I was thinking more about my first visit to the church plant. I realize that some of the things I disliked were personal things. In my post yesterday, I attempted to focus on things that were more general and not my own personal biases.
So today, I am focusing on my personal biases:
1. Don't talk between the songs. I find most speaking distracting and trite. There is nothing said that is going to encourage me to worship. Just let the music flow and use the words of the song to allow the praise to flow. Speaking makes it sound like a performance, and the words are often not thought out so they ramble. Let the style, the words, and tempo of the music speak its own language.
2. Choose songs wisely. There are many good songs that can be used in a worship service, but there are many that are not. Just because it sounds good or the worship leader likes the song or it is sung by a popular worship leader, does not mean the congregation can sing it. Choose songs that are simple to sing (not simplistic). I like the song I Will Not Be Silent, but to sing that as a congregation was tough. If it were sung with no expectation of the congregation singing that would have been different.
3. Sing with passion. It is not good enough to be able to sing well! You have to have passion. This could have been helped if they had turned up the volume on the lead worshippers mic. There is something to have a good "mix," but the lead worshipper's voice needs to dominate and not blend behind the music. The worship leader kept his eyes closed and his face pointed to the ceiling most of the time, and the back-up singer never looked at the congregation (just something very interesting on the ceiling in the back of the room).
4. The introduction (and speaking) should not sound canned. When the pastor finally welcomed everyone, after the singing, his statement was very canned. I hate things that sound like a marketing pitch, and his description of the church (straight out of the mission statement) in the welcoming was canned.
5. When we entered, we did not receive a bulletin. We noticed, about 10 minutes into the service that everyone else had a bulletin. It felt odd realizing you didn't have a bulletin and everyone else did. For a while, I thought they just didn't do them; which would have been cool. I still don't know where we were supposed to get one, but someone did bring us one during the greeting time.
So, after the last couple of posts it might sound like I didn't like the place. I thought it was fine, but I also told my wife that I probably would not go back if I were looking for a church (even as a Christian). It really isn't about the problems, those I can overlook. For me, the problem comes in that there is really nothing different about this church. If I have to choose between a church plant that might or might not make it and an established church that are both offering the exact same things, I will probably choose the established church. This was a difficult realization for me as a committed church planter.
So I have to ask: What will be the distinctive about the church I plant? What will be the difference? Why should people choose the church I plant over the other churches in the area?
Here are some things I liked (because it almost sounds like I disliked the place):
1. There was someone there to welcome the children. This is very important to me. I don't want to be left wondering what I am supposed to do.
2. The people at the door were very friendly and directed us to the coffee and the child-care area.
3. I liked the layout. It was well arranged.
4. The band sounded professional. They played well together, and looked to each other for changes in direction.
5. The message was practical. It got a little rushed at the end, but it was practical. (I think he bought it from Rick Warren, though.)
6. It was young. I like a young crowd. There is an energy about a place with a younger crowd.
These are just my thoughts, and I am visiting two places this weekend. The second church is just around the corner from the one I visited this past Sunday.