Sunday #45– Harvest Bible Chapel – a start-up church – San Antonio
Why this church?
I read about this start-up church in the LOCAL newspaper that comes to the house each month. I’d wanted to visit a start-up church to witness the difference between the people who are on ground floor-faith compared to those who are involved in well-established churches. This one launched October 5 at Vineyard Elementary.
Pastor Josh de Koning had been with a Harvest Church in Austin and the story goes that he and his brother road their bicycles from Austin to San Antonio to mark the event of the church opening.
I roped my son into going with me on this visit because I wanted to get his impression about the service. We drove into the school lot and were immediately stopped by a man in an SUV who had a question about what time the service started. We told him that we were new so didn’t know anything. He said he had been at last week’s service and really liked the pastor’s message, so he came back again. That was encouraging, so we turned to enter the school.
Start-up churches have unique challenges and one of those is in the area of signage. When meeting in rented space, church leaders and volunteers must spend hours retro-fitting the space and then hours tearing it down.
As I walked down the school hallway, I noted lots of church related messaging hanging over what surely was school-related information. It certainly was more than a simple: “Church is through this door” sign.
We walk through two large doors that lead to the cafetorium – at least that’s what they were called in Colorado, so I assume they are the same in Texas – a room that functions as part cafeteria and part auditorium. With the backdrop in black, a five-member band asked us all to rise to our feet for the first song. I didn’t tell Alex about that part, where I suspected that we’d be on our feet for the first four songs.
After the first song, (surprise, surprise), we got to sit down for the announcements, which were followed by a viewing of a video on the two large overhead screens. Then we stood for the second song and then the ushers came forward for the offering.
The offering was very similar to the one taken by the Church of Christ, Scientist in San Antonio, where a black velvet bag is passed around. I like these little devices because you can drop your bills, change or check in and no one on the same pew or chair row can see what you donated. More churches should do that. I know the question that you’d like to ask? Well, why not just donate online and then no one sees anything? Answer: I’m old fashioned, so I still like the feel of letting go of the money versus donating digital ones and zeros.
While the velvet pocket was passed, I looked around the cafetorium/church and saw people in jeans, suits, boots and dresses – anything goes in this church. Then we had a reading from the fourth chapter of Psalms and a prayer. Then a few people raised their hands in praise and others swayed to and fro to the music as we sang along for the fourth song while standing.
The pastor, clad in jeans and a sport coat read from Philippians 3:1-11 and discussed two reasons for pressing on and knowing Christ and then six ways to do that.
We should press on because (1) you have arrived and (2) Christ made you His own.
The pastor drove his point home by saying there’s a reason that a car’s windshield is so much larger than its rearview mirror. If we are always looking behind us, then we’ll surely run into problems and not see what’s coming. Then he gave his six ways to press on:
1. Forget your past and push forward
2. Keep your eyes on the apostolic example
3. Think like a citizen
4. Anticipate the Savior
5. Glory in what is truly glorious
6. Love and be loved
After the message, we were told that this would be the first time that the church had administered communion. I was quite anxious to see how they’d handle that, but I must say that this church did something that I’d not seen before. While the silver trays filled with cups of wine (substitute grape juice for this church), those wine cups sat on another cup of that held a small bit of cracker. When you picked up your wine turned grape juice, you picked up the cracker cup at the same time. That sped things along considerably. Felt like an expedient way to serve communion, if you ask me.
Then we all stood for another song and finally read Ephesians 3:17-19 before being dismissed.
If you want a biblical message versus a feel good message, then this is one church you may want to check out. I know many of my friends prefer this type of message and for them, I think they’d feel right at home. All churches were start-up churches at one time, but it got me to wondering how many of those are going on in one city from one Sunday to the next. Not sure if there’s a way to check that out.
So little time left before the end of the year. I know I want to take in a church in a theatre, so that may be the next one.