Sunday #30 – Lifehouse Church – a Foursquare Church, 20825 Wilderness Oak, San Antonio
Why this Church?
I jog past this church every day and had dismissed it as one to visit. Thinking it to be a non-denominational church, I’d ignored it until one run when the subtitle jumped out at me: A Foursquare Church. (It is located on the side of a hill that I run up, so I’ve probably had my head down looking for money, or trying to keep my tongue off the pavement.)
According to Wikipedia, The International Church of the Foursquare Gospel is commonly referred to as the Foursquare Church – a Protestant evangelical Pentecostal Christian denomination.” Although I’ve covered another Pentecostal church (Hope Center Church), I’d never heard of a Foursquare Church, so I was ready to check it out. Okay, well…it’s also the closest church to where I live, so proximity had a bit to do with my decision.
The denomination’s name immediately brings to mind the schoolyard game of the same name. However the religious version refers to the four-fold ministery of Jesus Christ as Savior, Baptizer with the Holy Spirit, Healer and Soon-coming King. It’s founder, Aimee Semple McPherson was a Canadian-American evangelist and media celebrity in the 20s and 30s. So with no prior knowledge I only have one goal – determine the difference between this church and a more traditional Pentecostal service.
I pulled into the Visitors Only spot located within the three-tiered lot on the side of a hill. (SCORE! I like when churches do this.) Once I turned off my engine, I let out a curse word – I’d forgotten my camera. (The photos you find here were taken at the end of the day when I traveled back to snap a few at sundown).
I stepped down the flight of parking lot stairs to walk into the church’s double doors. As I did, an older gentleman greeter held out his wide arms and grabbed me in a big hug. Well, that was a first! My elder daughter would had been creeped out by such invasion of her personal space, but I take everything in stride and I’m quite happy to hug back…just makes me feel more loved!
Once inside the hall, I witnessed a bunch of smiling faces, children dipping into the sweet bread and people making coffee and tea before the service. I thought about making a cup of hot breakfast tea myself, but didn’t know if I’d be allowed in the auditorium with a beverage, so decided against it and walked into the sanctuary empty handed. <sigh>
I took a seat on a cushioned chair near the back of three sections of chairs and immediately looked up to the black ceiling, then to the heavily lit stage, four large screens and then back to the large control panel for the lights and sound. One thing I saw that I liked a lot – a large curtained window that gave a view from a different room. Though I wasn’t on that side of the room, I think it was a nursery or children’s center. How cool is to let the children and nursery workers listen and watch the service?
A six-member band quickly prepared on stage.
Like every other contemporary service, the jean clad band called us to our feet for the first song, “Rise and Sing.” Ooooohhh….this was a bit harder rock than I’ve heard in church before. It immediately felt more like a rock concert than worship preparation music. Think Van Halen and you have a sense of the young man on one of the guitars that I couldn’t take my eyes off of. He was definitely into the music and probably played in another type of rock band considering his toned down version of Sammy Hagar moves.
The congregants, dressed in casual attire of jeans, shorts, boots and sundresses raised their hands in praise. (Very Pentecostal thing to do!)
Then we continued to stand for the second song. By this time, I’m counting how many songs we’ll hear before I get to sit down. Once that second song finished, Pastor Ryan Coffey made some announcements about the day’s service. He said that he wanted to mix things up a bit and have the congregation receive the elements of communion first. That way, we would go into the service in a state of readiness to receive God’s message. Then the pastor asked us to come to one of the tables to the side of the stage to receive the elements of communion – gluten free crackers and grape juice. From there, we went right into the third song and the fourth song. (Still standing – you guys know how much this thrills my tootsies ro stand for extended periods of time after running my longer mileage earlier in the morning.)
Then a member of the band read the scripture from the screens — everything from Revelations to Deuteronomy to Exodus. (And yes, we are still standing). Then, we go into the oft-heard hymn “Blessed Assurance.” This one I knew, but I’d never heard it played by a rock band before. That was different, but I KNEW THE WORDS! Yay. Finally the music is over, but we still stand as we have a prayer and church announcements, then the greeting of people. FINALLY, I get to sit.
Runners may want to steer clear of contemporary services like this. Only thing worse on the feet are any of the Orthodox churches – especially Russian Orthodox where they never sit down.
The pastor, dressed in jeans with his shirttail out, started his message by talking about his own life as a pastor’s kid and his recent struggle with prayer. At this point, I could sense the sincerity, openness and humbleness of this man who held nothing back about his struggles. In his message “Teach Us to Pray,” Pastor Ryan asked the congregation to pray before every thing we do. Before we get in a car – pray. Before you go to a meeting – pray. Before we send our kids off to school – pray. He virtually said we should bathe every situation in prayer and that prayer should not be the “last resort.” As a result, the church would enter 21 days of prayer and he asked for a commitment from each church member to pray every day and even gave an invitation to join church leadership for an hour every Saturday to pray for one another.
This pastor had a unique delivery style and sprinkled his message with humorous stories from his own life that I found quite endearing.
Following the message, we stood while the church elders passed the offering baskets around. Then the pastor shared a story about the hot San Antonio weather, followed by an announcement that brought smiles to everyone’s face: “As you leave today, we have people right outside the door to hand you a Bahama Bucks snowcone to start your week off right.”
Sure enough…as I left, I got the best tasting snowcone for my trip home. Hugs and snowcones….can’t ask for a better beginning or end to a church service!
Post Service Thoughts
While I can’t say I enjoyed all the standing, the message and delivery of the sermon was phenomenal. The main difference between the Hope Center Church and LIfehouse Church is that this time the pastor did not call everyone to the front of the church for prayer and dedication, so I felt much more comfortable at this service.
Still one service behind, so I’ll consider taking in a Reform Jewish service on Friday, then maybe Unity Church on Sunday. So now it’s your turn. Ever heard of a Foursquare Church before, or am I the only clueless one?
UPDATE: Well, this is a first! Today I received something totally unexpected in the mail from Lifehouse Church — a Valero Gas Gift Card and a handwritten note thanking me for using my gas to come to church at Lifehouse. WOW! And I thought the story about a church giving out homemade pies to all newcomers was cool. I think Lifehouse Church just topped the pie church!