Monday, November 16, 2009

Church Experiment #46: Gathering Place Church

It’s interesting. Forty-six weeks into my experiment, I thought I had seen it all. In the process of going back and editing my earlier entries to prepare a manuscript for publication, I noticed it was so cute how I approached those early churches with wide eyes and a bushy tail (my clippers broke last winter).

People danced in church! How scandalous!

I was such an adorable kid.

Those details didn’t mean as much to me by week 46. As I neared the finish line, I was getting more desperate to experience God. This week, I crossed the river into Kentucky to visit The Gathering Place Church (www.gatheringplacechurch.com). Someone recommended it on my blog a few weeks prior. I thought I would be walking into a charismatic church that valued miraculous healings, signs, and wonders. That may be true, but I didn’t witness any evidence during my visit.

I assumed I was in trouble when the first worship song had a line saying, “I am souled out for Jesus.” Yeah, I used the correct spelling. There is nothing more lame than Christians using son instead of sun, souled instead of sold, and so on.

But that was the low point. Things got much better as the service progressed.

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

12 comments:

Steve said...

"No matter where you go, you take your attitude with you."

I love that, that's going to be my mantra this week.

Ruby Red Slippers said...

I like how you opened up yourself to really hear what God had for you this week-
and I am posting that quote about where you go...attitude goes with you." It does apply to us all-

christianne said...

I appreciate what you're saying here. Lately, I've also noticed how often my thoughts center on myself. God has been taking me through a season of dying, and I've been exploring what that even means. It's a weird and tough concept.

But as recent as this past week, I've been discovering that dying to ourselves is intimately connected to utterly loving another. When we carry the face of Christ before us and focus our attention on him first, simply because we love him, then our thoughts of ourselves (and the attendant selfish, ugly muck-muck) slowly fade away.

At least, that's what I've been slowly discovering these days ... and am beginning to put into practice more and more.

Allison said...

I have a question for you and for your readers. I read your blog every week and really enjoy how you express yourself. I don't really know how to explain the question so, please excuse my rambling.

First some background about me:

I grew up in the Bible belt. I went to church every Sunday until just recently. I have been to all different types of denominations. When I was about 17 years old I did my own "Church Experiment" and tried out a lot of the different churches in our town (we have a lot). I have been Presbyterian PCA and PCUSA, Baptist, and Nondenominational. I also went to an Episcopalian school. I am by no means a Bible expert.

Here is my attempt at my question:

I have never understood the idea of church. I don't get that people gather together once a week (or more) and listen to some man/woman talk about what they decide to talk about.

To me it seems the idea of church should be more community focused and less structured. I understand that worship is important and that community is important but I can't help but feel that what we do for church has been manipulated and created to make us as humans feel more comfortable. We need structure and a plan.

I also get so tired of hearing the same type of sermon over and over again. I don't want to hear a cute story from your life or your friends life that ties in to what the sermon is about, I don't want to hear the story of Job again, I don't want you to read me the Bible. I can read the Bible on my own.

I want the Bible to be explained to me. The most I ever got out of a sermon series was a series on the history of the Bible. It was wonderful. It helped me look at the Bible in a different light.

I understand that there can be insight gathered from repetition. There's always something new to be learned.

I feel that having a tight Christian community that goes out and loves on the rest of the world is what is needed. Not a group of people mindlessly obeying the normal thing to do and listening to one man/woman talk for an hour.

So, I guess my question is simply -am I way off base in how I feel about organized religion?

bound4glory said...

Amen Allison. In August we opened a church in the largest mall located in Wilmington, NC. The goal is to have a place of refuge for the lost not the found. In October we cancelled service and went out to the community to perform acts of kindness. We called it Church at Work and what a blessing it was. You can view a video highlight at http://vimeo.com/7395057.


Our goal is to partner with many local churches to reach our community for Christ. We need to break down denominational and racial barriers so the lost can be reached at any cost. The church in the Bible always represents a body of believers not a building. When that body gathers it's to get equipped to reach the lost.

You can tell the power of a local church body by the number of people that show for prayer. Jesus states that His house is a house of prayer but most of the time very few people actually gather to pray other than the few minutes in a church service.

I pray that you find what you are looking for and that God will bless you with wisdom and understanding.

wendymhall said...

Allison,

I bet there are tons of people who feel the same...and yet human nature is that we tend to turn even the best efforts into an institution.

There is a part of people that wants church to be a comfortable place where we "get what we need" and go.

Steve seems to be finding out in his experiment that church is people regardless of the structure.

I don't think your way off base at all.

Anonymous said...

If you can't get into the super secret Atheist club remember that Buddhists are generally Atheists also. Just saying...

Jon said...

Allison,

Check this blog out. Joe is a friend of mine and a friend of Steve's. This particular post speaks to your question:
Rebel Pilgrim - Jesus Underground: Church

Julie said...

Booyah... you crack me up! By the way, I know the song "Souled Out"... we sing it in our church but we changed the words to "Sold Out" because we thought that was stupid too. I mean, wouldn't "souled" out imply that you are being all "fleshed" out? Just an observation.

TriciaJaros said...

I am very impressed by all you are doing. I am also impressed by the things you say about your attitude. It takes a strong person to admit and reconize thier flaws.

Jen - Mom of 4 said...

I'm really interested to see what happens with the atheist group - you see my Hubby is atheist. It's made for some very interesting conversations around here lately, especially after I told him that I wanted to start looking for work in Ministry.

I am a bit surprised that there is a group that is actually organized. Most atheist in Minnesota keep to themselves or as Hubby says "we don't go around telling people what we believe or don't believe." Of course, that could also be the strong Swedish and German lines in most of the state. :0)

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, I have not read your post on this church, because honestly...going there multiple times was enough. I used to go to this church, and while I'm not going to give many details, I'll just say that it is one of the worst churches to go to. One sermon in there might give a good impression of this church, but take it from someone who went there for a while, it's not worth the trouble. Too many false prophets and people inhabit it, and a lot of gossiping and judging went on there. Because of the church's small number of people, if you were new and went there for the first time, you might not be excepted as well as the established folks. The sermons are all repeats from past ones, that not only exhausted those who came every week, but that even the kids that occasionally were to stay in the larger part of the church were restless and bored. If you are having a problem that is not of God or is a sin, you are not loved by the church and are instead put down.

What I noticed with my time there was how there was an air around each of them, not an air of the Holy Spirit, but of falsehood and rudeness. I once invited a friend of mine to come with me, and because of his lack of designer clothing and his limited knowledge about Christianity, not one person except for those at the door said hello to him. If you were rich, you were pretty much excepted, if you weren't, well good luck. They are some of the biggest hypocrites around, and truly not of God. Because of their brand of organized religion and hypocrisy, they caused me to turn from religion for a while until I went to another church you reviewed - 7 Hills. It was a breath of fresh air for me from the petty fake Jesus freaks that go to the Gathering Place.

So there's your first hand account. By the way, I found this blog a bit ago and I enjoyed reading some of your experiences. We all have different experiences, just some of us get a little bit more knowing on other churches as time goes by. People tend to show their true colors once the lights go off if you feel me.