Mystery Worshipper: The G.O.A.T
Church: Word of God Fellowship
Location: Raleigh, North Carolina, USA
Date of visit: Sunday, 24 May 2009, 11:00am
Awfully hard to spot and harder still to photograph, the church is a large warehouse-like structure located off a two-lane road in a wooded area of southeast Raleigh. A second building, the Family Life Center, sits nearby. Inside, the sanctuary seating is divided into eight square-shaped sections of chairs, with aisles between the sections.
Their website states that they offer "something for the entire family," with Bible study, classes and conferences held at various times. They sponsor Word of God Christian Academy, a school for children in all grades, including pre-school. They also conduct outreaches to the homeless, the elderly, and those in prison. There is one worship service each Sunday, and a Friday night service on the first and third Friday of each month.
Raleigh is the capital of North Carolina and enjoys a high quality of life and healthy business climate. Raleigh plus the nearby cities of Durham and Chapel Hill comprise the "Research Triangle," a major center for high-tech and biotech research. Famous sons include the Revd James A. Forbes, senior minister emeritus of the Riverside Church in New York City; and Andrew Johnson, 17th president of the United States.
The Revd Bishop Frank Summerfield and the Revd JoeNell Summerfield, pastors. There were others as well who did not provide their names.
What was the name of the service?Worship Service
How full was the building?
Approximately three-quarters full.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Golf carts were available for those who wished a ride from the parking lot to the church entrance. I boarded one of these and was whisked away by a friendly gentleman who, I thought, zipped around one of the corners way too fast. Still, I had never been in a golf cart before so this was a neat experience for me. As soon as I entered the building, a lady and a gentleman were waiting to shake my hand and present me with an offering envelope.
Was your pew comfortable?
The chair was comfortable. I was sitting in the first row of our section, on an aisle seat. The pews were teal-colored interlocking chairs.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Due to transportation problems I arrived a few minutes late, and so I missed out on the pre-service activities (if any).
What were the exact opening words of the service?
Unfortunately, I also arrived too late to capture the exact opening words of the service.
What books did the congregation use during the service?
There were no hymn books or Bibles available. The lyrics to the songs were projected onto a screen that was at the front.
What musical instruments were played?
Keyboard, bass guitar and drums.
Did anything distract you?
The music was too loud. In addition, there were quite a few misspelled words in the song lyrics as displayed on the projection screen. That got me distracted because I kept looking for other typos whenever something was shown on the screen. Did I already mention that the music was loud? Also, there were cameramen who moved throughout the sanctuary as the service progressed. They would point their cameras at random parishioners. A few times, it seemed as if the cameras were focused directly on me. It was unsettling – I wanted to look at the camera, but I also wanted to be attentive to the service. I am not sure where the camera images were displayed; I didn't see them projected anywhere during the service.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The worship was energetic and powerful (and loud). During the worship, most people in attendance were standing, clapping their hands, dancing in the aisles, or shouting to Jesus in admiration. I felt it was extremely reverent and moving. The choir was huge – they filled up the entire choir stand. They were also very lively.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
9 – Bishop Frank Summerfield and his wife JoeNell delivered the sermon jointly, both standing in the pulpit together. I had never seen this done before. I was later informed that this is a method that they use on an occasional basis. I liked it – it was unique. As they spoke, certain parishioners would interject phrases such as: "Thats real there!" or "Thats good teaching!" or "Im tryin to be righteous!" Sometimes these sounded a bit comical and would get the whole church laughing – including the preachers!
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
They spoke on 1 Corinthians 13, St Paul's famous discourse on the power of love. They emphasized the importance of love in household management: Evaluate your potential spouse before proposing marriage. Be in agreement with your spouse over financial matters. There should only be one "pocketbook" in the household. Act out of divine love toward your spouse and children. Dont intentionally offend your spouse. Separation or divorce is unheard of in God's ears.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
At one point a lady was invited to come up to the pulpit. She testified about how she gave her tithes and offering and unexpectedly received a $1,000 check in the mail a few days later. In addition, there was a lady to the left of the stage who was signing for the hearing impaired. She would sway to the music as she was signing. It was her way of praising the Lord while she signed.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
During the public offering, there were strobe lights turning in all directions, keeping in tempo with the (loud) music. To be honest, it gave me the creeps! It reminded me of when I used to attend concerts while in college. In fact, if all the other lights had been turned off in the sanctuary, there would have been a definite disco effect.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
An older gentleman named Carl introduced himself and asked me how I had enjoyed the service.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was none.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 – If I lived in the area, I would keep this church in mind. Its a good church that really preaches the Word.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes. I like seeing a pastor full of passion regarding the importance of building a Godly home and family. The family unit is extremely crucial in the dynamic of a life and of a generation. Everything seemed to flow together during the service. And, even though I was there almost three hours, it didnt seem that long at all!
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
I have three things that I will remember: (1) I am thankful that I did not fall out of the golf cart; (2) I am grateful for having been the spelling bee champion of my fifth grade class; (3) I am delighted that I can still hear.