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Thousands flock to mega-church

Despite a handful of protesters outside the Christian Faith Center campus on Sunday, the first service at the new mega-church went on without a hitch.

More than 7,000 people total showed up for the 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. services on Sept. 2. Federal Way police officers directed traffic.

They traveled from afar. A random sampling of churchgoers revealed people from Bremerton, Tacoma, Seattle and Las Vegas.

“For God, I’d go across the world,” said Landa Metz, who traveled from Bremerton for the 11:30 a.m. service Sunday.

Mimi Mcreynolds and her husband, Brett, traveled from Las Vegas to participate in the first service at Christian Faith Center. The couple had been members of the church’s SeaTac campus before moving to Vegas six months ago.

“It’s so beautiful,” Mcreynolds said. “It’s very exciting, like anything that’s brand new.”

Church officials were pleasantly surprised by the large turnout, said Debbie Willis, a Christian Faith Center board member.

“We’re going to find enough room. They might sit on children’s ministry chairs, but they’ll have a seat,” Willis said, looking toward the lines of people waiting for an usher to cue them where to sit.

The first service in Federal Way drew nearly twice as many people as a typical service at the former campus in SeaTac did, Willis said.

“It’s just beautiful and it’s so fun to see all the people,” she said.

Willis pointed to one church member that the congregation is particularly proud of — Seattle Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander.

Alexander wrote a song celebrating the church’s first service and spoke to the congregation.

“We will change the world with this church,” Alexander said.

Pastor Casey Treat asked that churchgoers not solicit Alexander for autographs. He is family, Treat said.

Treat spoke about the victory of finally opening the church after eight years of hard work and facing opposition from city council members and neighbors.

Throughout Treat’s talk, the crowd of more than 3,000 burst into passionate applause.

The opening of the new church is just the beginning of Treat’s vision, he said. He and his wife, Wendy Treat, hope to start a national and international television program to reach a worldwide audience.

The Christian Faith Center way of teaching is a bit different from traditional churches, Willis said. Services are informal.

“We are spiritual, but we are not religious,” she said. “We teach practical teaching for everyday life... We laugh. We have fun.”

Obviously, the church is doing something that appeals to lots of people, Willis said, beckoning to the huge crowd gathered on Sunday. She noted that the church draws members from 75 different birth countries.

Treat’s teachings did not appeal to about 10 protesters who picketed outside the church on Sunday.

“We do not believe that Christian Faith Center represents the true gospel of Jesus Christ,” said Mark, who declined to give his last name. “We believe in following the Bible... Casey Treat cherry-picks Scripture and he twists it.”

Lazaro Lopez said he was protesting because he believes Casey Treat is duping his congregation into making him rich. He noted Treat’s luxury vehicles and frequent helicopter rides.

“He’s always commanding people to give more and more,” Lopez said.

The church itself, with 219,000 square feet, huge video projections and high-quality music equipment, is another example of overspending, Lopez said.

“Big power music bands, that’s not in the Bible,” he said.

Lopez said he feels sorry for the church members who struggle to make ends meet while donating money to Treat’s material excess.

“Unfortunately,” he said, “There’s people that get rich off of Christianity.”

Inside the church, Treat and the congregation laughed at the protesters.

“Thank you Jesus,” Treat shouted. “Persecution.”

Contact Margo Horner: mhorner@fedwaymirror.com or (253) 925-5565.

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