Adam Hamilton On How to Reach Thinking People, Planting One of The Largest Mainline Churches in The World, And How Tradition and Innovation Can Co-Exist

April 4, 2019

By Carey Nieuwhof

Adam Hamilton planted a mainline church 28 years ago. The goal was to reach thinking people who are skeptical of Christianity. His church quickly became one of the largest and fastest growing mainline churches in the world.

In a wide-ranging interview, Adam talks about the strategy behind Church of the Resurrection, how tradition and modern expressions of worship can live together in the same church, and how he’s stayed fresh over almost 3 decades of leadership.

Welcome to Episode 226 of the podcast. Listen and access the show notes below or search for the Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts and listen for free.


1.  The gospel never changes, but the church’s delivery should

Adam collects computers. His prized Macintosh 512 is thirty-three years old and serves as a reminder to him of how important it is for the church to minister to a constantly changing society.

Apple created an incredible product three decades ago but had the company decided to stop there, it wouldn’t be in business today. Apple is constantly looking at change. The average church hasn’t been remodeled in 30 years. The average church’s worship hasn’t changed in thirty years. The message of the gospel will never change, but, like Apple, the church should continuously look for ways to improve how to deliver this message in an ever-changing world.

2. First-time visitor follow up goes further than many churches realize

Many churches stay away from following up with a first-time visitor. We live in a culture where people cling to privacy, so I get where the fear of coming on too strong and repelling guests who could one day become regulars comes from.

But the fact is when you have a someone new attend your church you need to follow up with them and you need to have a great plan in place so that it’s done with excellence. I had another great conversation about this topic with Christine Birch if you want to take a listen to CCLP 013.

Adam describes his church’s personal approach and although it certainly doesn’t seem like a go-to 2018 method, it’s one they’ve used for years and still works today. A few hours after morning services, a first-time guest will receive a personal knock on the door. When the door opens, a volunteer from Church of the Resurrection is holding a coffee mug, a sincere message thanking them for coming that morning and an invitation to come back. Now, that’s making quite an effort to let people know they matter. And guess what, they receive NO pushback. Amazing.

3. Use art and architecture as tools to show the transcendence of God

When Church of the Resurrection built their permanent sanctuary in 2017, they wanted a building that preached a sermon, architecturally, to everyone entering the room before a word was ever spoken – A place for people to be in awe and feel the transcendence of God. 

Adam is observing within his community that people are longing for an encounter with the holy, transcendent God, while at the same time experiencing the nearness and the connection with the God who is personal, who cares and knows them by name. Art and architecture are two ways his church intentionally explores this need. Pictured above is a magnificent example, The Resurrection Window. You can read more about it here.

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Leadership Development