(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.)
The 5th stop of the tour was a bit of a contrast to the week before in several ways. Besides the obvious size difference (this church was much smaller and operated out of a little shopping center), the service had a very intimate feel to it. We went to an earlier service where there were very few people and the room itself was small. The band was pretty good and the music really pumped due to the low ceiling. After a couple of opening songs, we had a greeting time. It is funny how so many churches despite denominational differences include a time to get around and greet each other. The only think I didn't like about it was that it was 10 minutes long. No exaggeration there. 10 minutes with no background music at all. Very awkward, especially since there were only about 30 people there. Everything the worship leader accomplished in helping us to focus on Christ was lost with the greeting time interruption. As a result, the 2nd set of music was lacking a little. As a worship leader myself, I know how difficult it is to reign everyone in. I have a close pastor friend who teaches his church that the foyer or front lobby of their building is "horizontal", but once you come in to the main sanctuary it is "vertical". That is great advice for any church.
So after the music, one of the associates preached that morning. Again, we caught a Sunday where the main pastor wasn't preaching. That's not such a bad thing though because you can get a better feel of the church as a whole and you can evaluate it without being influenced by the pastor's oratorical skills. The sermon delivered was from the text which is good, however it wouldn't make for a good defense of expository preaching. Whereas the sermon the week before was more topical, this sermon was technically expository, but it was an example as to why so many churches have replaced biblical preaching with "relevant topical preaching". It was just plain boring. In other words, there is such a thing as bad expository preaching. Read a verse, make a comment, read another verse, make a comment and so on is not expository preaching in its fullness. The best sermons are not only straight from the text, but also straight from the heart of the preacher. You can tell when the sermon that the preacher has prepared has affected his own soul during its preparation. When it has, there is a passion that gushes out of him. A good preacher is one where the Word has gotten into him before it comes out of him. If you want some examples, I highly recommend you listen to John Piper or Matt Chandler. Listen and tell me your heart is not moved away from yourself and toward God. That's my challenge to you. Okay, enough with the commercials for Reformed preaching. : )
The pastor did come up at the end of the service and he seemed like a very authentic guy and so I would have liked to hear him speak. He comes from a bible church background so my assumption is that he is a bible preacher. Overall, this service was a mixed bag of intimate worship, dead time, and boring preaching. It is so hard as I write this blog to take off my minister's hat as I see so many things I would like to do to make the service more Christ-centered. The challenge to just get "lost in worship" is great for me because I keep thinking about ways to improve it. So far, The Village has been the only place where this has happened, but I'm not giving up hope yet. The mystery church tour has been so helpful in reminding us that the church isn't perfect, yet we know she is the bride that is being prepared for our great groom, Jesus Christ! I just wish that more churches operated like this was true.