Monday, July 28, 2008

Our Experience at Another Church

Getting out of your box can be helpful. A fresh experience. Feeling uncomfortable all over again. This past weekend, my family and I did just that. Because it was youth Sunday at TBC, I took Doug Will's advice and checked out another church. Everyone is going to want to know three things: 1) Where did we go? 2) What was our experience like? and 3) How did it compare with TBC?

A) Where did we attend?

Fellowship Bible Church

B) What was our experience like?

First, it was different on many levels for us as a family.

1. Instead of a 5:30am wakeup, I got up at 7:30am. Wow!
2. We had breakfast as a family on a Sunday morning.
3. We made a pre-church trip to Lowes before church.
4. We parked really close to the church.
5. We were the new family at the church and had no clue what we were doing.
6. We worshipped without any in-depth preparation, except for our hearts.
7. We rubbed shoulders with other believers, and were reminded that millions of other believers worship in places besides the church I regularly attend.
8. We dropped off our kids to some people we didn't know, and placed our full trust in them. And the kids didn't blow a gasket — double wow!
9. We left the church with everyone else. No stage reset. No gear teardown. No other connections to make. I left thinking, "Man, can I really leave? Something is not right here."
10. No full exhausted feeling right after lunch. I actually didn't take a nap Sunday afternoon. Triple wow! Instead I drywalled our basement.

Second, there were many positive things about our first experience at FBC. It's good to know there are other solid-Bible believing churches that are making a difference in people's lives each week. Here is what I observed.

1. They have a brand-spanking new worship center. Nice visual design, nice smelling (like a new hotel lobby), acoustically great for a band, great lighting both natural and stage.
2. It was a baptism Sunday, so no sermon. But the baptism experience was fulfilling, hearing God's story through the lives of the 3 that decided to be baptized.
3. The attendance was ~ 70% full in the 2nd worship hour. They are adding a 3rd service in August and moving their youth program from Wednesday to Sunday morning.
4. The new worship leader, Ken Broom, has an excellent voice. I could express he sounded like a (fill-in-the-blank-with-a-famous-worship-artist), but I won't do that to him. And a nice full band sound coming from the front of house.

1. Of course, I have critiques.
2. I would of any church.
3. Every church isn't perfect.
4. A lot of them are based on personal preference, just like the positives above.
5. But I know some of them are reading my blog.
6. So I'll keep these to myself.
7. If you attend FBC, take me to Burger King and I'll share them with you personally.
8. If you attend TBC, take me to Burger King and I'll still keep them to myself.

C) How did our experience at FBC compare with TBC?

OK. You are probably looking for the side-by-side comparison here. You're not going to get it. It would feed the "us-verse-them" mentality. I firmly believe that TBC and FBC (and other churches truly cemented to a clear purpose of the Great Commission stated in Matthew 28:16-20) are both players on the same team. That being said, FBC and TBC simply serve different roles on the same team — such as a pitcher and catcher on a baseball team. They work together to defeat the ultimate enemy who is against the Great Commission - Satan himself.

The biggest difference personally is how we felt. At TBC we are "regulars." At FBC we were "guests." It was very UNCOMFORTABLE being the outsider for a Sunday. We didn't know where to walk in the building to drop off our kids, we didn't know if they'd want to dig too deep about us, we didn't know the church-family 'protocol' (how they greet each other, if we bring Bibles, if jeans were off-limits, what they do with kids who blow a gasket, etc.). Bottom line, we'd feel like that ANYWHERE we'd go. That's how we felt when we go to any new place — Worlds of Fun, swimming lessons, the zoo, and just about anywhere else.

What would overcome this feeling of the newbie? If someone had invited us personally and encouraged us to go with them. Think about it. All of those things we felt would disappear.

Bottom line, it was a great reminder of what the newbie feels like. It's a good reminder that people will more likely go to church for the first time if they were simply INVITED. The power of the "ask" goes really far.

TBC, FBC, and many other churches have lots of great things going for them. They are on the same team, exist for the same purpose, fighting the same enemy, but serve different roles on this enormous team.

Oh yeah, just for the record — I'm glad God has me on staff at Topeka Bible Church. It's a heavy hitter for the team.

IDEA: A "secret-shopper" at all the Topeka area churches, compile data from an evaluation in an organized way, and share what they've learned with all churches. Imagine if a "yellow book" or "stats" of sorts was published for those who were interested in selecting a home church.

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