Church Experience #6 – February 6, 2011
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).
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.
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!