My wife and I had an opportunity to visit California this month. We spent a few days with friends, making ministry plans and building relationship within the team. Good times!! Afterward, we decided to travel up the coast on the famous Highway 1 with no agenda and no timeline other than our return flight the following Tuesday. We ended up renting an Airbnb with a great view of the mountains.
Sunday rolls up and we watch our home church via Facebook Live, but since they are 3 hours ahead, we had some time to attend a local gathering as well.
This would be my first time in many years, going to a new church without it being the speaker or even knowing a single person.
This one visit would give us fresh eyes.
We found the church via internet search. From what we gathered, this was a relatively new church which met in a local school. I liked the fact that their Facebook site had pictures of their actual members – not stock photos which come across as generic.
We arrived a few minutes before the service started and saw many signs that were helpful. My wife and I noticed a sandwich board sign with the church name located at the entrance. We could see more signage as we entered the campus. We instantly knew where to park and where to enter the building. These folks were obviously prepared for us and all the others who were visiting for the first time.
As soon as we stepped into the building, someone shook our hand and said good morning. People were talking all around us, and the vibe was upbeat. Besides the initial welcome, nobody really spoke to us. It turns out they have two service times, and we were attending the latter. My thought was – maybe they grew to the point where the leaders don’t know who is visiting and who had been there before.
Through the crowd of people that were bunched up at the door, we saw what appeared to be a coffee dispenser. Score!! We enjoy good coffee! 😊 As we make our way toward the coffee area, we come across some folks who I assume are regulars. They were chatting with one another and unintentionally blocking anyone from getting to the java. This was not just a couple of people blocking the entrance. This was a large group. After some skillful maneuvering, operation “Get me some Coffee” was accomplished and we make our way into the auditorium.
The Worship Service
We sit down toward the back, just in case we have to make a break for it and notice the seats are ½ filled. The 3-piece worship team was fantastic, and we entered a time of praise and worship. In between songs, and during the welcome time, we could hear people in the hallway speaking loudly. I’m sure they had no clue just how loud they were talking or maybe the acoustics in the hall just carried their voices. Either way, we found it a bit distracting.
As the minutes roll by, we could see the place was now close to capacity. The pastor was engaging and not only had Biblical knowledge but was able to communicate with passion. Another observation: Most in attendance were between 20-35 years of age. By the end of worship, people were engaged with their hands lifted while some sought prayer and others went to various stations around the room for communion. Wow!!
If I had a “consumer mentality”, I could focus on the negatives, but the reality is those were trivial. My takeaway was: This church is ministering to a generation that is tough to reach. They are genuinely excited about “church” and are inviting their friends to explore what this faith is all about and find out more about Jesus.
The positives far outweigh any negatives. The negatives are fixable and so minor in light of the bigger picture.
Team Jesus, let’s plant more churches like this one! We need more churches that are reaching those far from Christ! And yes, they will be imperfect, but that’s what its all about right? Imperfect people worshipping and serving the perfect God!
Thanks California for a fresh perspective.