Church Experience #43 – November 13, 2011
Signal Mountain Bible Church – Signal Mountain, TN
Dun, dun, duhhhhhh……….the In-Laws
It is nearing the end of my year of “churfing” (a.k.a. church-surfing) and there was still one particularly important church that I had not included in my ChurchSurfer visits. I think you will all agree that it probably would not be fair to visit my parents’ church (for Father’s Day) and leave out my in-laws’ church. My wife’s parents, Speight and Trudee Overman, and her sister Karen, live on Signal Mountain and are members of Signal Mountain Bible Church. I have visited there before (of course…gosh!), so this experience was not entirely new to me, but a “must” on my ever-shrinking list of church visits left for 2011 (can you believe it’s almost over?). Laura and I did not tell them we were showing up…like all the other Sundays this year, we just sort of decided to go and went. No special preparations or staged theatrics, we just pick a church and go and see what the Lord shows us through our experience. One of the great things about the church experiences that I have had this year is that I never have expectations. I may have suppositions about what or how things might happen at certain churches, but I never expect anything to happen a certain way…how could I? I do not go to these churches regularly and therefore cannot make any presumptuous conclusions. Why would I do that anyway? Would that not be saying that God is predictable? Or even worse, that He is not present and we have become predictable in our churches? Think about this for a moment…if we are trying to be imitators of Christ, would we honestly be predictable about how we do anything? It seems to me like the twelve who were closest to Jesus never knew what to expect. That is why Jesus was always explaining His actions to them. With unpredictability comes unexpected events, and with unexpected events comes misunderstanding. If you were not expecting something and it takes you “off guard”, you usually get details wrong and miss the point completely. Jesus made sure His disciples did not miss the details or the point of anything. Can you say the same about your church? Do you go to church each week expecting certain things? Would you be open to the unexpected? Do we purposefully create predictable churches out of fear of the unknown or the desire to keep everything “under control”? Just some good introspective questions that popped into my mind…but now back to the point of this article – Signal Mountain Bible Church. Read more...
Church Experience #42 – November 6, 2011
Christian Family Church – Rossville, GA
I first met some of the fine folks of Christian Family Church at Jfest 2011, an annual Christian music festival put on by the local Christian radio station J103. If you are in or around Chattanooga and have had a tough time committing to a local church (and my blog hasn’t helped you out? Gosh!) then I would highly recommend spending the day at Jfest 2012. I volunteered at a booth at Jfest for a local non-profit ministry, Men’s Ministry Network, and throughout the day I had the opportunity to meander through the rest of the booths, many of which were occupied by various local churches (side note…this was also how I met the people of Harvest Bible Chapel). Along with Faith and Family Night at Riverbend, these are the best two opportunities (that I know about) to meet and interact with people from multiple local churches all in one place (wouldn’t it be great if we all gathered together more often?). I have also become acquainted with Clark Thompson this year, who works as the Ministry Relations Director for J103 and also serves with me through Men’s Ministry Network. Clark is a member at Christian Family Church and spoke so sincerely about serving at that church that I decided to drop in on them to fellowship and worship the Lord together. Here is how it went…
A Double Dose of South Africa Read more...
Church Experience #41 – October 30, 2011
Living Stones Ministry – Chattanooga, TN
Don’t Read This
Race is an interesting topic in society today. It can be controversial, a cause of hate and anger, a story of love and acceptance, or a complete non-issue. You can look at different races and point out scores of differences and then just as easily come up with an equal number of similarities. Within the realm of Christianity we are called to a higher standard than society in general when it comes to our view on race. Our calling is one of unconditional love, just as our savior, Jesus Christ, provided us with the ultimate example. My point of view is that race does not exist, but culture does. No matter what pigmentation a person’s skin contains, they will more than likely be a reflection of the culture they have been exposed to for the majority of their formative years. Of course there are innumerable factors at play here, and probably just as many exceptions as there are inclusions, but for the basis of this article I want to be very clear about how and why I formulate my thoughts and hopefully avoid any offense. For me, race is not a sensitive topic and I fully believe God has given me the ability to see people as people regardless of their race. I do see differences in cultures and I will be commenting in this article about my experiences and observations of these differences. My comments are not meant to be stereotypical or come from any type of bias or discrimination. They are simply my experiences and observations. Sorry for the long “disclaimer”, but this week’s church visit brought out some pretty powerful feelings and emotions in me that a lot of other people probably will not agree with. My wife did not agree with some of my sentiments and became frustrated with me when we were discussing them. Hopefully I do not frustrate even more people, but instead, my hope is that anyone who reads this will consider why I felt these things from my point of view without interjecting your own point of view into my situation. In fact, if you would like to get some real honest insight into how you really feel, I would recommend putting yourself in the same situation and make your own observations from your own experiences. In the end, that is really the purpose of my blog anyway. It is not for Chattanoogans to live vicariously through my experiences…this blog is an encouragement for you to get out there and have some experiences of your own. I am just pointing out the obvious…that interesting things are happening all around us in church every week, you just have to be present and open to experience them! OK, sorry about the rant (not really…but I kind of am…but no, not really). So if you are still reading, here is how my church visit went this week… Read more...
Church Experience #40 – October 23, 2011
River City Church – Chattanooga, TN
The end of the month of October is upon us, which means there are only two more months left in 2011. Each time I sit down to write a new blog article now, I think about how many churches I have visited this year (forty!) and how few I have left to visit. Knowing that I only have ten church visits remaining (yes, I realize that looking at the calendar my fiftieth church will actually be on 1/1/12, so technically I will not visit fifty churches in 2011) makes each decision on where to go more difficult. My desire is to experience something unique, something special, something completely “of God” each week, which means that just like every other decision I make in life, I must truly seek His guidance and trust in His direction. I am already thinking about all the writing I will have on my plate after all fifty of my blog articles have been completed…there are a ton of reflections, lessons learned, and discoveries made that I can share (if anyone is interested) which will certainly keep me busy for an unknown portion of 2012. But without looking too far into the future, I still have an immediate task at hand…church visit number forty. While searching for a church to visit this week I used Google to do some online browsing. This is something that I have (surprisingly) done very few times this year, and instead I have usually selected churches by word of mouth, personal invitation, or drive-by. Google search is, however, a relevant tool that most of us use for finding pretty much anything in today’s world, so I would feel remiss if I did not use it for discovering potential churches to visit. While browsing search results looking for churches that I had never heard of, I came across the website for River City Church and was immediately intrigued. It wasn’t that the website was something spectacular (not to pick on them, but there is actually a ginormous blank white space dominating the visible part of their home page), but what grabbed my attention was the place where the church meets…Mosaic Arts Venue. I work on Market Street in downtown Chattanooga, so I spend a lot of time down there and for me Mosaic is one of those businesses that I always see and am always curious about but never go in the door to find out what is inside. So I decided to go to River City Church and find out what it and Mosaic, were all about. Read more...
Church Experience #39 – October 5, 2011
The Well – Hixson First Baptist Church – Hixson, TN
Facebook, Football, and Church
A weird thing happened late at night on Tuesday (or actually early in the morning on Wednesday) of last week. Just after midnight I was hanging out at home evaluating what went wrong with my latest fantasy football defeat (after starting the season 2-4 I may get some retribution this week against my wife) and before calling it a night, I took one last glance at Facebook and noticed a new post on the ChurchSurfer Page. It was from “The Well” and it read, “We would like to invite you to our launch tomorrow night at Hixson First Baptist starting at 6:30. Hope to see you there.” What are you people thinking? I only agreed to go to church once a week this year on Sundays (and a Saturday at a Seventh Day Adventist Church). I never said anything about weekday services. Gosh! And why would anyone think that I would be interested in a launch service? And why would there be a service at a Baptist church called The Well? And now that I’m interested, why would someone invite me to something without giving me any details like it was some kind of cool mysterious church thing that was going to happen? OK, OK, you got me! Not to mention we were planning on going to the Tennessee vs. Georgia game at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville (thanks again for the tickets Chip & Carol) that just so happened to be a Saturday night game and this would prevent me from looking like a zombie in church on Sunday morning after getting home around 2:00 a.m. And by the way, Jesus is my life, Christianity is my faith, and Tennessee Volunteer football is my religion (I’m pretty sure I just lost a lot of readers with that statement, for multiple reasons). Now back to The Well…so I got this odd Facebook invitation after midnight on the night before the launch service. Sounds interesting, don’t you think? Well, here is how it went… Read more...
Church Experience #38 – October 2, 2011
Saint Martin of Tours Episcopal Church – Chattanooga, TN
Bring Out Yer Pets
For this week’s ChurchSurfer visit I took part in a tradition that I never knew existed, probably because I’m not Catholic and I had never been to an Episcopal church before this year. The tradition I am referring to is the “pet blessing service” that is part of the feast of St. Francis of Assisi that is celebrated by the Catholic church on October 4. Other denominations, including the Episcopal church, have also adopted the pet blessing service, and if you do a Google search for it you get a ton of results about these services that are held by local churches. While driving down East Brainerd road last week, my wife Laura and I saw the sign at Saint Martin of Tours Episcopal Church, which spelled out in removable block lettering “ST FRANCIS PET BLESSING – 10 AM WORSHIP – PEOPLE / PETS INVITED”. Cool! I had no clue these existed, but I have a nine-year-old dog named Larry (named after my favorite character from the “3 Stooges“) who could probably use a blessing or two. So we both agreed that we would bring Larry to his very first church service and our first pet blessing service. We did not really know what to expect (Laura’s first comment was “they allow dogs inside church?”, like there is some kind of Biblical decree forbidding it), but we were excited to see what it was all about, so here’s how it went…
The Great Outdoors Read more...
Church Experience #37 – September 25, 2011
Chattanooga Church – Chattanooga, TN
A Building That Beckons
Some time earlier this year I was Googling and browsing the websites of various churches in Chattanooga and came across Chattanooga Church. It just so happened that as I clicked through the pages on their website I noticed a blog post from their pastor, Morty Lloyd, that referenced the ChurchSurfer blog. He had read the newspaper article about ChurchSurfer that appeared in the Chattanooga Times Free Press and used it as an opportunity to challenge his congregation to look at their own church introspectively and think about how they may be perceived by visitors. I made a mental note about this church (which doesn’t always work so well) and then kept noticing it as I would pass by on Bonnie Oaks Drive. The Chattanooga Church building is one of those intriguing structures that you just want to go look at because of its unique charm. It is a small grey stone structure that looks like it belongs among the rolling hills of the Irish countryside or in some quaint little village in rural England. Instead, Chattanooga Church is paradoxically perched on the left side of the circle driveway that leads into Bonnie Oaks Business Park. Despite the out-of-place location, the building still invites you to come inside for a closer look, as does the name of the church, which without any denominational tags or descriptive adjectives in the title, leaves you wondering what it is all about. Full of questions and curiosity, my wife Laura and I decided to give Chattanooga Church a try, and here is how it went… Read more...
Church Experience #36 – September 18, 2011
Harvest Bible Chapel – Chattanooga, TN
Despite My Best Efforts
A few months back I spent a day volunteering at J-Fest, which is an all-day Christian music festival put on by the local Christian radio station, J103. I served at the information booth for Men’s Ministry Network, a local ministry that I am involved with, and during part of the day I thought it would be a good idea to visit the rest of the booths at the festival to get information about other local churches that I might visit this year for the ChurchSurfer blog. Just a few spaces down from our booth was an energetic group of people representing a yet-to-be-officially-launched church called Harvest Bible Chapel. I thought it was a little odd that a church that technically did not exist yet (although as Christians we all know that this group of people was already a church) would have a booth at a Christian music festival (which translated means I can’t believe a church would actually be that organized and able to plan ahead, especially one that hasn’t even launched yet…but then again, maybe that’s why they were able to be organized…they weren’t dealing with the craziness of full-on church life yet). So I gathered some literature from them, which I of course didn’t really look at (limited time), and was invited to an informational “party with the pastors”, which I of course didn’t attend (limited energy), and then I filed a reminder to attend their first real worship service in the back of my mind somewhere (limited capacity) that pretty soon got lost (limited functionality). I thought it would be a really cool experience to attend the first-ever worship service of a new church, but as you can see, I obviously had all of my excuses in place in case I missed it. Apparently God had a different plan for me, because despite my best efforts to botch this up, someone (don’t ask who, I’ve already filed that info away) mentioned the launch of Harvest Bible Chapel Chattanooga to me in conversation a whole week in advance of their inaugural worship service of Sunday, September 18, which rattled my forgotten memories of J-Fest back into focus. I can usually handle remembering something for a week, so I felt confident that I would make it there on Sunday and experience the (public) birth of a church. Here’s how it went… Read more...
Church Visit #35 – September 11, 2011
Burks United Methodist Church – Hixson, TN
Here I Go Again
So I got to thinking this past week (dangerous, I know) about the fact that I have been to thirty-five different churches in the Chattanooga area this year (well, actually thirty-four in Chattanooga and one in California). My line of thinking quickly switched from “wow, I’ve visited thirty-five churches this year”, to “wow, I only have fifteen church visits left this year”. So then I quickly started considering how many churches of each denomination I have been to, what parts of the area I haven’t visited yet, topics that I haven’t covered, experiences that I might have missed…OK stop right there. As I revisit those thoughts I also realize that I wish I could visit every church in Chattanooga, meet everyone, experience everything, and write about and share it all. I realize that the process of creating and doing the ChurchSurfer blog this year has opened my heart to an even deeper love for the Lord and for people, and a sincere desire to share His love with everyone I possibly can. I also realize that simply broadcasting messages about this Love through a blog or from the pulpit or any other means of mass delivery is simply not the way to accomplish that task. The best way to share God’s love with people is in person. People will receive your demonstrations of love through serving them much faster than they will receive anything you tell them or write to them. People change when you walk through it with them, not after you have preached it to them. In fact, God Himself gave us the best example by showing us that even though it was important to broadcast the Ten Commandments and sacred writings of His Word, ultimately He needed to come in person and show us His love by serving us (John 13:14-15). He did it in a way that we could replicate and then commanded us to do just that. As disciples we are called to not only receive His love, but to share it with others and ultimately, prepare others to share it also (2 Timothy 2:2). I truly believe that I could never accomplish with a blog that is read by thousands of people, anything close to what I could accomplish with only a few people in person. Jesus discipled twelve men. There were millions of other people on the earth and yet He chose to pour Himself into twelve men. It’s because He knew what those twelve men would go on to do. Here’s a news flash for you…if you are a follower of Jesus then you are called to do the same thing that those twelve men did (Matthew 28:19). OK, wow…I really didn’t mean to get sidetracked on a sermon, but that may have been a few minutes of Holy Spirit guidance there. I hope it means something to you. So now, on to this week’s church visit… Read more...
Church Visit #34 – September 4, 2011
Redemption Point Church – Ooltewah, TN
It’s All About the Timing
On multiple occasions this year I have been invited to visit Redemption Point Church in Ooltewah. I am not sure how or why I have ended up running into so many people who attend there, but it is one of those weird things that keeps popping up over and over. At one point earlier in the year I visited the Redemption Point website and was intrigued by the “Aspiring to be the most loving church in America” slogan right there on the home page. At the time I was really focusing on how I was welcomed into the churches that I was visiting and how the people at each church interacted with me. I thought it would be interesting to see if the people at Redemption Point were doing any better at living out their aspiration to be the most loving church than all the other churches around Chattanooga. Maybe God knew that would be the wrong reason (or maybe the wrong time) to visit Redemption Point, because it soon slipped my mind and I never felt strongly led to go there…until now. After having another one of those “chance” encounters…this time with a friend who had been on the same Walk to Emmaus that I attended in the Spring, who I ran into again at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon recently. He invited me to visit his church, which just happened to be Redemption Point. So this time I felt like it was definitely time to go, and after visiting I know why I was supposed to wait until now. I’ll go over the timing aspect of this church visit a little later, but here’s how the experience went… Read more...