Visit Date: Sunday, December 31, 2006
Church number three was a medium sized Baptist church here in Owasso. It was one of the many Baptist churches we have here (along with the other 40+ churches in the community). We visited this church with some friends who know the Pastor personally as a friend.
We arrived just as the service was about to begin and found some seats, ironically right in front of some folks we know well, so that was pretty cool. The service was of a traditional flavor with a piano and organ being the predominate instruments although they had a small orchestra on stage too. I never did actually hear the orchestra, but they were there. The theme of the service was about closing out the old year and looking ahead to the new year. The songs were hymns with two 1970's-1980's choruses. I like hymns, but I also like more modern worship too, so the fact that there were no songs beyond the choruses left me feeling a bit removed from what I prefer. I realize this is a personal preference and lots of people have lots of opinions about worship, so keep that in mind. Also, they announced that their new worship guy will be moving to town soon, so the guy who was leading worship wasn't their worship minister. For a fill in guy, I thought he did a good job.
What I didn't Like:
The service was lots of stand up, sit down, stand up, sit down, stand up, sit down. I was wore out.
Didn't do communion.
There were a lot of people who went on and off the stage during the service for no apparent reason. Too much movement. It was distracting. One guy came into the sanctuary, visited with someone in the audience, walked up the stairs onto the stage in the middle of everything and then sat down in one of the wing backed chairs and listened intently to the sermon. Towards the end of the sermon he left to help with what appeared to be invitation time, but then he never did anything like praying with people.
They had all the members stand up and all the visitors stay seated. Then the members came to greet us. Yuck. Hated that big time.
The invitation was at least 10 minutes long. This particular church uses the come and kneel at the altar kind of invitation. I was surprised at how many people did that. Whole families, a mom and her kids, a grandmother and a granddaughter and others. They go up front and kneel down and pray alone or with a man or woman who is up front to pray with them. They pray as long as they want so that determines how long the invitation goes on. I was wondering why the invitation time kept going on and on then some people whom I could not see got up from praying and went back and sat down. There was a clear invitation to respond and come down front, but it made me feel like I would not do so unless I was a person in crisis or someone who had talked to the preacher at length before knowing I would go down front. Isn't that funny? When I worked on a church staff, it was nothing to me to think it perfectly normal and natural for people to just come down front at invitation time. I now see how much bigger of a deal it is to many people.
What I Liked:
The church was friendly. They had people at the doors who were kind, but not pushy. The congregation was friendly as well, although nobody talked to us after church except for the people we knew.
The sermon was really good. Very Bible based and focused. The preacher spoke to all ages. He preached the announcements (which means talking about an upcoming event and tying it into what you're preaching about). He challenged the congregation, gave some good take home points, used humor and didn't go too long.
They had the kids in the service which I found out later was a holiday scheduling thing. I wondered at first if they were always in the service or not. The preacher acknowledged the children and teens speaking to them directly several times. I thought that showed good pastoral wisdom and congregational care.
The auditorium. Flat floor. Comfy, easy to move chairs. Stage wasn't too high. I could see easily. It was nicely decorated for Christmas. About 3/4 of the way up the wall you look at when seated I counted 10 electrical outlets. It always impresses me when churches or individuals think ahead and put small details like electrical outlets in places where they will be used that are out of the ordinary. I don't understand why more people don't do this. Think about it. Had they not put those outlets up there, there would have been TEN extension cords running up the wall from the lighted garland they had running across the front. Smart thinking! I also liked their open, exposed rafters. They give you a barn kind of a feel without making you feel like it's a barn. This is hard to explain, so suffice it to say the open ceiling was designed nicely. The negative to this is that their foyer is small and underwhelming.
All in all it was a nice church to visit. The preacher comes across as a pastor to his people and I appreciated that.
The OOPSIE of the day? I'm convinced there are technology demons that plague every church. Towards the end of the service the projector went into "turn me off?" mode showing the message on the screen.
Oh one more thing. This particular church has a big screen TV mounted up high on the back wall of the auditorium (the wall the singers look at). I kid you not. It's one of those older model large, bulky big screen TVs. It's like 10-15 feet off the floor on a ledge. They use it as a monitor for the singers. When I saw it I thought, "Oh my gosh, you are kidding!" The thing looks like a bright idea gone bad. It gives the appearance of not being safe at all. When you look back there and see that thing you think to yourself, "I believe that's a big screen TV up there on that wall." It's the funniest looking thing I've seen in a church in a long time.
So that was church number three. Next week we'll go back to our church to hear the state of the church address. It's always an interesting message. After that we're off to at least three more churches we plan to visit.
Happy New Year!