ADAMS TWP — The newest church here is called iChurch. If that name sounds different, that’s just the way its pastor, the Rev. Ben Rath, wants it.
The iChurch, which meets at 10 a.m. Sunday in the Mars High School auditorium and had its first service Sept. 30, sees its mission as making people more accessible to God.
“We don’t want to have a worship service, we want a worship experience,” said Rath. “It’s not semantics. Every Sunday someone could have an enounter with God. Everyone on the launch team — usher, singer, child’s ministry — can create accessibility to that.”
“People come with all sorts of boundaries to God. Our job is to break those boundaries,” said Rath.
While iChurch is nondenominational, “to be clear, we are not compromising the message or the truths of the Bible. Let there be no doubt about it, we are firmly grounded in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but our goal, our approach is to remove the barriers people have felt about attending church,”said Rath.
Rath, who grew up in Butler, graduated from Portersville Christian Academy and was ordained through Champion Life Church in Chippewa, Pa., has been working since February to launch his church: raising money and seeking a location.
It hasn’t been easy. Rath and his wife, Alicia, have three children: Danica, 6; Landon, 3; and Arianna, 11 months. He also works as a project manager for a Pittsburgh firm.
Rath said he has been working with the Association of Related Churches, a Birmingham, Ala.-based organization that starts churches across the country.
It provides the training, relationships and funding to get churches off the ground, said Rath.
He said there were betweeen 20 and 30 local people working on the team to get iChurch off the ground.
“We are a church-planting organization,” said Sean Clarke, director of development for ARC.
He said ARC, which has established 296 successful churches in its 11-year history, helps fledging churches with training and financial resources.
Clarke said it is largely word of mouth that brings ministers looking to start a church to ARC.
“What’s the Chick-Fil-A slogan? You get better and people will demand you get bigger,” said Clarke.
“We love the ARC. They will plant between 50 and 80 churches this year,” Rath said. “They’ve planted 300 churches in 20 years. The success rate of new churches is 50 percent after five years. ARC’s success rate is 93 percent after five years.”
Publicizing the iChurch through social media sites, yard signs and a large mailing, the iChurch drew 160 to its first service and 100 to its second, Rath said.
Rath feels his church can fill a need in the Mars area.
“There are lots of unchurched people in this community,” he said.
Meeting at Mars High School isn’t a drawback, Rath said, in fact it’s an advantage.
As far as Rath is concerned, “normal” church was not working.
“We said, ‘Let’s change things up. God can use us to do church differently,’” said Rath. “For starters, let’s break down some of the perceptions about church and meet on neutral ground, a place that doesn’t feel like church as usual.”
“We have a full kids’ and family ministry going on during the main services. There’s an upstairs lobby area used for the kid’s ministry,” said Rath. “I wish I could go back and go to the kids church.”
“We are going on a month-to-month approach as long as it works for us,” said Rath. “There’s a great advantage to being portable, there’s no overhead, no mortgage.”
“Serving on our team, the goal is to go out and reach people and turn them into disciples,” said Rath.
“It’s a call to be the church, not just go to church,” Rath said. “That’s why we call it iChurch, I am the church.”