CHURCH VISIT # 2:
Church visit # 2 took place on 6 August 2006.
This past Sunday we had the distinct pleasure to participate at a local church that was truly worshipful, inspiring, delightful, extraordinary. As I begin to describe the service, I am certain that most readers will have no trouble identifying the general type of congregation with whom we met. But this is a very special story.
(Let me just mention that a reader of Church Visit #1 asked if I could say what "type" of church it was. My full answer to that question is in the second comment under the original post; but just let me say here that I am trying to protect the identity of the churches we visit, and I am trying to maintain as much objectivity as possible - I know I am prone to apply stereotypical filters to my evaluations based on such factors as denomination, size, location, ethnicity. So I want to keep my comments here as "generic" as possible and focus on the experience itself without turning my comments into judgements about particular denominations)
OK. It happens that I was jointly officiating at a funeral a couple of weeks ago, and the man who was supposed to sing a solo at the end of the service did not show up (he had reasons, but I won't go into that here); at the time all I knew was that someone needed to sing that song because the grieving wife had specifically requested it. So I sang it. The pastor who brought the main message at the funeral rode with me to the cemetery. We talked and got to know each other. He asked me if I would be available to come to his church and sing. Hence, there we were at his church last Sunday. I spoke for a few minutes and sang a couple of songs.
The opportunity to participate in that service was a miracle. I am not sure how soon I would have gotten to this church to visit. This was only the second Sunday of our "visiting ministry"!! I believe God sovereignly arranged for us to go there now, early in our assignment. See, we were the only ones of our particular ethnic heritage present at the service (plus one other couple and their two small children who came to hear me).
I honestly have never attended a service like this. I have heard about it. I have seen it made fun of in the movies and on TV. I have never been particularly anxious to actually be physically present at such a service. As of now, I am praying that all churches everywhere will be as filled with the Holy Spirit, as unihibited, as inspirational, as free, honest, pure, excited as this group of people.
The service lasted more than three hours. If I had not seen the evidence of that on the clock myself I would not believe it. It did not seem anywhere near that long because it was a constant flow of giving our attention to God. It was amazing. The music was phenomenal. The preaching was anointed. Their methods for offering, prayer, ministry, communion - fresh (to me, anyway) and meaningful. It seemed to me that the congregation was finding great meaning in what they did, too. It did not seem like empty ritual at all.
I plan to go back to this church some time. If I were not on a mission to visit every church in the area, I would seriously consider attending this church every Sunday. WooHOO! It rocked.
As far as any indication of their impact on their neighborhood or any inclination toward true Unity of the Body of Christ, I have to say there did not seem to be much of that. They had a wonderful time together worshipping God - and their worship was true and passionate - but at the same time they did seem to be happy to "keep their own counsel" so to speak.
Now, don't get me wrong. I was humbled by their abundant graciousness and openness toward me, my family and friends. They truly embraced and welcomed us. What I guess I mean is that they seemed to accept the notion that "their way" would not likely be the "preferred" way of many of their neighbors. So, they just let that be what it is. For now, that is no doubt fine.
We all know that eventually "every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Christ is Lord." How sweet would it be for His Body to be TOGETHER - now?