Now that I'm not longer on staff at the church where I was serving, Diane and I have decided to visit some churches in order to see what's out there and to gain a fresh perspective. We've been at our church for so long that with the rare exception of a Sunday off here and there, we really are pretty clueless as to how other churches do Sunday services.
So Diane and I headed off to a large charismatic church in Tulsa that we have visited once a year or so in the past. I like to go to this church in order to remind myself how much I like it and don't like it all at the same time.
What I liked:
These people have their act together when it comes to putting on a church service. Every usher is in place and they know their job. All the people at the Welcome Centers are there including the hundreds of volunteers it must take to run their children's programming. The sanctuary is amazing. The lighting and staging and instruments are done in a manner that appeals to my boomerness. The stage was classy. I love the flat screen monitors they have that are placed in such a manner that I thought someone had actually given consideration to the people who will be looking at these things. They thought about their audience, not themselves. The seats are comfortable - no pews. The service started exactly on time. The worship was great as far as the music and vocalists sounding good. No oopsies on mike's not working or not being on when a person begins talking or sounding bad. They did communion. It was done with a hymn and in a way that was focused properly on Jesus. They had a funny and very well performed skit as an announcement. I liked that because it showed creativity. The sermon was well thought out and well presented. Of course, I didn't agree with all the points, but I knew that would be the case up front.
I like the worship folder too. Very simple. Full color. Few announcements. Classy. The big minus on it was that there were NO sermon notes and nowhere to take notes.
What I didn't like:
NOBODY said hi to us. In a very large crowd you felt like you were at a concert event rather than church. Even afterwards while waiting for Diane to come out of the restroom, I sat alone on a bench while everybody was just doing their thing. (The oopsie of the day was when a woman came down the hall and went into the men's restroom. I wondered how long she'd make it in there. I timed her. 3 seconds.)
The church is large and full of mostly all ages of people including what appeared to be a mostly boomer aged audience. However, I know from one other time when I was there that they are changing their focus to the 20 somethings now. To that end the musicians and vocalists and worship guy dressed in a kind of postmodern fashion with jeans as the unifying theme. Didn't care for that. I think they may want the twentysomethings but they're forgetting that the broad scope they have right now isn't twentysomethings. I'm not sure how they'll figure that problem out.
There were very few older people in the crowd although I understand they have a large active group of older adults.
The sermon went about 45 minutes which was too long. It was a good message focused on why Jesus was called the Son of Man. But it was too long.
The invitation at this church is a bow your head and say this prayer kind of a thing. They then invite the people who said the prayer to a back room to give them some things that will help them in their new walk with the Lord. I didn't care for this. It felt pushy. I thought it would have been awkward if I had been a person who new nothing of Christianity. And to go to some back room alone to meet with some guy I don't know in a big church like that? No thanks. If I wasn't a Christian this wouldn't appeal to me at all to become one.
All in all this would not be a church where we would plug in and place our membership. The first reason is obviously because we don't agree with their doctrine in regards to some of the spiritual gifts and in regards to baptism and in some other areas. The other reasons we wouldn't are because they aren't targeting people my age anymore. I felt a bit not wanted although they would tell you that isn't the case at all. We wouldn't go there either because it's just a big crowd of people, not a community. At least that's how we were treated.
On the other side of the coin, we would be drawn to this church on the basis that the preacher is a man with a clear vision. He's the guy who leads this place. He's the guy who built it. He's a good preacher. He loves God, he loves Jesus Christ, he believes in the Bible and he's living out what he believes God has called him to do. However, churches built around one guy tend to be...
So why would we go visit this place?
First, because like I said earlier, we want to get a fresh perspective. And sometimes perspective is best enhanced by getting out of your box a bit.
Secondly, because we know that this church believes the Bible and lives their faith. They are known to be a Bible believing church.
Third, because we want to walk into some places as the total strangers to see the response.
Next week we're heading off to another larger church in Tulsa. This one has a reputation for being conservative in a not so conservative main line denomination. We'll be attending with friends. We'll let you know how that one goes.
For now, it's back to the books. Got a big test this week.
PS - To my friend who has invited to attend church with him - we're seriously considering your invitation. We'll let you know.