Saturday #46– Summit Christian Center – Nondenominational, 2575 Marshall Road, San Antonio
Why this church?
Proximity! Only 4.8 miles from the house and it has a service on a Saturday evening – two of the most important things (at least to me). Since I’ve been to one or two non-denominational churches already, I’m not sure why I had this one on my list; I suppose it’s due to website intrigue. The singers on stage look excited on the site, as well as multi-cultural. Also, I lassoed my son into going with me, so he could give a young person’s perspective.
Seems I never can get it right. Sometimes I forget my pencil in the car; other times I forget something to write upon. Tonight, I forgot my cell phone, so as Alex and I entered the doorway to the church, we did an about-face and headed back to the car. As a result, we were both warmly greeted twice!
From that point we could already hear the bass of the 9-member band playing on stage. Even though the sanctuary can fit several thousand people, most of those at the Saturday evening service sat away from the balcony seats. All in all, I’d estimate about 300 to 350 people at tonight’s service. Those in attendance primarily dressed in jeans and pants, and were equally divided between whites, African Americans and Hispanics. I’m sure there were other nationalities in the service, but the sanctuary had already dimmed its lights for the bands’ production, which included a fog machine and spots of purple, green and blue gel lighting and some major amps.
As the first song began, the crowd stood as the words appeared on two large overhead screens. No one around me sang along with the band – perhaps they were tone deaf. It’s always hard to follow along with just the words, if you don’t know the tune.
When the second song began, we remained standing. I wanted to poke Alex in the ribs and remind him that with all other non-denominational churches they typically stand for four songs before the audience is asked to sit. I decided against that because I figured Alex might bolt for the door if he had to stand that long. (Neither of us are big stand-in-place kind of people). However, after the second song, a bouncy woman (I believe this was the pastor’s wife), came to the stage and led us in a prayer. To me, it sounded more like a political rally prayer, but then again, everyone prays as they are led. From there, the service had a few announcements and then we were asked to greet those around us. I shook hands with a few people, but it was more of a quick “Glad you are here kind of greeting.”
Then to my surprise (was expecting at least two more songs by the band, according to my experiences at mega churches), the pastor popped on stage, dressed in a long sleeved shirt with the tail out, jeans and possibly even boots. This seems to be the clothing choice of many non-denominational pastors – at least for a Saturday evening service.
Pastor Rick Godwin spoke on “The Benefits of Having a Spirit of Gratitude.” He immediately sailed right into his message, peppering scripture with a multitude of vignettes and stories. From the pulpit, he read his notes as he went. While I like a pastor who can weave a story into a message to make a point, I felt like this message was all story and scripture and no space or breathers. I likened it to having only one note to play and no space around the note. After a while, the stories that made me giggle and smile began to wear on me. However the delivery was simply a matter of style and one that I wasn’t used to.
I did find his mannerism to be a bit like a young Ronald Reagan and that was endearing. The points of the message about being grateful in all things that you do and that you are unique, so “be a voice, not an echo,” struck a chord with me. Also liked his wording when he said, “We so often count our blessings with our fingers and our miseries with a calculator.”
After the message, the pastor led us in prayer and then had kind of a silent (no peeking) in-your-seat altar call where those who wanted to accept Jesus as their Savior could do so somewhat privately. Then the pastor cued a video about a couple that had made Summit Christian Center their church home, when it was called something else before Summit. It was a heartwarming story and I think if someone in the audience were looking for a church home, this may have had some impact.
After the video, guests were told to sit back and not participate in the offering, and that it was time to give members a chance to give of their tithes and offerings. Like most mega churches, this one used buckets to pick up the checks, cash and coins.
Finally, the pastor had everyone hold out their hands and he gave the parting blessing and we were dismissed.
I didn’t see this as we walked in, but can you believe it, this church has a two-story full-sized carousel!
I’m talking a major carousel here. Who has a carousel in their church? It certainly made me smile, almost as much as that cross made out of used telephone cord at the at Passion City Church in Atlanta. Although I couldn’t find anything about this carousel on the church website, I immediately understood its value. I used to tell neighbors holding garage sales: You have to have one item that is the big draw. You should never sell it until close to the end of the sale because that one item will draw people in for its novelty. A carousel in church – definitely a novelty!
In the end, Alex had many of the same feelings as I did. Wasn’t his kind of church. He really didn’t like the tele-evangelist style of preaching and the over-the-top production from the band, even though he did enjoy the music. In the end, he said he felt like many of those in his generation (under 25) aren’t looking for the highly polished productions but instead, a genuine, heart-felt experience in which they can participate. I’m not sure what a church like that would look like, but I’ll keep my eyes open for him.
Theatre church? Who knows? Depends on how late I sleep in as to whether I can make it tomorrow. If not, I may hit another service at 6 pm.h