Monday, July 20, 2009

Church Experiment #29: Montgomery Community

This week, I chose Montgomery Community Church (www.mcc.us) because I attended a couple of years ago (an old friend—and someone I deeply admire—was on staff), and I enjoyed my previous experience. It had a very “Vineyardy” feel to it. Also, I needed a Saturday night service because a friend of mine was getting baptized Sunday at a church I already visited, and MCC is one of the few churches in Cincinnati that meets Saturday evenings.

First, I must say, Montgomery Community Church frustrated me before I ever stepped through their doors. One thing I always try to do when I select churches is visit them on a good day, meaning I look for a sermon series that seems interesting and try very hard to attend when the lead pastor is speaking. If a church doesn’t have a website, no big deal, but MCC does. It just wasn’t updated this week, so I had no idea what the message was going to be or who would be speaking. I wanted to get MCC at its best and that simply didn’t happen Saturday evening.

To finish reading about this experience or any of the reflections from my 52 visits, please purchase the full book here.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Let me be clear, I'm from your parents' generation and I prefer a traditional style of Protestant worship. I think what you observed at MCC has a lot to do with exactly what you expressed in your posting: you want to come to church and listen to a band, not some guy singing next to you. Well, when you take the participation out of worship and make it a spectator sport that's basically no different from watching a football game on TV, don't be surprised if there's no energy in the room. I'm sure you'll say the non-participative style works at some churches, and I realize it does. But it fails miserably at many more.

Steve Fuller said...

Anonymous,

No, I get your point. Well said.

Reverb said...

Dearest Whippersnapper,

It was good to see you again yesterday. Thanks for the reminder that we need to party it up even more.

Cyndi said...

The last half of your blog had me smiling. I need to print that out and put it in my cube somewhere. WE WON!!

I wish your blog had a tag around the half-way point. I'd love to repost it but I think too many people couldn't get past the first part. We have so many people being critical of churches and I think most people are tired of this. But I realize that's not the point of your blog, your journey. However, someone reading your blog out of context might get this idea. So won't be linking to this just yet, but maybe I'll quote you...

DanThoms said...

It was nice to meet ya yesterday. Sorry I had to run off. I had to go up there to see someone get dunked and was also trying to keep track of the kids that I brought.

Anonymous said...

I have to post as Anonymous because I don't have a Google Account set up yet. I've been following your blog since Week 3 but this is the first time I've posted. I found you courtesy of Ryan's (Reverb) website.

I can't thank you enough for this blog. I am a Christian (and lapsed Catholic to boot) but like you have found myself disheartened by many churches I have attended and as a result I stopped going.

We share many of the views you have expressed (pro Gay marriage being a big one). I am a confirmed hetrosexual but I find it difficult to sit in a house of worship where they talk about loving your neighbour but add unless they're gay. I don't want to be hypocrite and make it seem as though I'm supporting that point of view by attending a church with that philosphy.

My bigger beef though is when you are sitting in service and they harp on how much money they need in the collection plate that week. I know churches have overhead and expenses but when I am being "told" to donate because "we have to have a bigger building/new A.V. system" etc I get more than a little miffed. God doesn't care if you worship in state of the art building with a $100,000 A.V. set up. He cares what's in your heart and how you truly work to help those around you who are less fortunate.

Now I don't go to church on a regular but donate to the homeless shelters in my city. They are there in the trenches working to try to help the people in their community.

Thank you again for a great blog. You are doing more to share God's work and love here than you can possibly know. God Bless and keep up the great work.

ps - I can't wait to read next week's entry.

Margaret (in Winnipeg MB)

anncalcara said...

Steve, great to meet you finally on Sunday...glad you came to par-tay with us! Love is winning on the Westside of Cincinnati in a major way -- great to have folks from all over celebrating with us this weekend!

Steve Fuller said...

Margaret,

Thank you for commenting and for the kind words.

A few days ago, I decided to read the New Testament in The Message translation, and I must say, it has been amazing.

Here are a few versus that came to mind regarding your comments. From Matthew 10:5-10:

Jesus sent his twelve harvest hands out with this charge:

"Don't begin by traveling to some far-off place to convert unbelievers. And don't try to be dramatic by tackling some public enemy. Go to the lost, confused people right here in the neighborhood. Tell them that the kingdom is here. Bring health to the sick. Raise the dead. Touch the untouchables. Kick out the demons. You have been treated generously, so live generously.

"Don't think you have to put on a fund-raising campaign before you start. You don't need a lot of equipment. You are the equipment, and all you need to keep that going is three meals a day. Travel light.


I wonder how many church leaders follow that advice.

Also, when Jesus discusses religion in Matthew 12:6-8:

"There is far more at stake here than religion. If you had any idea what this Scripture meant—'I prefer a flexible heart to an inflexible ritual'—you wouldn't be nitpicking like this."

A flexible heart to an inflexible heart...love it.

Anonymous said...

Someone in my office sent me the link to your Church Experiment Blog back in February/March and I’ve been reading it every week. I’ve often found myself thinking similar thoughts about churches today and where my relationship with Christ is as well.

Like you, I’ve been away from “church” for two years now, since leaving a Faith-based ministry that I felt had become spiritually abusive. I am posting anonymously for concern that people I might know might also be reading this blog.

My husband and I left that church the first Sunday in August in 2007.

We were there for five years – at first it was wonderful. It is a predominantly black church and they welcomed us warmly. Being part of the minority of white-folk was a little different but we learned a lot about the culture. Here in the Deep South you don’t see a lot of mixed churches so our friends thought it odd we would attend but we had felt led there by God.

The Pastor has a very charismatic personality and he talked often that “it’s all about the people” until we realized it was a line.

The church began in 2002; the pastor being a former church member of Creflo Dollar’s church in Atlanta. And yes, the apple has not fallen far from the tree. But it was NOT like that in the beginning – it was NOT all about money, and what can we get God to do for us, but it was about the people; about reaching out and helping them grow in their relationship with Christ.

But over the first four/five years, (because truly both my husband and I felt like leaving a year sooner but didn’t want to influence the other), it suddenly became about how much money can one sow. Offerings all the time— Building funds, super-Sundays. All under the auspices of obtaining money to build their own church building but all anyone really saw was the Pastor getting “more”. Seriously.

My husband stopped tithing and giving in all the offerings and truly, he always was more cautious and intelligent and gave where God directed him. I on the other hand, had gotten sucked-in to believing the lie that was told – that unless we gave to HIM, to his church etc, we would be damned and God would not bless us. Yes, it was said. It’s hard to explain how a smart, intelligent person such as myself would have allowed herself to get sucked in, but hence, the spiritual abusiveness that went on.

The Pastor continued to obtain fancy cars for himself, his wife and his children while the people in the pews were told they were not trusting God enough, nor giving God enough to have the same. (among other things)

Very long story shortened – my faith in churches has been ruined, but I have felt separated from God by not attending. But at the same time, I share so many of your frustrations. Through your blog though, I have made an effort to attend a few churches and I can see what you mean when you talk about what Churches shouldn’t do to welcome visitors etc. There really is very little warmth in churches and they often do “walk into church like robots and walk out like zombies.”

I want more in my relationship with Christ, but don’t want the mess that appears to come from attending a church. Thank you for your blog and the things you have shared.

Deniz Bevan said...

"The serious business of loving Jesus should be a helluva good time."
I agree! I just stumbled onto your blogs from a comment you left on Nathan Bransford's site, and I'm really interested! Glad I caught this experiment while it's still going on!
Off to check out your Catholic experiences...

Bethany said...

Steve,

I don't really know what to say to you, but thanks. I found your blog a few months ago, but I never actually sat down and took the time to read them until today (no offense intended!) I'm 22 years old and after 4 years in ministry and a pretty life-shaking experience I've found myself questioning my personal beliefs about God. I know I love Him deeply, but I'm sick of "church." My husband and I are leaving a church that I've attended for 8 years and we're starting to visit different churches in the area. I'm apprehensive about it-- mostly from the aspect of change-- but your experiences and your words have helped me feel less so.

Your blog has caused me to question my view of God and what I thought I've known about Him my whole life. So I just wanted to thank you for sharing your talent and for challenging me. I sincerely hope you find what you're looking for.

Steve Fuller said...

Anonymous, Deniz, and Bethany,

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your stories!

Anonymous said...

"As a Christian, every day we win. Every day we should be celebrating that victory. And yet we walk into church like robots and walk out like zombies."
I needed to hear this, but more importantly I need to remember this, as we all do. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

Carolyn said...

I stumbled across your blog when I was doing a search for Crossroads. I'm finding your church reviews interesting, but they are difficult to locate on your blog. I think it would be great if you put all your church reviews together in one spot so they can be read easily in order. Thanks!

Steve Fuller said...

Carolyn,

If you go to my main blog page, there is a button (top-right) labeled "The Church Experiment." If you click that button, it takes you to my Church Experiment Web site where everything is organized much better. Thanks for reading!

Anonymous said...

I think one thing to keep in mind when talking about churches is that nonperfect people are trying to represent a perfect God. Churches will sometimes be messed up, but we need to keep our focus on Christ.