One of the things on our list now that we’ve moved to Orlando, is the search for a new church home. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be visiting various United Methodist churches in the Orlando area, checking them out, and deciding where our new church home will be.
Honestly, it’s going to be difficult, if not impossible, to find a church like First UMC Mesa.
This past weekend, we visited LifeSong UMC in East Orlando.
When we drove up, it was obvious that this wasn’t your traditional UMC church. Based in what is, essentially, a shopping center, it brought back memories of the days at LifeChurch.TV back in Phoenix… and, honestly, it made me a bit nervous. We arrived in the small lobby and were immediately greeted by some of the church members. One lady in particular was all about getting the kids to youth that night, getting us involved in the church, etc…. all within 5 minutes of meeting us.
Note to church members – When greeting first time visitors, please don’t immediately ask them about serving, joining, etc., as it is a bit overwhelming and comes off a bit pushy.
The second person I met came out of the early service with a Craig Groschel book under his arm (shudder!). While we were talking, we casually mentioned that we knew him, to which the guy responded “You mean, know him know him?” He too, then, went off on the pitch for the men’s bible study, the book they were reading, etc., etc.
Again.. a bit pushy.
Fortunately it was soon time for the service and that’s where my apprehension reached new heights.
We walked into what passes for the sanctuary, and noticed the stage, the lights, the rows of chairs, and the piece de resistance, the ubiquitous “Communication Card”
Even the kids were “If this is like LifeChurch, can we just go?”
Soon it was time for the praise band, complete with clapping and lyrics projected on the screen.
I honestly began to wonder if I was really in a UMC service.
Then the message… 1Peter 2. Not the easiest scripture to preach on, with all that wives and slaves submitting stuff, but I was doing my best to keep an open mind.
Then he began… with pointing out that the letter was written to a particular people, addressing a particular culture, in a particular time, and keeping that context in mind was key because we can’t, and shouldn’t, just plop what Peter says on top of today’s culture.
Ok, that got my curiosity.
As I listened, the LifeGroups and Worship Pastor did a better than average job with what is a difficult text to preach. The context was about standing strong in your faith, even when you think things are going bad.
There was one point, though, that I wasn’t sure was correct. He said that in his letter, Peter would have been talking to women whose husbands weren’t “going to church”. Considering the view of women in the early 1st Century, I’m not entirely sure this would be accurate. It would be odd for an epistle to address women in particular at that time.
He also said that Peter left some ‘wiggle room’ between obeying/respecting governmental authorities (as scripture dictates) and our ultimate authority, God. Meh… maybe. Yet when you put it in conjunction with Paul’s words, Romans 13 in particular, there really isn’t any wiggle room, as Paul says disobeying governmental authorities is equivalent to disobeying God.
Soon the sermon was over and he went into a closing prayer.
I’ll be honest, if it was going to turn into an altar call, that’d be the end for me.
It didn’t, and then the praise and worship band closed out the service.
Overall, I’d give it a “C+”. Despite the questionable pieces, the message was good. I could do without the “rock-n-roll” church bit, as I tend to prefer the high church worship and the liturgical calendar, which i’m not sure LifeSong follows.
The term I coined for this church was “emergelicalodist”.
Next week it’s off to Reeves UMC… an open and affirming UMC church in East Orlando. The sermon series they’re on has the potential to go horribly, horribly wrong (right, Deb?), but like with LifeSong, I’m going to keep an open mind. Reeves also has a woman pastor, so there’s another plus.
Until next time… keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.