(This blog series is not intended to be a critique of the churches
we visit, but rather an expression of our observances and how they
relate to our quest. We recognize the fact that each and every church
we visit belong to Christ and His glory is on display to some measure
in each one. We also realize there are no perfect churches and we all
rely on Jesus to clothe us with His righteousness.)
Yesterday was week three of the tour. Diversity has been the theme in summarizing these past few weeks. Week one was a medium size church, week 2 was a very large church, and this week we visited a small church in a country town. When we walked in to the foyer, we were greeted by a couple of people, but not immediately. I guess some would find that a negative, but for me personally, I would rather not be "targeted" as greeting ministries often do. I was, however, appreciative that the two people were sensitive to the fact that we were visiting and took the time to inquire. Let me add that they were not official greeters, just a couple of alert members. At 10:20 we decided to find our seats in the auditorium as we waited for the 10:30 start time. The pastor greeted us as he walked in and talked to us for a few minutes. He explained that the service would be a little different because the town was celebrating "Founders Day" with a festival and many of the church members were working there or had been all weekend to raise funds for the summer mission trip.
As it turned out, there were about 96 in attendance which was about 60-70 short of a normal Sunday I'm told. You wouldn't have thought so during the music as the band played. It seemed like there was near 100% participation in the worship time because so many were singing around us as we sang some familiar tunes like Blessed be the Name, Awesome is the Lord, and Your Grace is Enough. The worship leader and the band did an awesome job in leading us and you I didn't sense anything but a humble spirit from them! Tina really enjoyed it because she always felt like she stuck out when she sang at our old church. Yesterday, she could belt out the songs and blend in with everyone. One thing I appreciate about the churches yesterday and last week was the volume of the music. They really pumped it up and in doing so allowed everyone to really sing without self-consciousness. I wonder if the reason people don't participate in some of our modern churches is because the volume of the band is too low? Hmm. Maybe.
The pastor gave a short message that I think was intended to be shorter, but I got the feeling he had more to say than intended and went longer than planned. He spoke from Matthew 5 about Jesus calling us to be salt and light and applied the message in a practical sense by the opportunity to be salt and light in the small community that gathered for the festival only a couple of blocks outside their door that day. In fact, the church was in charge of trash duty at the festival which the Pastor pointed out was compatible with taking on the lowest form of servanthood. I was especially moved when he reminded us that Jesus would be at the festival probably picking up people's trash as well. It challenged me to find ways to serve others while I'm in this downtime between jobs.
We really felt we met with God yesterday which is the most important thing, but I would be remiss if I didn't mention a couple things that I would have liked to see improved. First, the service didn't start on time. The start time was supposed to be 10:30 but it was somewhere between 10:35 and 10:40 before it started. In defense of the church, they are in a laid back country town and the church reflects that which is often a refreshing attribute. My personal preference is if you have a start time then you should stick to it. Now as far as a stop time? No guarantees there! : )
Next, there was a little inconsistency with the media as there were different fonts from one slide to another and often we were on the wrong slide. Not a huge deal, but distracting none the less. By the way, it has nothing to do with being a small church because there were similar issues with the media at the large church last week too. In fact, I went to a Worship Leader's Conference a couple of summers ago and THEY were having issues with it! Sometimes, the leader improvises (I was rightly accused of that so many times ), but most of the time a little preparation will go a long way.
Again, these distractions were minor but might have been major to someone who is new and isn't familiar with the songs being played.
On a positive note, communion was offered after the message while the band played one more song and I happen to know this church takes it every week. I really wish Communion was taken more in our evangelical churches. While I don't think it has to be every week, I know the reason why churches don't do it more is because they've made it so formal that it's quite a chore to do it that often. Also, the reason given for not doing it more is because they want the few times they take it to be "special". Personally, I think taking the blood and body of Christ is always special (yes I know the bread and juice is symbolic, I don't hold to transubstantiation). It's this very Christ ordained rite that is special. It's impact on our lives is not dependent on our formalities or productions. Taking communion is powerful because Christ ordained it as a means of grace, not merely for remembrance. If we get to the point that Communion "doesn't work so let's take it less", then when will we apply the same theory to preaching, singing, praying? Oops. That has been done. :( Pragmatism should never be a church's driving force. I'm glad this church doesn't forsake God ordained activities for clever marketing driven ones! (ok, time to get off of my theo-soapbox) I
There was much to like about this church despite the minor blips. This particular church is obviously one that loves Christ by evidence of their overwhelming spirit of worship and service!