People attend a specific church for a variety of different reasons. Style of worship is a big determining factor these days. Traditional. Contemporary. Liturgical. People think their way is best, but not all people worship best the same way. Some pick a church with the best music or youth program, or where they like the preacher. Some attend where their kids like to go, or their wife. Some churches (like JFBC) do a better job of building community than others. Some churches are well organized and cater to visitors who may feel uncomfortable in church (North Point). Passion City Church may not build community or be well organized, but the worship and music is unparalleled, and the messages are good. Some churches you can walk into for the first time and feel uncomfortable and out of place, but others make you feel right at home.
An old friend from Tech attends a small country Methodist church east of town, where he plays guitar in the praise band. This week he’s been in Europe, and Sunday he attended Hillsong Church. His report:
Today has been epic. I went to Hillsong church, held in the Dominion Theatre in downtown London. I wanted to see how a well-known contemporary church works. The line for the service stretched around Oxford Street, around the block. I didn't think I'd get in, but the Dominion is where I saw "We Will Rock You," and it's where "Lord of the Dance" is playing in London. Hillsong gets the huge venue for Sundays, and I got in. It was a packed house, and I found out why. Joyce Meyer ...was the guest speaker. They don't do sermons; they have speakers. I know some of my friends love Joyce Meyer while others don't. All I know is that she is a dynamic speaker, theological details aside. The praise band was strong, but they were doing the exact same thing we do each Sunday morning. They were leading worship, driving to the lyrics on large screens, matching their skills to the overall message. If they'd asked, I would like to think I could have filled in on guitar. I liked that. I watched the lead guitarist - who had a pedalboard as big as a carpet - and I learned. And watching them made me know just how strong our praise band is: a band that is playing in Covington at the same time I'm writing this. I learned so much about how they approach worship. It was a massive venue, packed with London Christians and sinners. Several accepted Christ. The theatre was rocking. I sat among black faces, oriental faces, white faces. To my right was a woman from Zambia. Everywhere I looked, I saw youth. I honestly and feverishly looked for old people. I was one of the few. The ages were clustered around the mid-to-late 20s. I kept looking for older people. There was the preacher. There was Joyce Meyer. There was me. On the way out, I saw another grey-haired worshiper, there with her daughter. I think I saw one other person over 50. This was a youth movement, and it was sincere, and London was rocking for Christ. When I attended "We Will Rock You" at the height of its theatrical run, I didn't have to wait in line. I sat on the 2nd row. Today, I was in the balcony, thankful to get into the service, watching a packed house of worship. God has blessed this town. I am blessed and deeply moved to have seen it and experienced a coming revival among the children of God.
Sunday morning Ceil and I went to the 10 am PCC service. Left home shortly after nine. Down at Piedmont and Lindburgh I noticed heavier than usual traffic on Lindburgh. It was 9:35 so I continued south on Piedmont, hoping for a parking spot at PCC. Westbound traffic on Garson was also backed up, so Ceil hopped out of the car, but traffic sat still for minutes and minutes. When I finally rounded the curve I saw the problem: the light was out at Lindburgh and Garson. The cop was doing a terrible job directing traffic, basically only letting one of the four directions go at one time. The shuttle busses couldn’t get back to MARTA to carry the worshippers, so they were walking – creating further delays at the intersection. Westbound Garson cars went straight across Lindburgh past the station, right past Five Guys, right at Dunkin Donuts (merging with cars turning in off Lindburgh), then right into the garage.
Thinking the Gold Club lot was open, I turned right on Lindburgh – but the lot was locked up. Such a fiasco would never happen at Buckhead Church or North Point. Happens all the time at Passion City Church. The cheerful traffic team seemed oblivious. Even though the Gold Club lot was closed, I saved time making a left on Piedmont and left on Lindburgh and right into the garage. My Civic was able to park in an economy car space, saving me even more time. Mary-Clayton’s brother and sister were on my shuttle bus, which I took just to see how long the trip would take back to the church (not long). The traffic had me stressed, yet others around me chatted excitedly, with anticipation.
Made me think of James Earl Jones’ classic speech in Field of Dreams - just substitute Jesus for Baseball.
Ray, people will come Ray. They'll come to Iowa for reasons they can't even fathom. They'll turn up your driveway not knowing for sure why they're doing it. They'll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past. Of course, we won't mind if you look around, you'll say. It's only $20 per person. They'll pass over the money without even thinking about it: for it is money they have and peace they lack. And they'll walk out to the bleachers; sit in shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon. They'll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they'll watch the game and it'll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they'll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh... people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.
The crowd was heavier than usual for two reasons: attenders to a weekend conference from over 600 churches had stuck around for the service, and music leader Matt Redman was in town from England. There were as many people worshipping in overflow areas than in the auditorium. Found Ceil by 10:10 am, but after battling traffic for 40 minutes it took me a while to calm down for worship. After the service ended at 11:45 I knew traffic would be bad. We walked the half mile back to the garage. The line of cars exiting funneled back out to the Lindburgh traffic jam, but we made it home in a little less than an hour. Some people attend church and shop for groceries and go the dentist five minutes from home. But not everyone.