CHURCH VISIT # 12:
(Church visit # 12 took place on 15 October 2006)
This church visit was to a large church that conducts three Sunday morning services each week. We attended the middle one, at which there were about 300 people in attendance. This is a popular, neo-denominational (theoretically non-denominational, but it is affiliated with a large association of churches whose origins go back about 40 years).
The music had already begun when we entered (on time). People were still finding their seats; probably only about half of the eventual number were present when we arrived. There was about 20 minutes of singing. The worship leader did make an effort to encourage the congregation to "enter in." But we had a sense that, at least on this particular Sunday, a significant number of the people were not very focused on worship. Nevertheless, for any who were expectant and intentional, the worship leadership facilitated communion with the Lord.
After the singing, the senior pastor came to the platform to deliver the sermon. The sermon was excellent, expository preaching / teaching. Conversational in style, yet depth of interpretation and application.
We enjoyed our visit to this church, but we came away with a clear sense of how easy it is to attend such services with little or no interaction with any of the other gathered faithful. It would be a cinch to attend regularly for a long time - indefinitely - without doing anything else to be a part of the ministry of the church.
Granted, this church has many, many programs and opportunities throughout the week for its "members" to participate in. It just doesn't seem like there is any dedicated effort to ensure the "status" of attenders; i.e., are they saved? are they walking with the Lord daily?
This could all turn into a lengthy discussion of grace, works, legalism, empty programming, effectiveness of small groups, etc etc etc.
In our estimation, we might have difficulty sustaining discipleship at this church - which is probably more of an indictment of our ability to apply ourselves voluntarily to the opportunities the church provides for fellowship and study.
I feel like I can't think of the right way to wrap up this entry. It does not seem right to "downgrade" this church based on one visit and rather vague "feelings." The church seems to have a lot going - it is "successful" by nearly every measure one could apply. The sermon was outstanding; the music was fine; the building and grounds are clean, fresh, inviting; plenty of what appear to be well-organized opportunities to grow, minister, participate.
...maybe it is just a little too "cookie cutter" for my tastes...