Sunday, October 29, 2006

Church #23: First Church of Christ (Burlington, KY)

1. Who attended? Bradley & Erica.

How was the experience?
1: I was so uncomfortable and/or offended that I did not stay to the end of services.
10: This church was welcoming and thought-provoking. I would recommend that others experience this church.

BRADLEY: 6ish, for the reasons listed below.

3. Picture(s) of the church

4. Name/location of the church:
First Church of Christ
6080 Camp Ernst Road
Burlington, KY 41005

5. Was it recommended to Church Hop?
Um... yes! Brian Heckber, the "Pastor of Involvement" at this church, emailed me to ask if we would stop by and "see how we are doing." I was more than happy to, but the request was kind of surprising to me.

6. Time/duration of services:

7. What type of religion did the church cater to?
They say on their website that they are non-denominational, but I question that.

8. Who did you meet?
No one, but not exactly for lack of trying.

9. If applicable, scans of handouts, tracts, etc

10. Church Hopper’s personal experience with the church, additional details:

ERICA: As I said, the request to visit this church was kind of... surprising. For one thing, it's at least half an hour from any church we'd be to thus far, so it definitely seemed out of the blue. Still, it's exciting for me to hear that a church actually wants us to visit them, and doesn't feel duped or used.

I think what Brian wanted was to see if we felt welcomed. For that reason I'm going to be as detailed (and as honest) as I can be.

Right when we got there we realized it was a much larger church than we had guessed at. Cars flooded the parking lot and since we were coasting in just before 9:30 (underestimated how long the drive would take) I was nervous about finding a spot. However, I saw a sign pointing to guest parking, and there were some spots right up front for guest to use. That rocked.

When we got inside we wanted to look around but I could hear that the service was beginning. We were greeted very warmly right away and shown to the main lobby. There were two places to go immediately-- one that was clearly for teens/the younger crowd, and one that seemed to be a more traditional worship service. I'm not sure which one I was "supposed" to go to but I headed for the more traditional, because that's typically where I feel more at home. I'm not really into the cool-for-cool's-sake kind of church, and I could tell just from peering inside that it was a loud-music-and-strobe-lights kind of deal. (Just first impressions-- I'm sure the services are awesome.)

When we got inside the place was packed. By the time we got our seats the place was completely full-- and we're talking about a huge auditorium here. A few minutes into the first song, every single seat was filled (ushers were helping to fill them) and a few people were standing in the back. Something was odd about the room, to me-- I realized that there were zero windows and zero decorations, so it was a giant, drab gray room. Nothing hanging on the walls. I even had to search for the cross, which was hidden under the projector screen.

The music was nice-- I felt more that I was being sung at than being asked to participate, but I definitely didn't mind. The songs were traditional but heartfelt, loud but well-sung. The lyrics always kept up on screen, but again I really felt that I was supposed to watch, not participate. This went on for a while, but not annoyingly long.

It was at this point that I noticed the bulletin didn't have a schedule in it. I really like when the bulletin has a list of when communion is (if they take it), when offering is collected, etc. It saves me from putting my offering in the wrong plate, as has almost happened a couple of times, and gives me a chance to prepare a little. No luck this time. The bulletin was pretty much geared to members.

The sermon came next, and this is when I started to wonder what "non-denominational" meant. For a non-denominational church, they certainly make a lot of decisions about who is and who isn't going to heaven. They take the Bible pretty literally. They laid down some rules that I felt a non-denominational church shouldn't be committing to, because in my head it means that any number of belief systems can exist under the same roof. I would love if someone from First Baptist could respond and let me know how they view non-denomination, because while they didn't make me uncomfortable by mentioning groups of people who might not enter heaven (homosexuals, abortionists, whatever), it definitely seemed as though there was a specific belief system being practiced at this church.

After the sermon they took communion (as a congregation by passing the trays around, which I was happy about until the guy next to me gave me The Look) and then took offering (the lady passing the bowl was really impatient with Bradley and I wrestling with our wallets). After another dozen prayers and a solo song (very good), services were over... for most people.

At the beginning and at the end of service, the preacher mentioned that guests should come to the front after services. "We want to meet you." Bradley and I thought that was cool. Then... when services were over... we went down to the front, where we'd been instructed (twice) to go. ...And we stood there. Other people were conversing but I didn't even know who I should talk to... no one approached us and I couldn't find the preacher who'd told us to come down front. We stood there. No one said anything to us. I had no way of knowing if there was someone I should talk to specifically and I wasn't about to just start asking random people. After a few minutes of feeling really weird, Bradley and I left.

I was excited to go to this church, especially with the honor of the invitation we'd received. I think there is a lot of potential with the way they tried to welcome us, but in many areas it kind of misfired and we were left hanging. Thank you so much for the invitation, Brian, and I hope this helps. I hope we'll get a chance to visit again some day and maybe hit up the youth service.

BRADLEY: Well, Erica and I were very excited to go to this church, because of our invitation to go to this church. It was a little further than any other church we've been to, but it didn't matter.

When we got there, the church was very large, and teaming with cars. We found our spot, and walked in. After a quick at-door greeting, and some exploring, we realized we needed to head into the service. There was two different ones, one for an older group, and one for a younger audience. We headed into the older one, where everyone was standing, and listening to the music. The music went on for way too long.

When everyone sat down, they jumped right into the message, and the preacher who gave the message was a very static and energetic man. He was very happy and upbeat, and gave everything a great. He was just a great speaker. He started off with a story (that was obviously fictional) that was very funny, and a great lead-in to his message about the new heaven and earth.

This church was very large, but still didn't have the personal touch I would have liked. It's very had to explain, but everything seemed so new and clean, like it hadn't been used to the full potential, and they everything was glossed over. The programs were thick with text, and didn't show much enthusiasm. Regardless of this, the church was pretty good, and the speaker was amazing.


Glenny said...


Typically "non-denominational" or "inter-denominational" means that it's a Christian church with no official denominational affiliation. In other words, you might be baptist or pentecostal or even catholic - but yes, they're assuming you are a Christian or at least exploring Christianity. Sounds like what you were expecting was an inter-faith church. Most non-denominational churches - non-denominational or otherwise - don't exactly qualify there.

Brian Heckber said...

Thank you for your visit, Erica! I appreciate your insight into our church. We are non-denominational in the fact that we are self governing and partially denominational in the fact that there are other church across the world that believe like we do.

Involvement Pastor of First Church

Ryan said...

"The Look"?

And a comment on Glenny's comment:
I think that's confusing. If they mean inter-denominational, please say so.

Anonymous said...

I just want to say that we are new to the neighborhood and have attended the last 3 weeks of service at First Church. I have teenagers so on our first week, we decided to attend the 11:00 AM Revolution service. It was awesome! The music was great and so loud that it sounded into my heart. I really enjoyed the entire group and the message. The last two weeks, we have attended the 11:00 AM larger service. Yes, it is crowded, but it was not gray by any means, it was a glow with deep beautiful lighting and the ushers helped us find a place right away. The music was fantastic (although different from Revolution and a little more traditional). To me, the music helps me worship and I find it as helpful as the actual sermon, mostly because I am listening AND repeating the words out loud in praise to the Lord and I can't do that when the Pastor is speaking. Maybe the guests weren't listening to the lyrics or do not find them as profound as my family does. I love that it is large and that they don't do the "greeting" in the middle of the service where you have that awkward few minutes of shaking strangers hands. Some come to meet people....I come to have time with the Lord. The service has had some great messages about how to treat your family and to take to rest and renew yourself with some really great props ( courtesy of the Andy Griffith Show). Pastor Markesberry did 2 of the services and this week I was disappointed when I saw that it was someone new (at first), then Brian started speaking and all disappointment was gone. The church is so large that we are not sure where things are yet, but we are excited to journey a little farther each Sunday and see what new things await us at First Church. My 12 year old said he even wants to find the youth group next week and not stay with me. Thanks so much for having us!