It's fair to say that – at least in Charlotte – it's not news when a church opens. But a new church in Huntersville is doing something different to get young people in the door. It's using hip-hop to deliver its message.
GeneratiONE Church doesn’t look like your average church.
There are no Bibles in the pews. In fact, there are no pews, just rows of black folding chairs. The chairs face a small stage set up with an elaborate sound system -- and it doesn’t sound much like church either.
DJ: "We're at GeneratiONE, the hip hop church!"
Chorus: "Hey! Ho! Hip-Hop! Hurray! Ho … "
A singer-slash-DJ leads part of the service, then, turns it over to Pastor Quinn Rodgers. He takes the stage to greet a crowd of about 75 people – most of them are African-Americans in their twenties and thirties.
"How many of you are happy to be in the House of the Lord? I know it's hot outside, but it's still cool in here. Amen! And so we're going to worship God in our own way," Rodgers says.
It’s a Saturday evening and Rodgers is wearing a black t-shirt with the church logo, tracksuit bottoms and Air Jordans. It’s a far cry from the suit and tie he’ll wear the next morning to preach at the Chapel Hill Missionary Baptist church in Huntersville.
"You know how we do it at GeneratiONE … So I want you to worship God … if you like taking your shoes off and running around or throwing your hands in the air or waving them like you just don't care … have at it! Amen."
GeneratiONE is laid back. And that’s what 23-year-old Taryn Beamish is looking for. She claps loudly and waves her hands in the air with everyone else.
"I really prefer hip-hop over other kinds of music," Beamish says. "It just touches me a different way, I can't explain it."
Beamish is visiting from northern Virginia. She loves the service and hopes some of this will work in her church back home.
"I'm trying to get more of the youth involved," she says. "And get them to see there's other ways to worship than just twiddling your thumbs and like, 'Oh I can't wait for church to be over with!'"
Beamish, like a lot of people here, came because she was curious. Several are regular church-goers, but are looking for something different. Rodgers hopes GeneratiONE will also attract more people who have given up on church or those who have never set foot in one.
"The idea came from prayer and thinking about the culture and the context for which we live in and understanding that this generation needed something fresh -- needed something unique and God through the Holy Spirit spoke this expression of the body of Christ," Rodgers says.
He grew up on classic hip-hop like A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul. He knows hip-hop has a rough side to it, but take that out, and he says it can be a good way to bring people to Christianity.
Damiko Faulkner was energized after the service. He actually preaches at another church, but welcomed the change of pace.
"I thoroughly enjoyed it," Faulkner says. "Music was very uplifting. Long story short, I needed that. It was consistent [compared to last week], which was a good thing. Still very open, still very casual and that's what I'm looking for."
Sure, the hip-hop makes the service different, but there are still a lot of elements of a traditional worship service. Rodgers reads from the Bible, he asks people to bow their heads in prayer and when he hands the mic to a singer, she begins with a classic praise song, "Lord I Lift Your Name On High."
But it quickly transitions to a hip-hop beat.
"Come on, put your hands up together," the DJ shouts. "We didn't come to be entertained! We came to lift the name of Jesus higher!"