47-Independent (Online)


April 5, 2020, 830 AM

This church held its first worship service on the first Sunday after 9/11. It now has three locations in the metropolitan area with over 1600 average weekly attendance in 2019. The website lists their basic beliefs, core values and staff. The pastors are all white males and only one of the large staff appears to be a minority. Most of them also appear to be under forty. There’s no information about the leaders’ education, background or experience. I generally want to know where/how church leaders received their training, so I find this omission a bit troubling.

The online worship service began on time (amazing how this always happens with internet church) with a four person praise band singing a medley of songs. The last one was an updated version of How Great Thou Art, which was well done. One of the campus pastors came on next, and after a short prayer, began the message time. Obviously, this church has widespread appeal. But for me, I wish these newer churches would incorporate some form of liturgy–recite the Lord’s Prayer, read Psalm 23 responsively–or do something from traditional worship practices. There are many ways to add these ancient words to a modern service, which not only reinforce the faith, but also add muscle memory in believers.

The campus pastor gave a solid sermon about what it means to have to change, as being in this COVID-19 crisis is forcing us to do. Perhaps God is highlighting things we need to see and need to work on in this time. When we SLOW DOWN, we can see better and we notice details that have been missed when we are always rushing to and fro. He asked us to close our eyes and take stock of what we need to release today. What have we been clenching that we need to give up: worries, un-forgiveness, distractions, etc? Then a little later, he asked us to close our eyes and to contemplate what we need to take on today? What do we need in our lives that has been missing? Prayer, bible study, time with family, etc.? I thought he did a good job getting us to do these small exercises. Then, he transitioned into stressing that the MOST important thing we need to accept into our lives is Jesus Christ. He ended his sermon with an altar call for anyone who has not received Christ as their Lord and Savior. Then, he asked those who wanted to receive Christ to pray along with him. When he finished, he asked anyone who received Christ in this time to text “LIFE” to 215-___-___.

I know some churches always do an altar call at the end, regardless of whatever the message is about. However, I felt like he transitioned from a solid spiritual exercise into something that felt a bit forced and incompatible with the rest of his sermon. I wish he could have let the earlier comments stand on their own as they were spiritually sufficient enough for one sermon.

The Praise Band came back on and sang a song or two, but my feed kept going in and out. I think someone may have asked for an online offering, but again, because the intermittent connection issues, I couldn’t really tell. This never happened before and I can only assume it was technical issues on their end.

It’s not really fair to judge these online services, I know. However, given the all male leadership, the homogenous makeup of the staff, the inability to know about the pastors’ backgrounds, the seemingly young membership and the streaming issues, FOR ME, this church FAILED the WELCOME TEST.

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