March 2, 2009

Church Experiment #9: Good Shepherd Lutheran

God called an audible this week.

I originally planned to attend a Jehovah’s Witness church, but the Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t market themselves very well. A Google search identified a dozen options in Cincinnati, but none of those churches had a personalized website. Everything kept directing me back to a generic site called I finally found a few addresses, but I had no idea what time their services started. So, I planned to wake up early, drive by a couple of locations, and hope for the best.

Sadly, that plan didn’t work out very well. I drove by two churches and both had already started their services. I didn’t want to walk in late, so I opted for Plan B—Good Shepherd Lutheran Church (

I had no idea what to expect in a Lutheran church, but it was right down the street from one of the Jehovah’s Witnesses churches, and they had a service starting in fifteen minutes. Sounded good to me.

But here’s the freaky part …

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


Tom Rook said...

I would be interested on your take on Jehovah's Witnesses, and other churches. I get google stuff automatically and how I got yours may not happen again as fortutidously.

Would you please email me a link to your future evaluations, or a copy of the article?

Thank You


Helen Ann said...

I used to work out near Good Shepherd and always got a good vibe when I drove by...Maybe the name of it, maybe because we had a couple of nice customers at the store I worked for that went there...But I think God sent you to a right nice place. :) It's neat that they are blending their services. I, too, think there is value in learning some of those rote prayers. And I think kid's churches should still teach at least the Lord's Prayer. It's a unifying prayer...Almost every Christian - no matter their denomination knows it. And I admit that I do sometimes miss the Gloria Patri and the Doxology that I learned in the UCC church I grew up in. I wonder if I can talk our worship leader into teaching those... :)

Sandy Maudlin said...

Steve, I get a lot out of your writings here and am so enjoying this adventure of your visiting various churches and faiths. Hope your week is great.

ylmurph said...

I got mugged at at Lutheran church once. I got bread at a Baptist church once and a (insert joke here) at a (insert a church here)

I'll be here all week. Try the veal.

PS (PSanafter-thought) said...

I go to a small town Lutheran church that is liturgical and traditional, but has humor, variety that is appropriate to the season and theme of the Sunday, and a variety of music. Our music variety is because we have a great piano player who is also the choir director. She believes that any type of music that is singable and has a good Biblical message is appropriate for church. We use our hymnal, of course, but also use music from many other traditions. There is a lot of good theology in many of the old hymns that we need to be reminded of. We don't get excited about the praise music where the focus is on the "praiser" and not on the "praisee."

Regarding communion: Some sub groups of Lutherans don't want outsiders taking communion. The largest Lutheran group, however, generally believes that the Lord is inviting you to the Table, so the pastor is just serving the elements.

I haven't heard of Reset.

Regarding the JW's: you will want to know before you attend that they define many of the standard churchy and theological and religious words differently than many other denominations do. I've been conversing with the JWs for 30 years and have read a number of thing doing some research about them.

Steve Fuller said...


Reset is a six-week series created by one of the most "seeker-sensitive" churches in Cincinnati. They invite other churches in the city to join them in the series and even provide resources to those participating churches.

About 50 churches in Cincinnati accepted the offer, so they're all doing the similar themes at the same time. It was interesting to see how Good Shepherd used the materials versus the way Crossroads (my church from last week who actually created the series) used them.

Anonymous said...

come visit me at willow creek!

love this idea. you should make it a book.

Steve Fuller said...


I'm actually planning to make the drive to Chicago some weekend. I want to plan ahead to make sure you will be there. (And Hybels is speaking.) Plus, I miss our cuddle time.

quietwitness said...

What if church isn't a building or an institution?

What if Jesus mean't...when 2 or 3 come together in his name there he is and that is the "ecclesia" or church?

Would that mean when I meet with a couple of followers of Jesus in my home, or the is there?

What if we gotten off-track with this whole church thing...and really is much simpler?

Anonymous said...

LifePoint Vineyard off of Cincinnati-Dayton Rd. is doning Reset AND we will mug you. We would love to see you!

Anonymous said...

I understand the sentiment behind calling Crossroads "seeker sensitive", but it's not. I know walking in there any given week I am going to hear the gospel. Brian Tome has a God given gift to make anything, nay, everything about the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ atoning for my sins. Just because a church has multiple thousands in attendance, it doesn't make it a seeker sensitive church.
I read this blog regularly. I appreciate some of the sentiment behind it, but at the same time, it saddens me that someone feels so alone they must travel from church to church and disobeying God and not being part of a local church community.
I pray that this is not an exercise in egotism for you Mr. Fuller, but a way for you to understand God's grace better. A journey to 52 churches seems prurient to me, a journey to a few to find what works for you sounds less arrogant.
I ask that God will continually pull you to RESET so you can hear Jesus, and Jesus alone.
Remember, God made it perfect, man made it bad, God came to earth as Jesus, lived a sinless life, died on a wooden cross, was buried in a cave, and was resurrected three days later to walk the earth for 40 days. This is important, finding out about what Jehovah's Witnesses do on Sundays is not.

Steve Fuller said...


I appreciate the comment. A few reactions:

1) I don't use the term "seeker-sensitive" as an insult. I simply mean that Crossroads is welcoming to people who aren't already Christians. I agree with all those things you said about Brian Tome.

2) I don't feel alone. I'm not even sure what that means, or why feeling alone would motivate me to visit 52 churches.

3) I am not disobeying God. I feel led by God to do this, so refusing would have been disobedient.

4) I fully admit I am a mixed bag of motives with everything I do. Egotism, arrogance...of course; I am human.

5) For you to assert the Jehovah's Witnesses have nothing to offer me on Sunday sounds a bit arrogant to me. How do you know what God has to teach me or where those lessons can be learned?

6) Are you aware of how many spiritual conversations I have been involved in since beginning this experiment? A lot. Mostly with non-Christians interested in what I am doing. I have mentioned this to all of my classes and have had some interesting discussions with students. People email me (or tell me personally) they have been able to share this with their non-Christian friends and openly talk about God for the first time with those folks.

My point is that God honors our leaps of faith, and is big enough to use anything we do for his glory.

I think the key is that we do SOMETHING and let God worry about the details.

Glad you enjoy Crossroads. I am always impressed with your church and your leaders. Thanks for reading!

meMonica said...

I love your point of view quietwitness. I think that Ginghamsburg near Dayton has that type of simple philosophy - they have house churches which I love the thought of: a group of friends getting together to study the bible, share at a common table, and uplift and support each other; basically to love one another. What more is there?

Anonymous said...

Steve, thanks so much for letting us know about your positive experience at Good Shepherd. I've been involved in many congregations over the years, and it's the highest-functioning one yet. Pastor Larry does indeed like to keep us wide awake and on our toes, although the Sunday you attended was about as "far out" as he ever goes! His preaching is uniformly warm and highly effective at interpreting God's word through the Lutheran lens, though.

The service you attended does not offer a typical snapshot of the overall age of Good Shepherd's congregation. When children are included, the average age is under 30! Perhaps that lends us an energy some congregations lack.

Please come again. You're most welcome anytime.