Thursday, February 25, 2010

Here and There

I recently returned from a visit to Dallas, TX. I attended 4 church services, had 3 meetings, ate at the same mexican restaurant twice and enjoyed a romantic Valentines Day with 3 "close" friends all within 48 hours. (Just for clarification the romantic part with 3 guys was a joke! Please no e-mails to the elders of Grace Church).

There are definitely things I miss about Dallas: unbelievable Mexican food, a Starbucks on every corner, and Cowboys paraphernalia everywhere. However, midnight traffic, toll roads and the never ending concrete jungle that is Dallas served as smelling salt to my momentary lapses of nostalgia.

There is an old saying about the Lonestar state that "everything's bigger in Texas." and churches are no exception. The four churches we attended average over 6,000 people weekly and have buildings that resemble shopping malls. Coffee bars, oversized fire places, flatscreen tv's and leather sofas are standard clad in the metroplex mega-churches, and that is before you even enter the sanctuary. Inside, worship leaders wear scarfs, and pastors with designer jeans seem larger than life on big screens and big stages. However, once the bling induced shock wears off, there was plenty of church normalcy to be found.

Fellowship Church in Grapevine is ginormous! This was the most unlike Grace of all the churches we visited, and it was hard for me to focus, much less worship. The music was very concert like with a worship band the size of a choir and cameras everywhere. The teaching was filled with vivid illustrations and lots of comical relief. However, not once did I hear the words Jesus, cross, sin, repentance as the pastor worked through (I use the phrase loosely) the book of Nehemiah. I was reminded that visuals can really help communicate our message. Unfortunately, the message was't Jesus!

Watermark Church epitomizes Dallas. Lots of room, lots of money and lots of pretty people. I swear every dude there was 6'3 and 190 lbs of muscle. Excellence was the takeaway! They communicate well in everything they do. This local community is having an impact in Dallas and around the world, and they are doing it by teaching the bible.

BentTree Bible Fellowship was marked by people that are very loving, kind and generous. Although I didn't get to sit in their adult service I know that they are committed to loving people well and meeting all the various needs of the people in their community.

The last church we attended was The Village Church in Flower Mound. Unlike the other "souped-up" services, The Village offered nothing but a guitar, a bible and a few people using them to exalt the name of Jesus and equip the members to be conformed to the image of Christ. It was quite refreshing to worship in a place that felt like home. I found the Village to be a lot like Grace in a number of different ways. What stuck out the most to me, was their determined focus to do a few things well, and their contentment with what God has called them to do and be.

By the time we returned Monday night, I was both energized and exhausted, excited and overwhelmed. But through it all I am thankful for Grace Church and amazed that Jesus has chosen to use this thing called the church to save the world to himself.