Monthly Archives: February 2011

Not Your Mama’s Baptist Church

Church Experience #8 – February 20, 2011

Abba’s House (a.k.a. Central Baptist Church)

Megachurch

So here I am, almost two months into ChurchSurfer and I haven’t been to a “megachurch” yet.  Shame on me.  Having just moved right next to Hixson, TN, I located the closest (there are 50 in Tennessee) mega church, Abba’s House, and decided to visit.  Laura and I showed up about 20 minutes early, as I always like to do, to give us time to explore and hopefully meet a few people to talk to and gain a little insider’s perspective into this church.  As we approached the building we were warmly welcomed by a door greeter, and I was glad to see that there was someone at each of the six or eight doors, not just one or two for the entire entrance.  We walked around the hallway, which seemed shockingly barren for a church of this size…I fully expected to be weaving and bumping shoulders through a massive crowd.  I had skipped my regular Sunday morning coffee stop, anticipating a lavish coffee and refreshment station in a church of this size, and was only slightly disappointed to find out that coffee is served in the small group Bible studies (Lifegroups) in another building.  Had I been faced with a completely caffeine-free church visit, I might have been recognizably fretful, but alas…there was a cafe/bookstore in the lobby where I was able to make a coffee purchase.  Laura and I sipped on our coffee and wandered around the lobby in search of conversation.  I’m not sure how, after being able to engage a few people in pre-church conversation almost every week, this week’s attempt was unfruitful…could be a side effect of a megachurch, or maybe just bad timing.  So I went outside and snapped a couple of photos of the front of the enormously impressive sanctuary building, and then went to the folks at the guest services desk to dig for some information.  It turns out this should have been my initial destination.

Abba's House - Central Baptist Church Hixson Tennessee

Abba's House (Central Baptist Church)

Southern Baptist Hospitality

The ladies at guest services were almost alarmingly excited to talk to Laura and I.  They were energetic and friendly, extremely receptive, and engaging in conversation.  If I had expected to have scripted short answers fired back at my questions and the run-of-the-mill brochures shoved my way to clear the path for the next person in line, I couldn’t have been more wrong.  These ladies asked questions about us and were sincerely interested in finding any possible way that Abba’s House could serve our spiritual needs.  I’m very (sadly) accustomed to churches that advertise their programs, but leave it on you to wade through them all and get plugged in somewhere.  Not this church.  They had us profiled within a few moments and began offering personal recommendations on which groups we might like and which groups were available for young couples if we wanted to attend together.  Impressive and very refreshing.  I walked away from that conversation reassured against many of the negative stereotypes I might have had about megachurches, and was excited about getting inside the sanctuary to worship God.

Very Big Spaces

Inside Abba's House

Abba's House sanctuary and stage

Laura and I made our way into the auditorium/sanctuary, which opened up in front of us like a grand concert hall, and found seats relatively close to the front.  As we watched the stage fill up with musicians and singers, it began to dawn on me just how large this place was.  A few weeks earlier I had been in a sanctuary that was near capacity with fifty or sixty people in attendance, and now as the worship music began to kick off, I estimated over a hundred people up on the stage contributing to the music.  There was an orchestra with woodwinds and brass, then guitars, basses, drums, pianos, a full choir of singers, and a praise team up front.  They filled the auditorium with all kinds of praise music, and as I watched a crowd gather from right in front of the stage and extend back through quite a few rows of seating, I got the feeling that this wasn’t a typical Southern Baptist church (not your mama’s Baptist church).  The mass of people up front were mostly young (teens and twenty-somethings) with various other age groups sprinkled in, and were hopping and swaying around, lifting hands, pointing upward, and singing out passionately to the Lord.  The worship music didn’t evoke an emotional response from me, which often happens when I really feel connected, but more than anything I would describe the worship atmosphere at Abba’s House as joyous, or simply, fun.  The music lasted a full 45 minutes, which was great for me, because I enjoy and cherish every moment I get of glorifying God with fellow believers.  And FYI…another indicator that this isn’t a typical Baptist church…they openly tag themselves as a Spirit-filled Baptist church and encourage and teach members to discover and develop their gifts of the Spirit.

Ron Phillips Ministries

After worship, the pastor, Ron Phillips, came up for his sermon.  I wasn’t aware before attending church here that he operates Ron Phillips Ministries and appears regularly on Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN).  I have to admit, I harbor more negative stereotypes of televangelists than I do of megachurches, but for the second time on this Sunday the stereotypes were wrong.  Pastor Ron did not appear flashy or loud, but more like a humble teacher, confident in the Lord and not in himself.  He began his sermon (teaching from an iPad, which was a first for me) by drawing a comparison of our outward spiritual walk to sports highlight reels where you see all the great moments leading up to a championship victory, but all the controversy, conflict, and strife is largely hidden behind the scenes.  He taught from the Scriptures  about the “Red Sea moments” of life, the points we get to where we must let faith handle fear in order to make it through extremely difficult situations.  Pastor Ron noted how these Red Sea moments always bring forth criers, critics, and cowards, as was evidenced countless times in both the Old and New Testaments, but those same moments are the time for believers to seek a spiritual perception in order to move forward.

My Red Sea Moment

One particular quote that I latched on to from the sermon was that “walking through difficulty often heralds a new beginning.”  Before I decided to follow Christ, I lived a life full of highlights on the outside while I hid all the turmoil I was experiencing from my sin on the inside.  Because of God’s love for me, He surrounded me with faithful believers even in the darkest times, when I deserved it the least.  Knowing that I would eventually get to a Red Sea moment, God used these people to demonstrate His love and compassion and He personally demonstrated His power by making that moment pass, as only He could, and calling me to the salvation that was available to me in Jesus Christ.  There’s no other new beginning that even comes close to being born again to eternal life in Christ, but I’ve received many blessings after relying on faith in God to carry me through tough times.  Now my greatest blessing is living to serve Him, worship Him, and love Him, because He first loved me.

2 Months of ChurchSurfer

It’s hard to believe that February is almost over and I’ve already visited eight different churches this year.  I plan on writing an overview soon about my first two months of the ChurchSurfer project to touch on the bigger picture of what I’m learning from all these great experiences.  I sincerely hope you’ve enjoyed reading the blog this far, and I look forward to continuing the journey with you!

Make sure you visit the ChurchSurfer Facebook page and ‘like’ it to keep up with photos, updates, and other random stuff.

I’d also like to thank Topher Littleton Designs, who is helping me develop a Churchsurfer logo.  New website design coming soon…



Growing A Church From The Ground

Church Experience #7 – February 13, 2011

Calvary Chapel

Old Friends

After my wife, Laura, and I had been invited by at least 3 or 4 different people to attend Calvary Chapel on Broad Street in Chattanooga, I posted on Facebook that I was planning to attend there and received an immediate encouraging comment from an old friend.  The old friend was one of the Buntin sisters that were both in the Brainerd United Methodist youth group with me back in our high school years.  17 years later and now with the married name, Susan Potter, she informed me that her sister, now Sara Coffman, also attended there, as did our old BUMC youth pastor Bryant Black, who is now head of the history department at Chattanooga Christian School.  There was no way I could miss out on a reunion like this, so I asked Susan to meet Laura and I before the Sunday worship service so that we could sit together, and she reluctantly agreed :).

The Buntin Women

Sara Coffman, Brenda Buntin, Susan Potter

Purely Downtown Chattanooga

We pulled into the Calvary Chapel parking lot and I was immediately impressed with the modern architecture of the building, with contrasting Earth tones, a very “green” or eco-friendly feel to it, clean lines, and beautiful simplicity.  We walked in to the lobby about 20 minutes early for the 9:00 AM early service, and it was bustling with activity, probably due to the impressive coffee stations where everyone was fueling up on caffeine for the day.  The inside of the building had exposed beams, stained concrete floors, natural wood, and a wide-open warehouse feel.  This church really captures the essence of downtown Chattanooga, which has been resurrected from a post-industrial junk heap to a true jewel filled with parks & recreation, museums, unique restaurants and shops, and all connected by pedestrian friendly bridges and river walks.  I was later told that the Calvary Chapel building is an old Bi-Lo grocery store, and that there is still an additional 10,000 square feet of unfinished space that they will be converting into a cafe and an area for the youth.  As I looked around at the building and the people, I definitely got the overwhelming sense that this church had gotten it “right” by creating an environment that was purely Chattanooga.

Calvary Chapel Chattanooga

Outside Calvary Chapel

A Family Meeting

We went in the sanctuary and found seats as the worship music was just beginning.  The songs were mostly acoustic guitar driven, slow and melodious, heart-felt ballads.  These are the type of songs that tug at your emotions and really allow you to connect on another level, as if you are right there in the presence of God, worshiping and singing to Him straight from your heart.  If you’ve ever landed on the 90’s song “More than Words” by Extreme while you were alone in your car, you know what I’m talking about…don’t laugh.  After a couple of worship songs, pastor Frank, who appeared to be quite young, began to speak and that’s when things took a turn for the interesting.  This Sunday’s message (which from what I gathered was a continuation of what had been going on for a few Sundays now) was a lot less like “church” and a lot more like a family meeting.  You know, the kind that a dad calls on Saturday morning to gather the household together and discuss issues and establish ground rules…pretty much like that.  He began by recapping their church’s story, starting as a small group meeting in an apartment clubhouse that had grown all the way to where it is now.  He likened their church, both the building and the people, to the verse Isiah 58:12 (if that doesn’t strike a chord, stop and reread the last paragraph about Chattanooga), and talked about always staying true to the three main focuses of their church:  Love Jesus, be led by the Spirit, and give back to the Lord.  As he spoke of these things you could hear the passion in his voice and almost tap into the raw emotion of the 10 year journey he had been on with Calvary Chapel, that had come all the way to the present, to this very Sunday morning, to this family meeting.

Growing Pains

In talking about the present situation at Calvary Chapel, Pastor Frank’s voice grew slightly more stern.  Living up to his name, he addressed the congregation very directly about the immense growth that Calvary Chapel had experienced in recent years, expanding from a single Sunday service to two Sunday services, and now are set to begin a third service that will be held on Saturday evenings.  It seemed that his main fear would be that in the midst of all of their growth, the church would lose its sense of community and potentially become disjointed and unconnected, subjected to conflict, or become a victim of what he referred to as “consumerism”.  This latter issue dominated the rest of his sermon time and attention, as he explained that large churches easily become a place where people come to consume without giving back, and drew the comparison of a hotel versus a home.  To prevent this from becoming the norm, he implored those in attendance to make Calvary Chapel a place where everyone serves.  It was pretty plainly stated that “if you are going to be a part of this, then this is what you need to be” as he spoke of the three ways he expects God’s people to give:  time, talent, and treasure.

Deep Thoughts…by Josh Davis

After experiencing Calvary Chapel on Sunday and also attending the men’s Deeper series on Wednesday evening, I got the sense that this is a church that breaks the “typical church” mold and doesn’t really mind.  They are fixated on growing, not in attendance numbers, but in their relationship with Jesus Christ.  They don’t want to encourage behavior amongst the Christian community that they feel is fostering consumerism and preventing people from doing the things (serving, giving, living) that really matter on the “eternity scale”.  I, for one, applaud Pastor Frank and the rest of the Calvary Church leadership for speaking so boldly on the issue, because there are plenty of other church options out there for the people who feel differently.  But if you are interested in a church where you will be encouraged to live for God every day, this is a great church for you.  If you are interested in a church where there is a real passion for creating relationships that truly mean something, this is a great church for you.  If you are interested in a church where you will be challenged to grow, challenged to be a giving person, challenged to be held accountable for your actions, and challenged to serve the body and the community, this is a great church for you.  If you are interested in a church where you can slip in and out of Sunday service, blend in, drop a $20 bill in the box each week, and never get involved…good luck not feeling really, really guilty.  Thank you Calvary Chapel for a refreshing experience, and I pray that God blesses you with continued growth, not only in attendance, but also in the constant desire to draw closer to Him.

*Special Note*

Laura and I have decided to begin attending the Calvary Chapel Saturday night services that begin in March.  My commitment to the ChurchSurfer project and to visiting a different church every week in 2011, prevents us from getting rooted into a “home” church, so we are excited for the Saturday service and look forward to building new relationships.  If you would like to worship with us there, I invite you to join us.

I am currently transitioning the ChurchSurfer blog over to a self-hosted version where I will have the ability to create customized designs that will change the look and feel of the website.  Please remember to use www.churchsurfer.org to visit the blog in the future.  You can also visit Churchsurfer on Facebook at www.facebook.com/churfer.



Super Sunday

Church Experience #6 – February 6, 2011

Metro Tabernacle

No More Sporting Goods

In selecting a church to visit this week I had to take into account that it was Super Bowl Sunday…so naturally I chose Metropolitan Tabernacle (a.k.a. Metro Tab), because it is in a building that began as a sporting goods store.   I was interested to see how this former retail big box store was transitioned into a church on the inside, and what type of church service was held there.  I was assuming that it would be a pretty large congregation, because the building with its colorful banners on the side are highly visible from Highway 153, which is high traffic and prime real estate for advertising.  I guess the only reason the sporting goods store didn’t make it is because of the lack of other supporting retail stores on that particular exit, which is mainly a residential area and much better suited for a church.  After parking the car and stepping out to hold my wife Laura’s hand, I noticed a gentleman immediately zero in on us and begin to head our way.  Apparently this church takes greeting people a step further than most and instead of waiting until you get to the door, they have greeters roaming the parking lot.  I have to say it was very nice to be approached and greeted with a handshake and a warm smile so promptly, and I would imagine these people are also there to give assistance to elderly or to help people find parking spaces once it begins to fill up.  The other thing I like about greeter programs is that in addition to providing a service for the congregation, it also gives people the opportunity to serve, which I’m sure makes them feel good about contributing something and giving back to their church.  We headed on up to the entrance and were again greeted, this time by the traditional front door greeters, who handed us a bulletin with a smile and welcomed us inside.  The lobby was wide open and very spacious, with various “stations” set up with tables and attendants with information for different programs.  There was a coffee shop area off to the side, which I didn’t visit because I had just been to Dunkin’ Donuts and brought my own <insert smile here> so I browsed through each station to see what they were about.  The first table I came to had the general information about the church for visitors, so I picked up a few printed materials and moved on to another station that particularly caught my attention.  The reason for my interest was that I stumbled on what may be the 2nd best small group signup program that I’ve ever seen (take note church administrators).  A few long banquet tables were lined with clipboard signup sheets just below plexi sign holders with each one displaying an information sheet containing the small group name, topic, location, description, and the name and photo of the leader(s).

Small group signup table

Small group signup table

One of my biggest points of disgust with almost all the churches I’ve ever been to is how seemingly impossible it is to get acclimated into a small group as a new church member.  I’ve concluded that there must be some kind of top-secret church small group rite-of-passage that makes you prove yourself worthy of joining a group through the long chain of “submit a contact form in the offering plate, send us an email, visit our website, and the group leader of your choice will be in contact with you” just to get to the awkward stage of going to an already established group or waiting until next January for the new ones to start.  Ummm…how about no.  It’s easier to just not join and avoid the awkwardness of trying to get involved (disclaimer:  the preceding sentences only contained a small hint of exaggeration).  So thank you, Metro Tab, for making the signup process informative and easy.  I just hope that the signups really do get followed up on and that you’re not part of the secret society.  Oh, and for those of you who were curious…the BEST small group signup program I’ve known about was instituted by my dad, Mark Davis, when he was Associate Pastor at Brainerd United Methodist Church and he personally invited all new members to his own small group made up of other new members.  This way they already knew somebody (him) and everyone else in the group was also relatively new and sympathetic to how it feels to be in that position.

A Super Place

Laura and I entered the sanctuary and sat down, and were blown away by the setup.  The entire sanctuary was superbly designed and looked very nice and modern without being overly lavish.

Inside Metro Tab sanctuary

Inside Metro Tab sanctuary

As I looked around I was pleasantly surprised to see that the congregational was more diverse than any church I’ve ever attended.  The mix of black/white was probably 50/50 and there were other nationalities represented as well.  The diversity tells me that this church is doing something very right.  If you are attracting all kinds of races and people, then you can believe that it is because they are getting an unbiased message, a true worship experience, and an environment that breeds love and acceptance.  After noticing the wonderfully diverse congregation I was already anticipating a great worship experience, and as the music started I was definitely not disappointed.  The music was modern praise with all the instruments (electric guitar, bass, keys, piano, drums, hand drums, etc) and a vocal praise team.  There were also women with brightly colored flags stationed at various points around the stage that added a very cool “multi-sensory” appeal to the worship experience (you can watch from the Metro Tab website).  I couldn’t help but move to the music and as I looked around I saw people engaging in all kinds of ways with singing, swaying, and lifting hands to honor and glorify God.  One particular song was so beautifully powerful that it made me cry tears of joy, and when the song ended two ladies on opposite sides of the room erupted in screams (yes, screams) and at least a few full minutes of repeating “Praise you Jesus”.  It was awesome.  As a tribute to Super Bowl Sunday, various church members were given the opportunity to come up and take the podium to give a testimonial as to why they felt like Metro Tab was a “super place”.  As I listened to the five or six different testimonies throughout the morning I began to pick up on what I felt like was an unmistakably common link – every single person talked about coming to Metro Tab in a state of hurt or anguish, for various reasons, and many of them stating that this was their last shot at church before giving up completely on God.  Yet they all found God here, got healed, and now describe Metro Tab as being a place where the pastors truly care about every person there and show it, not just say it.  They described Metro Tab as NOT being “church as usual”, but instead a place where the Bible is taught without added words or opinions, where people find real relationships and for the right reasons, and where things are ever changing and evolving instead of growing stale or complacent.  After experiencing the people, the worship, and the spirit at this place, I would have to agree with them but also add that Metro Tab is a hospital for troubled souls.

Sports Fans vs. God Fans

At one point during the service, Pastor Steve actually did get up and deliver a short sermon that really hit home.  He compared fans of any given sports team (on that week everyone had the Packers and Steelers on their minds) to Christians, pointing out that our country spends millions of dollars on t-shirts, hats, flags, license plates, and all the other team memorabilia and then proudly displays it for all to see.  He made the observation that a fan of one team will dress in their team colors from head to toe and then go into a stadium full of fans of the opposing team and cheer obnoxiously loud right in the middle of them.  Wow…how many of us would do that for Jesus?  He highlighted a few characteristics and behaviors of sports fans that we as Christians need to learn from…to not conform, to be big spenders for the cause, to be tireless, to be loyal, and to be passionate.  I also liked his thought that in both life and sports, some of the greatest victories are decided in the final moments.  Eternity is not a game, however, and if we treat life like we always have another half or another quarter, we may fail to do the things we should be doing right now in this very moment.  I’m typing a blog article hoping that someone reading this will decide to seek a deeper relationship with Christ.  I’m hoping that someone reading this will stop reading and pray for the strength to do all the things that are in their heart to do, but that they’ve never had the courage to pursue and accomplish.  I’m hoping that someone reading this will realize that God deserves fans that care more about worshiping and pleasing Him than anything else going on in their life, because I know that when you put God first you at least have one priority right.  For all who read this blog, I want to thank you and to let you know that I’m praying for you.  Peace be with you until next week!

Metro Tab stage

Metro Tab stage

See pictures from all the church visits on the ChurchSurfer Facebook page .

Also, make sure to follow Metro Tab on twitter and also “like” them on Facebook.


Holy Spirit Power

Church Experience #5 – Jan 30, 2011

Joyful Sound Church of God

Lively Up Yourself

It’s the end of my first month on ChurchSurfer and I thought it was about time to take the blog to one of the more…how should I say it…energetic or charismatic denominations – Church of God.  We all know the stereotype that all the variations of Pentecostal have earned over the generations, and I usually recall the movie “The Apostle” with Robert Duvall as the Pentecostal preacher, scenes of the rural South, roadside tent revivals, and sermons that resemble “pep rallies” that evoke the Holy Spirit, usually climaxing with people jumping, shouting, writhing on the ground, and speaking in tongues.  I mention this not because I buy into this stereotype, but because we all know it.  I personally believe most stereotypes of this nature begin with some amount of truth, but you never know how much gets exaggerated and fabricated over time.  So I don’t believe the hype until I experience it for myself…and in this case let’s just say I wasn’t disappointed!  Not that the stereotype was confirmed, but that I discovered where the truth of it began.  So here we go…

Don’t Judge a Book…  

Joyful Sound Church of God

I snapped a couple of photos of the outside of the building and then went inside with quite a bit of time to spare before the morning worship service started.  Upon entering I realized that Bible study was in session, so my wife Laura and I quickly and quietly sat in a back pew trying not to disturb anyone.  There was a well aged lady with long silver hair and a diminutive stature teaching from the podium about love and forgiveness.  She sported clothes that were many years out of style by society’s fashion standards (actually the purple and teal colors of her shirt and vest have probably gone out of style and come back in the time that she’s owned them).  I point this out not to make fun, but to enhance my next observation…she spoke with a confidence and wisdom that I rarely see out people who obviously “think highly of themselves”.  Let’s just say she stood there and taught the Bible without any visible concern of her image or appearance and I couldn’t help but wonder how she would be received if we were in a fancy church in an upper class neighborhood.  I think we all know the answer to that, whether we’ll say it out loud or not.  I’m not so sure that doctors and lawyers with all their years of education would be able to humble themselves to receive Bible lessons delivered by an old lady from the wrong part of town.  Maybe that’s why it’s been said (by Jesus) that it is harder for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for the rich to make it to heaven…oooooohhhh, that may sting a little but don’t get me wrong here, I don’t have a bone to pick with anyone because of their social status or wealth, I’m just trying to make everyone really think a little.

Down Home Worship

After Bible study my wife and I were greeted by my new friend Joel Barker, the worship leader at Joyful Sound, who had invited me to visit this church as part of my ChurchSurfer journey.  We were also warmly greeted by many of the others in attendance, and in a church of this size it’s hard not to bump into almost everyone there anyway (this definitely isn’t one of the mega-churches that you can sneak in and out of mostly unnoticed or “blend in”).  Being that I grew up in a small rural town, I felt right at home with the 50 or 60 other working class, plainly dressed people.  The praise band took the stage and started a rockabilly beat that had purely Southern country/western roots, but also a very contemporary worship feel to it.  The band included drums, bass, electric and acoustic guitar, piano, keys, maracas, and tambourine.  The worship was lively and I welcomed the passion and intensity that this congregation displayed.  I sang along and worshiped from the heart and truly enjoyed praising God in this manner.  After the music there were announcements including a mention of the youth team that won a huge trophy (which was on display) for having the most spirit at a recent youth rally.  The phrase “doing cartwheels down the aisle” was used, and I felt like I was probably in store for a lot more excitement than what I had just gotten from the worship music.

Bring On the Fire

Before Pastor James began his sermon, he spoke to his congregation intently about the current (and at that time new) situation happening in Egypt.  He drew a parallel between the countries surrounding Israel and the birds of prey that Abram had to drive away from his animal sacrifices to God, and asked the congregation to pray for Egypt and also brought up the U.S./Israel relationship.  I was glad to hear him speak to his congregation about these topics, as I think it is a pastor’s responsibility to make sure the people in their church are aware of world events and their relevance to Biblical history and prophecy.  Pastor James then exploded into a sermon beginning with Ephesians 3:20 and dealing with God’s intentions in the way He designed us.  His delivery of the sermon was loud, booming through the church sanctuary at levels that I sometimes felt his voice could barely support.  The volume of his sermon rose and fell with his Bible references from Genesis and sermon points about God’s promises for His people and the inevitable doubts that we struggle with.   His sermon and my experience left me pondering about why Jesus was always attracted to poor people and why He seemed to prefer helping them deal with their troubled lives rather than spending His time with the wealthy and their tendency to judge others and place their appearance and possessions above all else.  I think it’s clear who He felt would be more receptive to what He was offering.

From Fire to Volcano

After the Sunday service I decided to come back on Monday to experience one night of a week-long revival at Joyful Sound.  Just as I expected, the revival service was a notch up on the charismatic scale from what I had experienced the day before.  For someone who has never been to a Church of God, I would warn you that things can get pretty crazy…and this night was no exception.  Worship was spirited, and after a sermon from the guest pastor, there was an altar call and that’s when the real action started.  As the church members flowed out of the pews and down to the front, both Pastor James and the guest pastor began laying their hands on the people’s heads and praying over them, sometimes in English and sometimes in tongues.  The volume of the service ebbed and flowed as some people received comforting words of encouragement and prayer, and others received shouted commands for healings, resolutions to various issues, or empowerment to follow Jesus.  In the midst of the crowd as people were prayed over they began to jump, dance, shake, convulse, fall down, cry, scream out, and speak in tongues, and as all this was going on the praise band led by Joel continued to sing and play.  I sang along and at times shouted some “Hallelujah’s”, “Praise God’s”, and “Yes Lord’s” as a couple of people chose to answer the calling on their heart and accept Jesus for the first time.  One man also spoke in tongues for the first time, which is something the Church of God refers to as the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  As this was happening, Pastor James jumped up on the pew in front of us, and reached over to lay hands on that man and pray over him in tongues.  I’m not sure how long all of this continued, because I glanced down at my watch and noticed that it was 9:00 and I needed to get home for the evening.  As I walked to my car I already began thinking about what had just happened and how different it was from the other churches I had recently attended.

Final Thoughts

My experience at Joyful Sound Church of God really made me start thinking about different worship styles and wondering how it is that they have become so varied from one church or denomination to the next.  The other thing that I find perplexing is the expectation that many churches have for their members to worship according to the style that is accepted at their church.  If I laid hands on someone to pray over them or decided I wanted to jump around and dance at a church where that wasn’t a common occurrence, how would those behaviors be received?  I can only think that worship styles are as diverse as humans are, and if you aren’t open to something that is different, then you may need to spend some time finding out why.  What is it that makes you uncomfortable about it?  What gives you the right to dictate how other people should express themselves to our God?  I’m finding out more and more as I experience new churches that I prefer an atmosphere of acceptance.  If I feel like jumping and shouting, I don’t want to feel like an outcast, or on the other hand, if I feel like being reserved and taking the time to meditate and internalize what I’m experiencing, I don’t want to be told I’m not on fire for God.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about acting out at inappropriate times, what I’m talking about is that true worship that occurs during designated worship time should be open for each person to give their worship to God in the way that they feel He would like to receive it.  Should church leaders maintain order?  Yes, but they should also make sure people understand that it’s OK to be themselves.  After all, if you are believer, then the Holy Spirit who resides in you will lead you in worship and prayer, and I won’t place limits on the Holy Spirit.  For what it’s worth, I’ve worshiped in many ways and have been given different gifts of the Spirit, but tongues is not one of them.  There are people who would say that means I haven’t been saved yet, but I know that I have.  The Holy Spirit is in me giving me wisdom and understanding from the Father and bearing fruit through me in many different ways.  I have surrendered myself to my Savior Jesus and have been baptized.  If at some point I speak in tongues then praise God, but if not praise God as well, because He has already given me a greater gift…love.  I love you God.

Video clips from the revival service will be available at the ChurchSurfer YouTube channel and you can view more photos of all the ChurchSurfer church visits at the ChurchSurfer Facebook page…make sure to “like” it while you’re there!

Also, make sure to follow Joyful Sound COG on twitter and also “like” them on Facebook.


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