I’m currently sitting in my hotel room in Grapevine, Texas after a busy weekend. After beginning the day on Saturday with the wedding of two good friends, I drove up here to the Metroplex so that I can attend a conference on Monday and Tuesday. As part of my trip, I visited several churches in the D/FW area to get an idea of what their worship services look like. Within a span of 24 hours I attended 4 services. Here are some reflections while they are fresh in my mind.
- Of the 4 churches that I went to, if you combine all campuses, they offer a total of 29 weekend services at 9 (soon to be 10) locations.
- None of the churches celebrated baptism or the eucharist this weekend (though at least 2 made announcements about future special baptism services [all 4 were credo-baptist]). One had a baby dedication.
- All of the “stages” were very unchurchy. This isn’t to say that they weren’t religious looking; some had candles, sacred artwork, banners, crosses, etc. However, items like flower arrangements were missing. There were lots of dark colors and walls lined with photoshop artwork.
- One of the four follows the church calendar as well as the lectionary. This Sunday’s sermon was on the Ascension (being the Sunday after the Ascension) and mention was made that next week is Pentecost. This was the only mention of the church calendar. (Though I wouldn’t expect it from churches who are in the Baptist/Bible Church tradition.)
- Of the four sermons that I heard, I would consider 2 exegetical, 1 quasi-topical and 1 an amalgamation of the two.
- Only one of the preachers preached as if there were both believers and non-believers present. (A major theme of Fred Harrell at the CTK Houston Bring it Home Conference.) The preacher had obviously learned from Tim Keller; the sermon was a meditation on Colossians 1 within Keller’s framework of 3 ways to live.
- All four had very helpful parking lot attendants.
In terms of the musical side of corporate worship:
- All 4 churches used screens to project lyrics.
- Only 2 of the 4 churches used an acoustic guitar.
- One church included a solo that sounded, felt, looked and was filmed almost exactly like an American Idol contestant.
- Another church, using 5 vocalists, felt like the “group song” time on American Idol. (I wonder if there has been intentional staging, arranging, etc. to produce this effect.)
- Upon further reflection, this is also the vocal format of Hillsong Church – their major musical/staging influence.
- One church was so loud that I couldn’t hear myself sing.
- Another church was even louder, to the point where notes were pretty much indistinguishable; it was simply a wall of sound. I worried that pregnant women in the congregation were damaging their unborn babies.
- All of the men leading were obviously tenors and they chose keys that were most comfortable for themselves (and not the congregation.)
- All four churches are pulling their songs from different sources, which was very encouraging. (I believe that some are even writing their own music, which is even more encouraging.) I was expecting to be inundated with “Nashville/Atlanta worship music” at all four churches, but this only happened at one; it was a nice surprise.
I don’t consider attending one service to be representative of what a church is like; my observations could have occurred on the one week of the year when everyone decided to change things up. I learned things from each of the churches and am thankful to God for all four of them. This isn’t to say that some didn’t do better than others in certain aspects, that certainly was the case. However, they are all in different places in how God is shaping their community’s services of worship.
Finally, I want to conclude with what I think is the strangest (and probably the most objectionable) quote of the weekend:
Jesus said he’s going to build his church and we can’t do that unless God gives us the money to do it.
Call me conservative but I don’t think that was quite what Jesus was getting at…