By Teena Myers
The name and address of my next First Time Guest Experience came from a Facebook friend. The church address told me they were in my neck of the woods. A little internet sleuthing produced an article about the churches history. A couple had started a home Bible Study that grew into a small congregation in need of a larger facility. They moved into a golf club to start an independent church.
The street entrance off a major highway had enormous signs announcing the name of the golf club. I expected a brief trip to the entrance not a two mile drive through some ritzy houses. A sign in front of the abandoned and apparently empty club announced the worn and weary building for sale. I drove by the club thinking the church might be in a building nearby. Nothing but more elaborate houses. A U-turn back to the club made me wonder if the church had already failed and this trip was a bust.
A cluster of cars parked behind the building caught my eye. I drove onto the gravel parking. Two men were practicing golf swings near several golf carts. I debated going home, but decided to investigate. One of the men pointed to a building, “That’s the church. I believe you have to enter from the side.”
He gave me accurate information. A glass door had the churches name with a paper sign directing people to enter through the side door. I stepped into a gathering of young men. Nothing I saw suggested church.
“Is this the church?” I said.
They smiled. One of the men said, “This is the church and pointed down a hallway.” At last I entered a room that looked like a church. If a TV screen embedded in the wall, band instruments and rows of metal chairs constitute what a church looks like. There is much to be said for clearly marking the location of a church. I almost returned home twice before I found them.
What followed reminded me more of a home Bible study than a formal church. The pastor wore jeans and button down shirt. His staff of young people opened the service. No children’s church today. A few songs. The pastor’s wife made a few more announcements. More singing.
A woman tapped me on the shoulder. “Is this your first time?” I nodded. She handed me a visitor’s bag containing candy, a visitor’s card to fill out, but no pen. I extracted a pen from the bottom of my purse and entered the requested information. The flip side of the card informed me the pastor and his wife would like to meet me and gave three options: coffee, lunch, or dinner. Under the options, instructions to drop the card in the offering basket. That was the first time I’ve seen such a personal invitation. I marked coffee.
I don’t know if my mind simply wondered into a day dream, or I dosed off. The next thing I knew people were lining up to receive communion. Three children stood at the front of the church. Two held the communion implements and one held a basket. I stepped into the line wondering about the purpose of the basket. Until I saw people putting money in the basket for the offering. Everyone knew that except me. I had left my neatly filled out information card at my seat. If an explanation had been given about the next phase of the service I missed it. I stuffed the information card into a side pocket in my purse. At the appropriate time, I ate my cracker and drank my thimble of grape juice in remembrance of Jesus sacrifice.
The pastor received a word from the Lord. Anyone struggling with “anything” should come forward for prayer. That fit everyone in the building, but only a handful walked forward to receive prayer. Most of the children were sitting on the floor at the back of the church coloring. Everything about the meeting had a flavor of an informal home Bible study with friends. Several members helped the pastor pray for those struggling. After everyone seeking prayer sat down the pastor pulled a nice looking podium to the center of the room.
He read through the story of Daniel in the lion’s den pausing intermittently with commentary applying Daniel’s experience with contemporary living. At the conclusion of his message, his altar call for salvation yielded zero takers. He dismissed the congregation, and I collected my purse and bag of candy. As I approached the exit a woman stopped me. We exchanged names. She told me about a woman’s Bible study on Thursdays led by the pastor’s wife. Assuming she was in some form of leadership, I gave her the information card and went home.
I am still waiting for coffee with the pastor and his wife. I guess they really didn’t want to meet me.