We visited this church for the third time today, and for the third time had a very positive experience. Great worship, good fellowship, mature and relevant spiritual teachings... right now this is shaping up to look like quite the home for us.
They have an Easter tradition of an outdoor worship service at 7am (there are three other services later in the day -- it's a big church). We decided to get the kids up early and make it to the 7am worship time. It was the first time I can ever remember having an "official" church worship service outdoors. I've been on retreats, seminars, or teen/children events outdoors, but never a full church service on Sunday morning -- it was great! There are a few reasons that the change of perspective really impacted me today:
1 -- Setting, source and target
This morning I pondered the setting, the source and the target of worship. The source and the target are always God... that part never changes. However, our usual setting is a man-made building, with man-made furniture and audio/visual equipment. This morning, if we looked up during church we would see the endless sky instead of a nicely painted ceiling. It does something to the soul to worship an eternal, infinite God, and simply look up into a beautiful, seemingly-infinite sky. That sky was most certainly not crafted by the hands of men. The setting of worship matched our target of worship in a special way this morning.
2 -- Following old paths
The Church of Christ prides itself on modeling itself simply and completely (in a spiritual and organizational sense) on the church described in the New Testament. When the book of Acts records that thousands were being baptized in a single day, you can bet that they weren't all meeting in the latest and greatest convention center. If there was ever a gathering of more than a few dozen people, it was probably happening outside, just like what my family did this morning.
And the bible seems to show that Jesus had somewhat of a personal habit of early morning prayer, sometimes outside the city. I have often imagined Jesus sitting on the Mount of Olives at sunrise (southeast of Jerusalem), where he should have had a breathtaking view of the Beautiful Gate which was probably overlaid with bronze at that time. Jesus praying at sunrise, watching the light reflect off a golden gate just down the hill. Sometimes it's just worth getting up early in the morning to worship (this coming from one of the biggest nightowls who's ever lived).
3 -- Light on a hill
The church we've been visiting is right in the middle of a large commercial section of the city, surrounded by stores, strip malls and restaurants. It's a fascinating location and ensures that people will always be happening across the building in their day-to-day lives. Today, though, it also ensured that anyone within a half-mile could probably hear this group of 300 people singing praises to God. Hopefully the sound had an encouraging and inviting tone that made people want to attend next week and see what they're missing.
Well, it's nice to be back after two weeks away with work, travel and family commitments. There will be a couple more writings throughout the week, so be sure to check back!