A church plant that meets in one of the theaters in a cineplex may not be big news.
Except when a church plant impacts so many millennials that it never plans to leave.
CityView Church's volunteers gather for prayer at a Phoenix cineplex prior to their Sunday morning worship.
Jeremiah Semmler and CityView Church in Phoenix have seen more than 350 people land in their theater seats and connect with the church family. Instead of watching a new release, many soon meet Jesus and become released to a new life in Christ.
“Every Sunday in the theater, more than likely there is somebody that does not know Jesus,” Semmler said. “We do not ever plan to leave the theater.”
Semmler is an Arizona native planting a church near the neighborhood where he grew up. He served for many years as a student pastor before becoming a church planter, launching CityView in September 2015.
Nsikan (pronounced n-say-ken) is one example of a millennial who has connected with Christ at CityView.
Nsikan came to the AMC movie complex to see a movie. One of CityView’s greeters went over to welcome him and his friend and invited them to church.
Semmler encouraged the two friends after worship, “If you like it here come back next week.”
Nsikan returned and first connected with CityView member Sandy and then Carol and Tim. Soon at a Panda Express, Carol shared the gospel with Nsikan and he gladly received Christ.
“I would like to get baptized,” the new brother said.
Nsikan now is one of many who has made the move from being a sit-down acquaintance to a stand-up follower of Jesus.
In a Phoenix cineplex, Jeremiah Semmler is leading CityView Church to taking root, seeking to reach people who are "looking for a community home."
Semmler understands millennials and knows how to speak their language, with 25-35-year-olds comprising the largest sector of the growing church.
“Our main focus is on people who are searching,” Semmler said. “We identify with people who are looking for a community home. One of the coolest things is to see someone on their way to the movies end up at church to give their life to Christ.”
The mission of CityView is to: Belong in community. Believe in Jesus. Become what God has called you to be.
“We accept people before they have begun a faith journey,” Semmler said. “We are OK with moving slow.”
CityView makes an impact on its community in various ways. They do a “Black Friday Outreach” sharing gift bags with retail workers who have to work during the holidays. They provide support for Park Meadows Elementary School’s students and teachers, including helping paint and fix up the school. The church also serves in first responders care for the local police, supports foster care ministry and has a women’s ministry to local strippers.
Semmler has worked in overdrive to build the church plant’s ministry teams.
“We have removed the word ‘volunteer’ in our ministry,” he said. “Instead, we use the word ‘team member.’ Team members take ownership.”
CityView has established a culture of leadership development with a pathway for “team leaders” to become “area leaders” and eventually move into “director” responsibility, expanding their influence in each role, with more than half the church now involved in service.
CityView Church may decide to move to a different location in the next 10 or 15 years. Or this “Church at the Box Office” might stay. With big vision, they are aiming to venture anew into church planting in the next few years.
Stay tuned for the sequel.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Dave Arden is a freelance writer and church planter catalyst for the North American Mission Board in Phoenix.)