Cinemark Theater in Melrose Park, which will host Empowerment Church on Sundays starting March 27. | Cinematreasures.org
Thursday, March 24, 2016 || By Michael Romain
Starting this weekend, a trip to Cinemark in Melrose Park will mean more than an afternoon matinee. This upcoming Easter Sunday, Proviso Township’s newest congregation, Empowerment Church, will host its first service inside of the multiplex.
Theodore Matthews, the church’s founding lead pastor, is a former minister at Rock of Ages Baptist Church in Maywood and has served in other religious capacities. He said he started the church to fill a local need that he believed isn’t being substantially addressed in an area that’s already saturated with churches.
“We see a lot of buildings, but the question that arises is, are there still people who are not being reached and who will not come into a ‘traditional’ environment, but who may be willing to try something different,” he said in a recent interview.
Matthews said his church would cater to people who may have been hurt during past church encounters.
“The local church was designed to be the place where lost can be found, where the broken can healed and the wounded can be restored. Empowerment Church is a place of love, a place of hope and a place restoration.”
Empowerment started out of a weekly Bible study group that met each Thursday night in River Forest, said the 20-something-year-old. Matthews, a Maywood native, graduated from Walther Lutheran High School (now Walther Christian Academy).
“What prompted me to start Empowerment Church was an undeniable calling through a burden placed on my heart to see people reached, lives restored and generations impacted through the message of hope found in Jesus Christ,” he said.
“Our commitment is to not just being a church in the community but a church for the community, so we have a strong focus on outreach and having multi-generational impact.”
The married father of one outlined his church’s main avenues of influence and detailed some of the outreach programs community members might anticipate.
“Some important aspects of the church’s mission would be community outreach, and empowering individuals and their families with the tools necessary live lives of promise and hope,” he said.
Matthews noted that the church plans to hold seminars, empowerment sessions and a summer fest in the near future. He also said that the church would partner with local and national organizations “to serve the under-served.” The Saturday before the inaugural service, the church will host an Easter Egg Hunt.
Another point of emphasis — modernity.
Empowerment is a “church that redefines what modern society has made the church out to be,” according to the statement online.
That partly means services that are “90 minutes or less,” welcome teams sporting blue “Ask Me” t-shirts as parishioners and guests file into the movie theater, a familiar “radio” song playing softly over the sound system before the service begins and, perhaps the biggest break with convention, a lot less pressure on attendees during offering.
“We’ve all heard it said before, ‘The church just wants my money.’ At Empowerment there is no pressure to give in any of our services,” the church statement notes.
“In fact, if you’re our guest please don’t feel any obligation to give — the service is our gift to you. There will be a time during our services where we will receive an offering in accordance to what scripture teaches and we encourage those who believe in Empowerment Church and consider themselves to be a part of the Empowerment Family to continually support the mission of the church with their giving.”
Those who do give, however, may prefer to do so online, the statement notes. VFP
Empowerment’s first service, and all subsequent Sunday services, will be held March 27, 10 AM, at Cinemark Theater, 1001 W. North Ave., in Melrose Park. For more information on the church, click here.
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