Church Experience #47 – December 11, 2011
New City Fellowship East Lake – Chattanooga, TN
Having a collective experience with a group of people is a very powerful thing that evokes very personal emotions. We all know that. It’s what the whole foundation of church is based on. None of this was intended to be experienced alone. Worship, prayer, fellowship, love, service, sacrifice…while they can (and should) be done alone, the coming together of a family or community of believers magnifies them exponentially. Jesus even went so far as to say “…for where two or three come together in my name, there I am with them.” (Matt 18:20) God wants us to come together and experience things collectively. Collective emotional experiences are more powerful, attractive, lasting…they can warm you right down to your bones in a way that private personal experiences simply cannot. Have you ever had a mind-blowing epiphany? How about an extremely vivid dream? Or maybe an amazing feat or accomplishment that nobody else witnessed. The first thing you do is look for the closest person to share your experience with…am I right? So it would stand to reason that when churches come along within a community that capture the essence of that community and people get engaged and engrossed, so much so that it births this growing and developing collective experience with each other and with God that begins changing lives…people talk about it. Other people hear and want to be a part of it. People may not even understand it but they can see that there is something to it. It ignites internal fires that may have been long forgotten or even undiscovered, and when these fires are lit and have a source of fuel to keep them burning they jump out and light other fires and as the Spirit wind blows, the fires continue to spread. These are the types of experiences that can envelop and impact a whole community. These experiences become real life stories that we are compelled to tell and share with others. I’m here to tell this story about the community of East Lake in Chattanooga…there’s a fire down there. Read more...
Church Experience #23 – June 12, 2011
New City Fellowship PCA – Chattanooga, TN
With or Without Generalizations
When it comes to making generalizations about how people worship and conduct church services compared to what types of cultures and subcultures make up the majority of the people in a congregation, I would say I have pretty much gotten what I have expected so far on the ChurchSurfer journey. Denomination seems to be the best foreshadow of what to expect out of a church experience, and then as you add in the demographics of the pastor and people that make up the church you can pretty easily paint the rest of the picture. For example, if you go to an Episcopal church that has a predominantly white congregation in an affluent neighborhood, you can probably bank on the fact that the service will be dressy and formal with conservative hymn-based worship led by a choir without electric instruments or drums. There are plenty of generalizations like this that will tell a story about what a certain church is like, and I would argue that (whether consciously or unconsciously) these are the tools most people use to decide which church they will attend or join…it is really just human nature. So far, I have attended twenty-two different churches in 2011 and have not really been surprised (by not knowing what to expect) yet. I am not really sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing. Should churches be that predictable? I can think of arguments for both the “yes” and “no” answers to that question, as well as for “yes and no” answer. Let me also clarify that I am speaking of the typical format and style of the worship service here, not the events that happen (or results of those events) at a church on any given Sunday, which are wholly up to the Holy Spirit (you like how I did that…wholly and Holy?). The reason I am bringing these things up (as you can probably guess) is that here I am in week twenty-three and feel like for the first time I visited a church that was not what I thought it would be. Well, to be honest, I have actually been to New City Fellowship once before, probably ten years ago or more, and that was my experience then. Now that I am married I thought it would be a great church for my wife Laura to experience as well, plus one that should definitely be included in ChurchSurfer. So here is the run-down on our experience… Read more...