The last time I looked for a church in the Metroplex was 1988. That’s the year I moved to Ft. Worth, Texas to matriculate at Southwestern Seminary. I didn’t do a lot of searching, just started attending Joel Gregory’s church. I’ve forgotten the church name, but Dr. Joel is still one of the best preachers I’ve ever listened to. This morning I drove to Rockwall and attended Lakepointe Baptist. Here are a few observations.
I was glad they had an 11:00 AM service. There were two other churches I might have attended along the way, but both started earlier than I’d anticipated. I arrived in time to wait in a fairly long traffic line. Nobody directed us. I didn’t see any visitor parking. I drove to the back of the lot and parked. Took about five minutes to walk in. Nobody directed me. Nobody said hello to me. In fact, nobody looked at me at all. I had to get an usher’s attention to obtain a bulletin.
On my way in I noticed that they seem to have a lot of space dedicated to children and youth, so I’d assume these are sought after programs. Once in the auditorium I navigated to a seat over to one side. In spite of the traffic, there were seats available. The worship music was contemporary. The band was large, like seven or eight musicians. The sound mix wasn’t the best. However, the Holy Spirit was present and I was able to worship.
Steve Stroope is the Senior Pastor and kind of a leader among Dallas Baptists. He introduced the pastor of a mission church that Lakepointe sponsors in Washington DC. I assumed Stroope would teach, but it was another younger man who was called a “teaching pastor”. He seemed well informed, but I’m not the demographic they have him teaching to. I went out into the lobby and got a cup of coffee, while continuing to follow the speaker on flat screens everywhere.
In the end I left without anyone knowing or caring that I’d been there. It was a lot like my workouts at Lifetime Fitness: I get something out of it, but I don’t make any friends in the process. Now, I could have chosen to make the first move and meet people, but I really didn’t attend for that purpose. I think that’s likely the case for many people. My purpose was to worship first, but also to evaluate what they’re doing to draw so many people.
It seems that many people attend church to get something out of it for themselves and their families. They attend for the children’s program, the youth program, to be in church when they feel the need to be there. Maybe there are some seekers who are trying to figure out whether they believe in God or not. There are people who just believe they’re supposed to be in church, and this is a nice, big, anonymous one to attend.
I was glad to hear the Gospel preached, was happy to feel the Holy Spirit during the musical portion of the worship. I’m appreciative of all this church is doing to start other churches in areas where there aren’t many. However, I think I’d have to do the heavy lifting to build relationships there.
A church is supposed to be people, a community of individuals called out of the world and connected by the Holy Spirit. I didn’t see that in my brief visit. My hypothesis about why mega churches draw so many people is this: they provide a product, a service (pun intended) to people. The product is their professional programming. People attend for the same reason they go to a gym. They want to feel better, to get something for themselves. This is a consumer driven model, and these churches have figured out who their clientele is and how to make them happy.
What I would like to see in our church is genuine community. We’ve experienced it before in all it’s chaotic, messy, splendor. Some of us are connected and experience it now, but I doubt if that is any greater, percentage-wise, than they do at Lakepointe. They probably have great community in their small groups and many ministries. Again, if I had the need to get involved, I’m sure I could. At Lifewell I would like to make everyone feel welcome. I want visitors to not only feel welcome, but to feel that we want to be friends if they would like to have that relationship. I cannot personally be close friends with everyone, but someone, several someones, can be their friend.
We have a long way to go, but I believe we can get there. I’ll lead. I begin by confessing that I’ve been too distracted and self-absorbed on too many occasions. Perhaps I’ve been aloof, too worried about being some sort of exalted SENIOR PASTOR instead of relating to and loving everyone as I should. I will change. Will my friends at Lifewell follow?