I’m visiting churches again. Visited one this past Sunday. Some thoughts follow.
Sermon, by the lead pastor, whom I know quite well to be a real solid Christian, was entirely applicational: the original meaning was completely bypassed. But by evangelical standards, it might be considered a pretty expository sermon. It was full of anecdotes; story about a wonderful lady who recently passed away; story about a new born from an elder. The stories were added toward the halfway point of the sermon, and thereafter present throughout. Also present were some traces of apologetic about the historical reliability of the Bible. Added other verses to support his point.
Thorough discipleship process: they’ve accepted the fact that people will compartmentalize church, so they make sure the time they spent at church was well worth it, well planned, and purposeful. They have inserts about bible reading, and have not only membership classes but also training classes that last for longer stretch of weeks, and going through a small and foolproof theology textbook. It’s not seeking to change the way people arrange their schedule, but work within that constraint to try to change them from within, I think. The choice of the text – by a famous and famously boring theologian – is telling: they seek to be solid, simple, and lowest-common-denominator without being sloppy. The question of theological method is completely lacking, probably a question not worth asking from their perspective.
The idea of receiving prayer is a creative way to transform the “walking the dusty road” strand of the revivalist past, however, however tangential and thrice-derivative that was. The way they carry it out suggests the objectivity of a liturgical element. The subjective feel one gets from “receiving prayer” is now performed objectively, like the lord’s supper. It takes away the self-centered notion of conversion, and focuses instead on human weaknesses and communal prayer. Quite a good idea, actually.
Speaking of lord’s supper: they don’t actually do it during the sunday service. They do it in their community nights. This is another departure from the tradition. It makes one take a second look, and perhaps with a bit of discomfort. But after thinking about it, doing lord’s supper on sunday isn’t a requirement (even though it is a presupposition of sorts). And that way they can make the service something less: and in so doing, they can focus on the seekers. The real deal takes place during community nights.
Very beautiful location. The building had just been renovated. Everything is well-cared for and well-attended to. Childcare, parking, donuts, coffee, bookshelves, etc.