Church Experience #49 – December 24, 2011
Chattanooga Convention Center – Chattanooga, TN
Church Experience #50 – December 25, 2011
Brainerd Baptist Church – Chattanooga, TN
Have you been to…?
There was one church throughout the entire year of 2011 “ChurchSurfing” that I was invited to (and asked about) more than any other. Brainerd Baptist Church seems to be a “top of mind” church in Chattanooga. It is definitely big. It has a very popular community center called the BX (for Brainerd Crossroads…it’s across an intersection from the main building). It has a young and energetic pastor, Robby Gallaty, who I heard described as a “future mega-church pastor” (used in an endearing way, of course, pointing to his charisma). So with Brainerd Baptist being one of the most seemingly dynamic churches in Chattanooga, I should have gone to visit immediately to see for myself, right? Not so fast. There were obstacles in the way. I had already visited several Baptist Churches and had a few more already penciled in on my “to visit” list. I also visited ChristWay Community Church, which I thought, was non-denominational but turned out to be Southern Baptist also, which added another Baptist church onto my blog. I definitely wanted the ChurchSurfer blog to feature various denominations, but with something like 60% (I might be making that up) of the churches in the Chattanooga area being Baptist, I knew I would end up visiting more Baptist churches than any other denomination. There was nothing wrong with that, but I needed to sprinkle in the Baptist visits here and there and not let the blog become too predictable. I knew I would end up visiting Brainerd Baptist, I just wanted to wait for the right time. So looking ahead, I figured there was no better way to finish off my year of ChurchSurfing than to visit Brainerd Baptist for Christmas and make it the 2011 ChurchSurfer finale. Yep, that’s exactly what I did…and here’s how it went… Read more...
Church Experience #48 – December 18, 2011
Hamilton Life Church – Chattanooga, TN
A Turn for the Spiritual
There have been several times this year that my wife, Laura, and I have been personally invited to church by someone we know, which is always a nice gesture. I have tried to accept these offers for the most part, aside from some random invitations I have received by letter or email from people who I don’t know who have read the blog and invited me to visit their church. Not that this is a bad thing…I think it is great that people have heard about the ChurchSurfer blog and wanted their church to be included (which, to me demonstrates their passion). I have just decided to keep things a little closer to home and make the blog a reflection of actual people that I was meeting in my regular, everyday life. So recently at a Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce networking event, I was engaged in conversation with Michael and Kacey Picou, owners of a dry cleaning business called Pressed4Time, and after our conversation had taken a turn for the spiritual, they invited me to visit Hamilton Life Church with them. With a few open weeks still remaining before the end of the 2011 ChurchSurfer journey, I gladly accepted. It turns out that Hamilton Life Church had decided to have their Christmas service this week, so Laura and I kicked off our Christmas holiday a little early and joined in the celebration with some new friends. Here’s how it went…
A Talkative Bunch Read more...
Church Experience #46 – December 4, 2011
Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church – Chattanooga, TN
Everyone has things about themselves that they are disappointed in. Things that you know you should have done, places you should have gone, subjects you should have studied, books you should have read, actions you should have taken, opportunities you may have missed…the list goes on and on. We are all afraid (maybe to different extents) of coming to the end of our lives and saying the words “I should have ______, but I never did. I wish I could go back and do things differently”. Some of the things may seem small and insignificant to us in the present moment, so we keep putting them off thinking that we will have time to take care of them later. The problem is, none of us knows how much time we actually have left before we move on to the next realm. Today could be our last day here. So how do we prioritize and get the things done that we actually want to do? How do we even identify the things that could be those “Bucket List” type regrets? I believe that I need to weigh things out by testing them against the Bible and the life that Jesus lived. What would be a more likely thing for me to say with my last breath…”I should have gone skydiving,” or “I should have spent more time with my family”? I personally believe the latter is more likely (for me at least). That is an extreme example, but take a moment and scale that back to situations that are actually a part of your everyday routine. What would you be more disappointed in missing out on…the latest episode of “CSI: Miami” or an hour of time praying for the needs of friends and family who you know have major issues going on in their lives that could be healed or solved through God’s intervention? I think about these things often, and feel pretty guilty about the way I use my time. Time is one of the resources that we are given by our Creator that we are expected to be good stewards of…just like our physical strength, talents, wealth, etc. So how can I use the ChurchSurfer blog project (which I believe is a pretty good use of time) to also help me do some other things that are important to me? I have always had a desire to learn more history, specifically the history of the Christian faith and churches over the years since our Savior’s life, death, and resurrection. Protestantism and Catholicism are two pieces of modern Christianity that I have already experienced first hand, but there is another that I have left out up to this point. It’s time to fix that, so I decided to visit Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church and begin to explore Orthodoxy. Here’s how it went… Read more...
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 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...