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Jacksonville church named one of fastest-growing churches in U.S.

Pastor Jason Brinker/First Baptist Jacksonville

Just five years ago, growth at First Baptist Church in Jacksonville had plateaued. This year, the church made Outreach Magazine’s annual list of the 100 Fastest Growing Churches in the United States. Amanda Greene of Wilmington Faith and Values explains how it and six other N.C. churches on the list grew so quickly.

When Pastor Jason Brinker arrived at the 124-year-old church four years ago, his look - blue jeans and an 8-inch goatee - didn’t exactly mesh with the suit-and-tie crowds at church on Sundays.  To attract Jacksonville’s Marine Corps population, Brinker says he knew they needed to become more relevant – less about rules and more about helping families connect with Jesus.

And many of the N.C. churches on Outreach’s list have done similar things including sermon series on pop culture topics or adding multiple campuses so people don’t have to travel as far.

The survey by Lifeway Research also included other fast-growing churches in Arden, Charlotte, Durham and Greensboro, with a combined attendance of more than 30,000 people.

Brinker says adding sites is First Baptist’s next move – three new campuses near Jacksonville in the next five years.   So far the changes have worked, growing from about 950 to 3,000 worshippers attending three contemporary and one traditional service each weekend.

Amanda Greene posts for Wilmington Faith and Values.