Evangelical Free Church in America
Congregation Size: 250
As my friend Rylan and I walked into the theater where church met in downtown Lincoln on Sunday morning, not much was going on. Is this church or nap time? Well, we were 35 minutes early. Oops. We were able to hang out and talk with the pastor for a few minutes before the 11 am service started. He’s a large guy, an extrovert to be sure with quite the sense of humor, has a good memory, but he gets distracted easily. It was good to talk to him about our upcoming trip to South Africa. He was genuinely excited for us.
This church could have been mistaken for mini Mars Hill (Seattle). It’s hip, young, cool, urban, and quite trendy. We walked into a dark room. I needed a flashlight to read my Bible during the sermon (I didn’t actually have one). Candles lined the side of the stage near the speakers. The communion table sat below the stage with a Celtic cross in the center, surrounded by crackers and grape juice cups. Communion is informally offered each week. The congregates can go up at any time during the singing as they please. No offering was taken during the service. There’s a box near the entrance of the theater where people can drop off their money.
We sat down in a old, grungy couch and I wanted to move because I’m kind of obsessive about germs. We moved to a table with metal chairs — I felt a lot better after that. The service started with six-member band that played “Jesus Lord of Heaven.” That song lasted for about 10 minutes. Their style had alternative and acoustic influences, with a little electronic/techno taste as well. They rounded out their first set with “Right By My Side.”
After the announcements, the pastor came up for the sermon. He mentioned a membership class during the announcements and said, “We don’t like membership here, but we know we have to do it.” I don’t really know what he meant and I didn’t have a chance to ask him. Perhaps I’ll email him and let you know his answer.
He wore a polo and jeans and sat on a bar stool the whole time. He looked relaxed, though his speaking style was intense and his voice rather loud. This week he was finishing a sermon series on the life of David. He preached from 2 Samuel 11, about David and Bathsheba. The comparison to Mars Hill stopped when he started preaching, however. One thing that was particularly dissatisfying was the fact that Jesus wasn’t really talked about in the sermon to a great extent. There was no mention of his atonement for our sin (which would have been particularly helpful with such a depressing chapter as 2 Samuel 11). There was no invitation to come to Jesus after the sermon. He talked a lot about God and being humble before God. His main point of the message was that we need to “be willing to admit that you are unwilling to follow God.” Even though David was a man after God’s heart, he proposed, he struggled like we do to truly, humbly follow God. Still, after David was confronted by Nathan, he confessed and was willing to admit, the pastor proposed, that he was unwilling to follow God.
He used humor quite a bit during the sermon. The best line being (about Bathsheba): “It’s not like Rosanne Barr [was] up there…Bathsheba’s not a B+, she was ‘very beautiful.’” The sermon, however, was very serious in tone, which was good considering the topic, yet I was bothered by the lack of a focus on Jesus. When we are caught in sin and convicted, it’s not enough to say, “I’m willing to admit I’m unwilling.” We need to run to Jesus and the cross and confess and repent in the power of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps that was implied, but we should never assume that everyone knows what what we are saying. Non-Christians were most likely present, and even some Christians are confused as to what a sanctified life looks like. It’s not moralism or legalism. It’s Christ and Christ alone.
He prayed to end the sermon (he did not pray beforehand). The band prayed quite a bit during their time on stage. One thing of note: there seemed to be an inordinate amount of time placed on music compared to the sermon. The service lasted for about one hour and 20 minutes. The sermon was around 35 minutes long. I’d say the band played music for 40-45 minutes total.
The service finished with a stirring musical set of “None Like You,” “All Creatures of Our God and King,” and “Take My Life and Let It Be.” The music was not effeminate or emotionalistic. That’s something I pay particular attention to and will make sure to examine at every church I visit. Churches are very “chickified” (made for women and their children). Men, particularly men 18-35, are not interested in going to a church that’s made for a 40-year-old women. This church service didn’t seem to cater to women or men.
Overall, it was a good experience. This wasn’t my first time visiting, but it was better than before (when I’ve visited without the Bible even being opened). When you’re done reading this blog, take a minute to pray for this church, that Jesus would be the center. Pray that culture wouldn’t be the driving force for this young, urban church, but that a love for Jesus would. This church reaches culture and has great community within but seems to lack a strong hold on the gospel. Therefore, we would call this is a liberal church. Pray that gospel, culture, and community would gel together so that Christ would be glorified and people would come to know Jesus.
4 responses to “Church Tour Stop #1”
I agree that a lack of mention of Christ leads to all sorts of issues over time.
Is this a “secret shopper’ type tour? Will any of the churches be surprised to see themselves in a blog post? Even with the anonymity, they would probably recognize the setting.
Not critical, just curious. I think the tour is a great idea.
I don’t know that a lot of these churches will be looking around on WordPress, but if they happen upon it, oh well, I guess. I hope none of these posts would be considered condescending, but rather a honest look at how they do church.
So, hopefully they won’t cry “Foul!” but would rather see truth and some need for change in certain areas.
Thanks for bringing that up, though.
That’s why I think most Seminaries need to offer programs for worship leaders. I know SBTS has one, but I just feel that most worship leaders have no formal training. Also, an MDiv requirement should have at least one course in worship music. There are a lot of churches that have great worship. The church I went to in Morgantown and the church I go to now in Orlando both had great worship music, and this is because there has been formal training for the directors and leaders.
Also, if you are going to churches and rating them as far as what you think is right or wrong, I don’t know that one sermon really is enough to get a good judgment. Not saying anything to defend this particular church, but some pastors might just have an off day or something, or the strength of the church is more in the small group ministry or something like that. We want every church to be the best in every category, but I’m not sure if that’s possible.
Chuck, I completely agree that one sermon is not enough to make a good judgment of a church.
However, the point of this is to truly be a “visitor.” How many times have you heard of a person going to a church once and never to go back, because, in reality, the first impression really is everything?
One of my goals is to see what one service tells me about a church. (https://jamespruch.wordpress.com/2008/10/26/church-tour/?referer=sphere_related_content/) Does one service tell me what they believe, treasure, and hold fast to? I realize it may be an imperfect science, but really think one service reveals a lot. I mean, if you were to go to Mars Hill (never attended) or Bethlehem Baptist (been there twice), you would know without a doubt that Jesus is on center stage.
By the way, you’ll read this in the upcoming weeks, but I’ve already visited four churches and have yet to been stimulated during the sermon and have yet to been challenged from any aspect of the service. Again, I realize this is subjective, but we are all subjective, aren’t we? It’s just my take…which doesn’t matter much, which is why I blog. :)