City Guide: Atlanta

Matthew ThompsonBy Matthew ThompsonSeptember 14, 201917 Minutes

A true melting pot of cultures, Atlanta is a big city with a small-town feel. With southern hospitality and charm, the city gives off a vibe that tends to be more relaxed and friendly than other places. Despite the traffic and MARTA issues, people are drawn to the mouth-watering soul food, beautiful greenery and booming job market. Coupled with a low cost-of-living, this has resulted in a big population bump for the larger Atlanta metro recently. Surprisingly, this population rise hasn’t impacted the church scene much. Despite being in the middle of the South and having a few big megachurches in the area, Atlanta is actually very secular. This narrative is changing, though. In our time in Atlanta, we discovered a wave of churches that have been turning people’s hearts, in particular, millennials. With Jesus as the main story, these places are creating captivating environments that aren’t found anywhere else.

Inviting all humans to become awake to God

Over the last 10 years, Grace Midtown has been a huge blessing to the city of Atlanta. When you step inside their doors, it doesn’t take long to feel the tangible presence of God. By modeling their church after the early church in the book of Acts, they’ve built a community that so deeply captures the heart of Jesus. With excellent teaching, intimate worship, a deep sense of community and a commitment to building up the city of Atlanta, countless lives have been transformed through their church.

Since the beginning, their church has been made up of smaller “house churches” that meet regularly throughout the week to share meals, worship and read the Bible. In using Acts 2:42-47 as a marker for how to live in community and build relationships, it’s created an environment where as one member put it, “you’re not allowed to go through anything alone”. By choosing to vulnerably and fully love one another, house churches are a place to establish an inner circle of friends that will support you through the rollercoasters of life and help you go deeper in your faith.

In addition to house churches, their worship culture will often leave you in awe. Their approach is raw and stripped down, which has cultivated an environment where all the focus is put on God. By leaving so much room for the Spirit of God to move, people are experiencing God in ways they never have before. As a result, it has created a hunger for more. A few years after Grace Midtown started, the Housefires worship movement was born out of this same essence. As people were worshipping in house churches, songs organically flowed out of those gatherings. It’s often times in the unexpected where God does his greatest work, which is what we love so much about Housefires. In the years that have followed, their songs have been sung by thousands of churches across the country and reached millions more online.

Living for the renewal of Atlanta

In 2013, Seattle-based pastors Phil and Emily Manginelli started to sense a calling from God to plant a church. Unaware of where that might be, they started falling in love with Atlanta. After much thought and prayer, the Manginellis left Seattle and moved down South to plant The Square. In the months and years that followed is a rollercoaster of a story that has produced one of the most authentic communities throughout Atlanta.

From the beginning, the church established an intimate and close-knit group of people dedicated to doing life together. What began in a living room and a garage has grown into a blossoming church of 600 people in Smyrna. The Square not only has created space for people across the spiritual spectrum to feel comfortable going to church, but they’ve helped believers navigate how to be a Christian in our current cultural context. One member said of the church, “Real people, genuine leadership, incredible worship, powerful messages, true community, safe place to grow.”

The Passion Movement

The roots of Passion City Church began in 1997 when Louie and Shelley Giglio hosted the first Passion Conference in Austin for college students. What followed over the course of the next 10 years was nothing short of an act of God. Over 70,000 college students ended up attending the conferences. In 2008, Pastors Louie and Shelley felt compelled to start a local church, with the DNA of the Passion Movement. And on February 15, 2009, the first gathering was born.

Passion’s goal is not just to get people to church, rather it’s all about who people meet when they show up at church: Jesus. It’s through this experience where so many people’s lives have been transformed. One member said that, “the city of Atlanta is truly blessed to have this church”, while another said that “their love & dedication to God is powerful, moving and so awesomely contagious”. In recent years, Passion has really focused on creating a space for people to develop community. Through community groups, their big church is made small.

On Sundays, you’ll find packed gatherings across their locations in Cumberland and near Piedmont Heights. Pastor Louie breaks things down in a way that’s practical, relevant and applicable to everyday life. The honesty and authenticity that he brings to the stage will really connect with you on a human level. In addition to the preaching, members have called the worship experience that’s led by the Passion Music team “touching” and “world class”.

Bringing the Kingdom to North Atlanta

As Grace Midtown grew over the years, a group of people felt called to start meeting up north in Marietta. What began as a house church quickly blossomed into a thriving local church called Grace Marietta. With a similar DNA to Midtown, the church has two gatherings on Sundays, but then regularly meets throughout homes during the week. They believe that church should be simple and that life in the kingdom of God is beautiful, best experienced together. In the last few years, the church has built a diverse group of house churches comprised of different stages of life, including young professionals, young families and post grads.

Finding your next church home

Over the last decade, this move of churches has been repairing old wounds that Atlantans have from their religious roots. They’re awakening an entire generation to the love of God and helping people experience an incredible transformation. What we find to be beautiful is that they all have a slightly different take in terms of style. You’ll have to decide what the best fit is for you at this point in your life. Our invitation to you is to taste and see what life can be like if you sow into one of these local churches.

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