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Sunday, September 6, 2009

Church Shopping: World Outreach Church

This morning was our first Sunday morning test-driving World Outreach Church, pastored by Mark & Janet Brazee. We've actually been there a couple of times before; Cathy was in a service back in the 90s when the church was first starting up, and then she and I attended a service a few years ago with my pastor from the church where I grew up (he is a friend of Pastor Brazee), and then we all visited again together the Wednesday before last. I didn't comment on our visit then because frankly, we don't want to judge any church by its Wednesday service alone. Every church puts its best foot forward on Sunday morning, so although we do want to visit churches on Wednesday, we want to make sure we get a Sunday in there, too.

But first about that Wednesday, a week and a half ago. We showed up unannounced (in fact, I think this was even before we had told friends at our old church that we had decided to leave) and immediately found our dear friends Mardy & Jamie. I've known Mardy since we were in choir together in college; Cathy and I got back aquainted with him and met his wife many years later at the church we just left. Mikey got to be friends with their son, who is a year younger than Mikey, and Cathy even babysat for them at one point. Anyway, they've been at WOC for some time now, and we spotted them right off. Jamie was characteristically enthusiastic to see us; for one thing she's an enthusiastic lady! ...and for another thing she and Cathy have been really good friends. So we sat with them through that service.

I'm getting a little bit ahead of myself, though. First we had to check in the kids in their classes! Hannah went to the nursery area, where she seemed really ready to go play with the other children. Mikey went upstairs to their beautiful brand new facility for the older kids. He was hooked when he saw the Wiis in there. :)

Anyway, we were with Mardy and Jamie in the adult service, and we had a wonderful time, and enjoyed it very much. When we asked Mikey later what he liked about his experience, he said that "Everyone was so friendly!" so he had a great time, and Hannah apparently had a good time playing and she left happy (actually, she left with one of their board books... I had to go bring it back!) About a week later, I got a follow-up phone call, which was very appreciated (I talked about that here). Then this morning we loaded up again for our first full-fledged Sunday morning service!

The church was pretty packed for the Sunday morning service. At the same time as they were expanding their children's areas, they were expanding the sanctuary as well, and they clearly needed it! It was Missions Sunday, and when I heard that, I knew Cathy was going to really love it; foreign missions are something that has been strong on her heart ever since her (Southern Baptist) childhood. I have a love for missions too, but not nearly to the degree as she does. And as is obvious from their name, World Outreach Church is definitely a missions-focused church! We got to hear some exciting testimony from a missionary that the church supports, and then Pastor Brazee spoke on missions for a while. He talked about the four men who carried their friend to Jesus to be healed, and then he brought out a table, had a man lie on it (to represent "Mongolia") and then called up a young lady who is about to go on the mission field to Mongolia. He told us that she couldn't carry "Mongolia" to Jesus (he called up another man to be "Jesus") without help; she can only carry one corner of the table by herself. But one by one, he called up people to be her team back home; the people back home who would be praying for her; and the people back home who would give so that she would have funds to stay out on the field (Pastor Brazee was visibly overcome, and briefly unable to speak, when he talked about missionaries who have to leave their mission field because of lack of funds). Then the four people each lifted one corner of the table to carry "Mongolia" to "Jesus", and I never thought I would be so moved to see four people carry a guy on a table across a stage.

Meanwhile, Mikey was also having Missions Sunday in his class. Mikey told us a story afterward about a crusade in Argentina where 4,206 people received Jesus at once! There were so many hands, Mikey told us, that from the front you couldn't even see the hands in the back. Once again everyone was friendly to Mikey, and he has nothing at all bad to say about the experience.

I've got nothing bad at all to say about either visit either; the building is beautiful, the people are friendly, and actually we've got several friends that already go there so it's not even entirely like a different church. We love their emphases on the children and on outreach, both foreign missions like they talked about today, and local outreach, which we understand happens quite frequently. If we should decide that this is our new church, the one thing that I'll need to get used to is the music. I'm saying that knowing that our friends Mardy and Jamie are heavily involved in the music, and they may well read this, so I hope they won't be offended, because I'm just being real here. The music is well-performed and clearly heartfelt (in fact, this morning the lady who plays percussion... shakers, tambourines, that kind of thing... was nearly dancing right there in place, she was so into it), but it's not so much my "flavor". I'll have to get used to the style (which is kind of part 80s charismatic, part black Gospel... actually very similar to the music in the church I grew up in) in order to be able to lose myself in worship there. That is by no means a deal-breaker; I learned long ago that the music and the worship that occur are completely separate things, and you can worship whether the music is your "thing" or not (heck, you don't even need music at all in order to worship God!) so if this is where God is calling us, I'll get used to it and have no trouble during worship. Cathy has no problem with it at all. Am I being petty? I hope not. Music is a big part of my life (I majored in music composition in college, for crying out loud!) so it looms large for me. It may turn out that it's just a hurdle I have to overcome. But if it is, it's a hurdle that I've put in my own way, not something that World Outreach Church has created. What they've created is clearly a vibrant, active, involved, caring, friendly church body. I think I could handle a couple of Charismatic two-step songs in exchange for the chance to be a part of something like that!

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