By Cole Smith
“The church is in the city hall?” “The whole service is online? I do not want to watch tv for church.” These are common reactions to Birmingham campus of Auburn Community Church (ACC), also known as ACC BHAM. Around a thousand people meet weekly on Sunday mornings in Homewood City Hall to watch the livestream of Auburn Community Church. This began during the Covid-19 pandemic, when most churches started using livestreams. A group of individuals met up in Birmingham to watch ACC’s service, and over the past two years, the small group transformed into two different gatherings in the function room of a government building.Each is filled with people worshipping God while watching a livestream of a service over a hundred miles away. ACC is about eight years old and has become one of the fastest growing churches in the southeast. May people wonder why, but it comes down to one answer: the desperate pursuit of Jesus.
Combating Cultural Christianity
One of the biggest objectives of ACC and ACC BHAM and ACC is to combat cultural Christianity. You may be asking, “what is cultural Christianity?” Well, in the southeast is it common to believe that you’re a Christian because it is a family trait, or because you attend weekly services. This means that people are living lives that worship sin as well as God. Jesus is very clear in Matthew 6 when he says you cannot serve two masters. Thus, ACC insists that those who worship Jesus, yet do not abandon their sinful lifestyles need to change. Their lifestyles may be ones that refuse to give up sinful practices, such as drunkenness and sexual immorality. Given their locations, ACC and ACC BHAM reach many college students. They are located near Auburn University, Samford University, and the University of Alabama at Birmingham. This means that a majority of their congregation consists of students. These college students have a hard time with cultural Christianity because of how they were raised, and the behaviors that have been regular or condoned their whole life. This church has addressed this matter boldly. The worship and spoken word is very convicting. There is no sugar-coating at Auburn Community Church. ACC has felt the need to raise disciples of Christ who live lives of worship. Leaders insist that our love for Jesus should make sin unappealing. The transformation that has occurred in the lives of hundreds, even thousands, of college students has been so encouraging to me. This is not because of any staff member, or any church order, but simply because of the Holy Spirit and this church’s obedience to God.
This church was built upon prayer. Since the beginning of ACC, prayer has been the norm. Many churches have lost the importance of prayer because it has been numbed down to a transition between different parts of worship, a way to move the service along. That is not the case for ACC. On both campuses, Auburn and Birmingham, there is a heavy emphasis on prayer to invite and ask God to move in power.
The heart to volunteer is evident at ACC. Each Sunday, before the services start, all of the volunteers will gather in the auditorium. This time together starts with whoever is preaching getting in front of the volunteers and going over announcements and a brief summary of the sermon. After this, there is a decent amount of time spent in prayer. The volunteers spread out all over the room and posture themselves to ask God to move and to have his way. This moment is ended with a volunteer or staff member closing the moment with a prayer, To do this he or she will use a microphone so they can be heard. The teams are then separated to their different groups: production team, parking team, nursery team, and others. All the groups are present for the briefing and prayer. The attitude of prayer helps posture hearts, and also teaches the people that prayer is powerful. The idea of prayer, I believe, has been watered down in many present-day churches and ministries. I have been encouraged by the prayer life that is consistent at Auburn Community Church, and this prayer life is evident in the people even outside of the walls of the building.
Confession through Communion
The way Christian churches observe Holy Communion varies widely; at ACC, Communion is a more individualistic and intimate time with God. It is the church’s habit to have Communion at every Sunday service. When congregants enter on Sunday mornings, volunteers are holding baskets filled sealed disposable packets with bread and grape juice. If congregants forget to grab the elements, they can get them from volunteers who walking around distributing them. The moment of Communion will be set up by whoever is preaching. The preacher common explains it as a time for each person individually to “do business with God.” This includes responding to how God is speaking to you, praying over your family, and even confessing and repentance. I have attended a variety of churches, and I can say that this way of Communion is more intimate. During Communion will be an underscore from the keys player, nothing distracting, and the congregants will either be silent or participating in quiet, still prayer. This will go on for about two to three minutes as congregants are pressing into their relationships with the Lord. After a few minutes, the worship leader will invite people to stand, when they are ready, and there will be a response song or two.
Many times, when a church is growing at the rate of Auburn Community Church, and has multiple campuses, people will look to what the church is “doing well” or what they can implement to see more growth. That should not be the attitude, as all churches are one with one goal to advance the kingdom. However, what ACC is doing is most notable is its obedience to a simple command form God: “pray.” The desire and pursuit of God by this church is evident, and the want for God to show and move is clear. It is amazing how when we actually yearn for God and seek him, he shows up.
Auburn Community Church (BHAM)
Address: 2850 19th Street South, Homewood, AL 35209 (Rosewood Hall)
Services Observed: March 19, March 26, and April 2, 2023
Video Archives: https://www.youtube.com/@auburncommunitychurch
Church established: 2014
Birmingham campus established: 2021
Cole Smith ’24 was a student in Christian Worship: History and Theology in Samford University’s Department of Biblical and Religious Studies in spring 2023.
Published April 29, 2023