Church Experience #13 – April 3, 2011
East Lake Salvation Army
A Chasm of Disparity
For this week’s church visit I decided I needed to get right into the trenches with what has become probably the most consistent topic/thought/issue of my ChurchSurfer journey so far this year. The more I get into the Word, the more churches I visit, the more people I meet, the more time I spend in prayer…the more I get smacked in the face with the issue of money. The haves and the have-nots, the good part of town and the bad part of town, the state-of-the-art megachurch complexes and the single-room bare bones church buildings. The gaping chasm of financial disparity that exists in today’s society is unavoidable to some, yet all but ignored by others. I’ve lived in the East Lake neighborhood of Chattanooga before, among other low-income areas, so I’ve always been aware of the substandard conditions that many people live in, but I’ve never regularly attended church in those areas, and I’ve never attended a Salvation Army church service before. So in order to get a better understanding I decided to go to a worship service at East Lake Salvation Army, on the corner of 28th St and 4th Ave, just across from the East Lake housing projects.
Jesus Loves The Little Children Read more...
Church Experience #12 – March 20, 2011
Dance Dance Revolution
About 10 or 12 years ago I went through a dancing phase in my Christian worship style. I had been a fan of live music for a long time (bluegrass, jazz, funk, jambands, etc) and I always enjoyed dancing at the concerts I attended. This kind of carried over into my Christian life and I would often migrate to the rear of whatever church or venue I was at and dance during the worship music. I never thought it was all that out of the ordinary, but looking back, I’m sure other people did. Then I visited a Vineyard church in Nashville and was pleasantly surprised to find that there were other dancers out there. Not the whole congregation danced, but quite a few people did, as well as bang tambourines, wave banners, and engage in various other free-spirited worship activities. I specifically remember a lady from the Vineyard service I attended who was a particularly fine dancer, and was probably the oldest person at the church that day, appearing to be well over 70. Now that my dancing days are for the most part over (except for at home where I still regularly cut loose to the amusement of my wife and dog) I was curious to see whether the Vineyard church in Chattanooga was also a place of free-spirited worship, or if I had just happened across a congregation that held a little more closely to the denomination’s San Francisco roots.
Warm Welcome Read more...
Church Experience #11 – March 13, 2011
New Philadelphia Missionary Baptist Church, Chattanooga, TN
One of my sincere desires out of the ChurchSurfer journey this year is to find and experience what would be considered “fringe” churches that don’t fit into the norm of my middle class, suburban-dwelling, American bubble. It’s not that I don’t expect to have powerful experiences or get interesting content for my blog articles from the “inside the bubble” churches, but I know that in order for me to grow, to gain understanding, to increase in wisdom, compassion, and love, I will need to venture outside the bubble. I’ve probably already done this more than most during my life…I spent a year driving around the country with my friend Michael Cruze, living out of tents and a car, mingling with the homeless, and trying to reach out to anyone God put in our path. I just haven’t experienced these different environments inside the local church. I actually believe my experience as a nomad has equipped me with the ability to go into various “outside the bubble” churches and instantly relate to people in their environment (they probably struggle more to relate with me because I’m out of their norm). So it’s a natural fit for me to explore all these various church environments and allow others to experience them with me through my writing. You’ve probably guessed by now why I’m leading in to this week’s church experience with this intro…this is one of those “outside the bubble” church visits.
Beauty Is in the Eye of the Beholder Read more...
Church Experience #10 – March 6, 2011
Lookout Valley Baptist Church, Chattanooga, TN
So everyone knows that a married man should always make decisions based on what is best for the whole family, and when his wife wants something, it’s probably best for the whole family that she gets it. Up until this point in my ChurchSurfer journey, I have been making the decisions (often through listening for and following what I think are God’s leads) on where to go to church on Sundays. That ended this week. One of Laura’s friends from work invited her to church, so of course, that is where we went :). I’m sure you understand why I didn’t argue (I’m still amazed that she is going on this crazy journey to visit 50 churches in 1 year with me in the first place). One of the Christian life lessons I’ve learned over the years is that if you want to hear the Lord…His direction for you, His words of encouragement, His expressions of love…you need only to listen to His people. As it turns out, using Laura to suggest which church we attended this week was one of God’s leads.
The McDonald’s Theory Read more...
Church Experience #9 – Feb. 27, 2011
Bridge Christian Church, Chattanooga, TN
Networking for Church
One of the things I enjoy most in life is meeting new people. In business, I’m an avid networker. I seek out and get involved in various meetings, groups, organizations, social circles, etc. on a regular basis. My opinion is that the more people I know or know of, the better. I feel that in some way, maybe I’m increasing the odds of meeting someone who could make a substantial impact on my life (or I on theirs), that I would otherwise miss if I didn’t get out there and network. [For all you psychologists out there, maybe that’s why I felt the need to begin the ChurchSurfer project…it’s my spiritual networking.] This thought of increasing the odds of making a meaningful connection definitely proved to be true in the instance of discovering Bridge Christian Church…had I (and they) not been involved in networking, it may never have happened. The Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce morning networking events I attend always include “self introduction” time where they pass the microphone around the room so everyone can announce their name and business. At one event, I heard an introduction from someone followed by a church name…Bridge Christian Church. I was instantly intrigued. I had never seen a church come to a business networking event and I knew I needed to meet this person immediately. It turns out the person was Scottie Blackburn, Community Pastor at Bridge, which is a four month old church. Cool! A new angle for a ChurchSurfer article…exploring the beginnings of a baby church. Read more...
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). Read more...
Church Experience #4 – Jan 23, 2011
St. Peter’s Episcopal Church
It’s Denomination Time
After spending the first few weeks of 2011 attending non-denominational churches, I knew it was time to take ChurchSurfer into the denominational world. Although I plan on visiting all of the popular denominations sometime this year, I couldn’t see myself going to a Baptist, Methodist, or Presbyterian church this week because that’s what I’ve known for the majority of my life and I really wanted to experience something new. So I chose an Episcopal Church, because I know very little about that denomination. It turns out that its a very interesting denomination…the history, the rituals, and the people I met were all very enlightening to me. One of the ways I feel like I grew this week was in expanding my awareness of church history and the responsibility of carrying on traditions from generation to generation. So get ready to jump back in time…
Creating an Atmosphere Read more...