same message we give and the feeling we share in Italy, Africa, and Austin.”