- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 8, 2001

David Moore is not your traditional Christian broadcaster.
Sermons from the blond 47-year-old California pastor, who rides dirt bikes and skydives, are climbing the religious-radio charts not only in the Washington area, but around the country.
His philosophy is tough to argue with.
"I exist to convince as many people as possible that life is good, eternity is better, and I exist to equip them for both," he says.
Enough listeners are buying into his informally breezy sermons on family topics that his sponsor, Dallas-based Salem Communications Inc., is flying him to three of its top radio markets: Houston, New York and Washington. Here, he will speak at 7:30 p.m. tonight at Hylton Memorial Chapel in Woodbridge on "The Flake Factor."
"We all have flaky tendencies," he says. "This will be on how we can avoid that."
Sermons on flakiness are not typical fare from Americas pulpits, but Mr. Moores humorous talks, broadcast from 10 to 10:30 a.m. daily on WAVA-105.1 FM radio, attract a loyal crowd.
"You should see the commitment people have to that show," says WAVAs general sales manager, Tom Moyer. "Last year, one lady from here told him, 'I am in management and I loved your show so much, I moved our weekly meeting time at work so I could listen to your show every day."
Mr. Moores "Moore on Life" show runs on 40 of the 88 stations owned by Salem Communications. It features pithy sermons on family topics aimed toward boomer married couples. His most popular series, "Love for a Lifetime," is a collection of 18 sermons on everything from finding a balance in marriage to what to do when your spouse is having an affair.
"He asks: Is marriage easy? No. Does he have a perspective on what marriage should look like? Yes," Mr. Moyer says. "He relates biblical truth in a contemporary style."
Contemporary style is what is fueling the growth of Americas megachurches, says church-growth researcher John Vaughn of Springfield, Mo. He rates Mr. Moores congregation, Southwest Community Church of Palm Desert, Calif., one of the 25 largest congregations in the country because of its weekly attendance figures of 7,000 to 8,000 people.
About 2 million Americans attend such megachurches — which are congregations of more than 2,000 members, he says. About one-seventh of them live in California, where 364,612 people attend a megachurch. The key to growth, he says, is relating traditional views of the Bible and the Holy Spirit to peoples needs.
"The only institutions the community has to address the total needs of the family are the funeral home, the church, hospitals and the government," Mr. Vaughn says. "That is why he has to address the family."
And so Mr. Moore does, filling his sermons with anecdotes of life with his wife, Sonya, and their three children, ages 17 to 22.
"We are relational creatures and we do not tend to enjoy life unless our relationships are healthy," he says. "There is a whole lot out there (on the radio) on theology or traditional Bible teaching, but not nearly as much as how I get along with my husband, my wife and my boss. We find we get better response from that kind of programming."
Mr. Moore concentrates on one theme— family — "because I believe family is really important," he says. "It seems that people crave family. Even after two or three divorces, people get married again. Something inside us craves a connectedness."
He cites the TV show "Friends" as showing the kind of relationships Americans want.
"These are not perfect people," he says. "They have some pretty significant hang-ups, but they come together on the show and are loved and accepted unconditionally. I think the people in our culture are looking for acceptance and grace. In the traditional church, when you leave, you often feel worse than when you got there."
Mr. Moore was working as a youth minister and as an associate director for a TV show in Hollywood when the Evangelical Free Church of Palm Desert hired him 14 years ago as pastor. It had 300 members and wanted to attract more seekers to the faith, especially some of the newly wealthy people moving into the area.
Mr. Moore told the congregation to be ready for a rough ride.
"It took me two years just to change the name" to Southwest Community Church, he says. "We had to ask 30 people to leave the church. Two elders resigned. George Barna says the survival rate for a traditional church moving to a seeker-sensitive format is 1 percent."
But the congregation has since expanded to a 43-acre campus with an 85-person staff and a yearly budget of $7.5 million to $8 million. He estimates his church draws 5 percent of the population of Coachella Valley, an affluent area that also houses Indian Wells, Palm Springs and Rancho Mirage.
"The interior of the church looks like a hotel lobby," he says. "None of the religious trappings are here. When people drive by the place, it doesnt look like a church. I want the unchurched person to understand everything that is said. So the music is like what you hear elsewhere on the radio. There is an understanding that we are all fouled up and God can help you.
"The guy at the Vintage Club (a local watering hole for the rich) here is struggling with his wife and daughter just like anyone else."
Mr. Moores emphasis on family touches on a debate among evangelical Christians as to how much is enough. Currently posted on the Christianity.com Web site is an essay mourning churches embrace of what one writer terms "familianity."
"The local Christian bookstore calls itself a 'family bookstore" the essayist wrote. "The word 'family is supplanting the word 'Christian… . I often find it difficult to feel a part of a Christian community because of its over-emphasis on family. Is it the goal of Christianity to have a happy marriage and successful, celibate, drug-free kids?"
But that is what people want, Mr. Moore insists.
"People tell me they have been so wounded by their husband, wife or daughter," he says. "People are looking for how to get over that woundedness. They want to put their lives together and say life is good. People are craving significance more than success. I know this resonates with people."
Mr. Moores church ranks among the top five in attendance in his denomination, according to Evangelical Free Church officials in Minneapolis.
Mr. Moyer of WAVA says the pastor reaches many people, ages 18 to 45, who never grew up in church and who do not understand religious terminology.
Mr. Moore is not afraid to shock such people. He remembers one memorable Easter sermon when he asked his congregation, "Have you ever called someone a less-than-attractive body part?"
"For Christian radio," he says, "that was over the edge. But Jesus did the same thing. He never messed with the Pharisees and their religious games. He just says it like it is."

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