A Religious Experience

We wanted to know: What do Coloradans believe?

April 2012

Christianity according to...

Scott Nickellteaching pastor, Flatirons Community Church, flatironschurch.com

If church attendance is down across the country, you wouldn’t know it to see the people filing into Lafayette-based Flatirons Community Church. Each Sunday the nondenominational church welcomes 14,000 congregants through its doors. Scott Nickell, the church’s teaching pastor for the past six years, thinks Flatirons has figured out a method to deliver the Christian message in a way that speaks to a 21st-century audience. Here, Nickell talks about megachurches, the message, and religion in Colorado.

— We don’t like the word megachurch—although we understand our numbers put us in that category—because the concept has the connotation that we’re here to conquer a city, to swallow everyone in our path, instead of to tend to a city and offer our services.

— There are a lot of assumptions about so-called megachurches—that they’re too big to be challenging to their congregations. I just don’t think that’s always true. And I know it’s not true here.

— People in the church world have a tendency to want to continue to use methods that may have worked at one time—say in the 1950s—but may not work now. We want to keep the message the same, but we know that the methods of delivery must change.

— We work out of an old Wal-Mart; we don’t use a lot of religious iconography; we play loud, secular music; and we avoid flowery religious language. But we’re not trying to be fashionable, and we’re not trying to be relevant because what Jesus said is always relevant. We’re just being intentional about making this a comfortable place for people to come in and take part.

— Our motto is: “Me too.” Meaning we don’t rank sins. We’re all sinners. You messed up? Well, guess what, me too.

— Here in Colorado, religion is not a compulsion like it is in the Bible Belt. In a way, reaching people here is easier than in places where they might have a lot of religious baggage. We’re often starting fresh with people here.

— Mainline churches tend to talk a lot about grace, but don’t talk about the truth. Or they’re all about the truth and offer no grace. Here’s what I mean: Grace means that we’ve all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The response to grace is not to try to be good enough because, well, you can’t be good enough—and it wouldn’t even matter because God has already forgiven you. When I say truth, that means learning how you should respond to grace.