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New Church Follows Relaxed Theme

DALLAS -- In the great garden of faith, Ben Bauman has planted a new church. His first service was last Sunday.

DALLAS -- In the great garden of faith, Ben Bauman has planted a new church. His first service was last Sunday.

"I think it went really well. We had a rock band," Bauman said, laughing.

Bauman wants the church to be approachable and relaxed. He calls it "Come As You Are"

"We're trying to appeal to a younger audience and to people who aren't necessarily familiar with church. Our tag line is `Discovering God's dream together,'" Bauman said.

"We know some people believe in God but don't like organized religion. To that I say: We're a baby church. So we aren't very organized yet.

"And, well, we aren't that into religion either - we just want to move toward God."

The new church's web site says "We like to keep it simple," and even the church's name bears that out. It is called, simply, Dallas Church.

It aims for the kind of hip sensibility that is sprouting up in Evangelical Churches across the country and making it the fastest-growing religious movement in the United States.

The idea is to attract young people who don't really want to attend their parents' church. Who'd like to hear more rock and less Brahms.

A recent waterfront music festival in Salem provided a perfect example of the new evangelical movement in the United States: borrowing from pop culture to reshape the message from consumerism and sex to God.

A quick internet visit to www.dallaschurch.org

illustrates its vibe and how it varies from the traditional conservative Christian church.

There are photos that could grace the cover of a Rascal Flats CD and a tag line at the bottom stating: "Jesus + Bible + Chicken = Church."

The county rock analogy is apropos, given Bauman's background. He lived in Dallas until the fourth grade, when his family moved to McMinnville. While in high school there he met his future wife, Jackie, and started exploring music.

He and Jackie attended college in Idaho, then headed to Nashville where Bauman pursued a songwriting career.

"I got there just before Napster hit, and the music business was literally changed over night. I had a pretty good career going there, but the music scene was suddenly a lot different.

"Then I got word that a friend was planting a church in Seattle. We jumped on board. I figured with my music background and degree (in divinity) I could at least be a service pastor. A few years later that church (called CommonGround Church) was well-established and I was asked to plant one closer to where I grew up," Bauman said.

He and Jackie made another big move and found themselves back home.

Bauman isn't alone. He is assisted by Mike Miller, the outreach pastor, and Becky Nicol, the children's pastor.

Nicol's father is the senior pastor at Monmouth Christian Church, and the Dallas Church, Bauman says on its internet site, is "a daughter church of Monmouth Christian Church."

Bauman shies away from labels. In particular, he doesn't like the term "conservative" much, but he accepts it.

"We are a nondenominational, evangelical, conservative Christian church ... we use the New Testament ... if you have to use buzzwords, I think those cover it," Bauman said.

"We don't want to put people off. We want to be respectful of them and their time. We want to allow people to take small steps toward God."

The Dallas Church meets from 10 to 11 a.m. on Sundays at Whitworth Elementary School.

For more information: Mike Miller, 971-239-9700; Ben Bauman, 503-508-2001; or www.dallaschurch.org.

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