This was our first Sunday morning visiting away from our old church. We actually visited World Outreach Church last Wednesday and planned to go back today, but Cathy's cousin Dee-Wee emailed us to tell us that her son Michael would be performing at the end of the service at their church, Evangelistic Temple, so we visited there instead! (It was on our list anyway, so we would have visited within the next few weeks.) The youth from the church had gone to a national competition with some drama, music, photography, and other kinds of expressions of their faith in the arts, and Michael had been part of two competitions: a drama skit and a comedy rap song. The drama team was scheduled to perform; the "rap group" kind of snuck in at the very end. :)
Dee-Wee (that's a nickname I accidentally invented for her several years ago... long story. Her real name is Melody, but most everyone calls her Dee-DEE, not Dee-WEE) met us at the door when we got there. We got the baby checked in at the nursery, and the ladies there were very friendly and cordial. Hannah seemed a little bit nervous, but she was OK once she spotted the toys! Once she was settled in, Dee-Wee took us for the two-dollar tour of all the places around the church where the youth meet, the kids meet, the little coffee area, that sort of thing. It was kind of fun to get to see the facility! By then it was almost time for the service to start, so we went back to the main sanctuary.
At E.T. they have an early "traditional" service and a later "contemporary" service; we were there for the contemporary service. In the lobby we found Dee-Wee's husband (Lee-Wee), and we ran into Krista, the sister of my roommate from my ORU days. So we felt very much surrounded by friends. The associate pastor, who was to be speaking that morning, even spotted us and came over to say hello! We felt very welcome, and very at home! (Cathy and I had both been to E.T. before, although it has been years and years for both of us, so it wasn't a totally alien environment, either.)
The service was wonderful. It looked like maybe they were having some sound issues at the beginning of the music time; I saw a guy scrambling around checking some cables or direct boxes or something. But the worship was well-done and certainly heartfelt. Not quite as slick of a production as what we've been used to at the much larger churches we've attended, but I've absolutely heard MUCH worse, and I had no trouble joining in (the sound problems got fixed fairly quickly, as well). The sanctuary was maybe half-full by the end of the music portion; at the very beginning it was really sparse. I suspect that was partly because people were chatting out in the lobby area, which is really just part of the same large room with a partition in the way; you're almost in the service even when you're in that lobby. The musicians did a great job; as a music-oriented person I actually enjoyed watching a lady who was playing congas and some other percussion in the background. I thought it was cool that she had a tambourine mounted on a stand on the ground and she was playing it with a kick pedal. :)
Cathy and I LOVED the message. He started off talking about the "cash for clunkers" program that has just ended (bring in your old dilapidated car to trade in for a new one with a government refund for the "clunker"), but then he turned it around to "grace for clunkers"! The idea was that God has taken our messed up lives and given us something infinitely valuable in exchange. It was really inspiring; I was impressed at how evangelistic it was in nature, but still very relevant and useful to the already-converted. I thought he did an excellent job.
When the message was over and announcements and the offering were done, we were treated to the youth drama performance, which had won third place at the national competition. Here's the video of the performance at nationals:
Dee-Wee's son is Satan and the beginning, and Jesus at the end. Now THAT'S a conversion story!
The first service didn't get to see the next part. Michael is one-third of a tongue-in-cheek rap act called "Creepers 4 Christ," and somehow they got the associate pastor to let them on stage. :) This is their performance which won FIRST place in the national competition!
After that, all that the associate pastor could say was something to the effect of, "If Pastor ever hears about this, I'll know it was YOU guys that told him!" It was really funny!
The pros of E.T.: we have family and friends there already. They appear to have very active programs for children and teenagers. They have some outreach programs that appear to be fairly active as well. The message was excellent, and the people were super friendly to us. This is no fly-by-night church; they've been there a long time and there's no reason to suspect that they won't be there for years to come. There were several visitors this morning besides us (which probably means people are inviting their friends), and they baptized several kids and adults this morning, one woman who had received Jesus right in the church just weeks ago.
The cons of E.T. (for us): mainly that it has a little bit of a throwback-to-the-70s feel to it. The building isn't brand-spanking-new, and it feels lived-in. That is by no means a reason to write this church off, and we haven't scratched it off our list by any means! But it's a little more shall we say "retro" than we're used to.
Final impression: I think we could be very happy having E.T. as our home church. There are some bells that rang for us at World Outreach that didn't ring here (I'll blog World Outreach after we get to a Sunday service there), but I would highly recommend E.T. to anyone who asked me about it. It's a wonderful place, and we look forward to visiting again there from time to time.