Gene Appel proves there IS life after Willow Creek.
According to the Orange County Register:
A sprawling building once devoted to the science of flight was rededicated Sunday with another reach-toward-the-sky purpose: as one of the largest churches in north Orange County.
Eastside Christian Church paid $20 million for the former Boeing site and an additional $35 million to replace the office cubicles and test floors with concert lighting, a thundering sound system and 1,800 seats. The building reopened with a prayer – “Do mighty works in this room.” – and a pastor’s promise.
“Friends, there will only ever be one sign on the door at this church,” senior pastor Gene Appel told the congregation on Sunday, with almost every one of those seats filled. “It’s this,” he said as he held up a welcome mat.
And then he announced another expansion. The church plans to launch a Spanish-language ministry in the spring, led by Mexican rock musician-turned-preacher Hector Hermosillo.
Eastside has seen explosive growth in the past few years that helped push it from its longtime home in Fullerton. Around 3,500 people now attend its services on an average weekend.
Many credit Appel, who arrived at Eastside in 2008 with a kicked-back style (he preaches in jeans and an untucked shirt) and lessons drawn from his own life. He told the congregation on Sunday that the church is there for the “Hurricane Sandys that come along in our lives.” And he joked that the screen behind him – 20 feet tall and 38 feet wide – “has Super Bowl party written all over it.”
The church bought 20 acres of old Boeing property in northeast Anaheim, near Anaheim Lake, mostly with donations from the congregation and the sale of its old Fullerton church.
Other interesting facts:
The renovations: An 1,800-seat auditorium, classrooms, a nursery and children’s area, a cafe and small bookstore, a lounge area, and meeting places. Also 275 new trees, 13,000 new shrubs and bushes, and an outdoor play area
The plan: The church plans to lease out most of a six-story building also on the property, possibly for stores, offices or a restaurant.