Mystery Worshipper: The Old Man from Scene 24
Church: Christian Life Centre
Location: Horsham, England
Date of visit: Sunday, 1 July 2012, 10:30am
The church meets in a large Renaissance Revival brick and stone chapel on East Street. A Methodist congregation met here from 1891 to 1932, followed by a Pentecostal group in 1957. Christian Life Centre has met here since 2005. The inside has been refurbished to a modern design that is bright and open.
They sponsor a children's ministry, men's and women's groups, and an Alpha course. They encourage their members to join home groups that meet during the week.
East Street is in the centre of Horsham and the church building sits at a busy junction. Nearby are a mix of residential town houses, shops, restaurants and fast food outlets.
The service was led by Elder George Kunnarth. The sermon was delivered by Pastor Steve Fishpool.
What was the name of the service?Church Family Celebration.
How full was the building?
About 90 per cent full, with a good 70 or so people inside.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
I was greeted with a "Good morning" and handed a service sheet.
Was your pew comfortable?
Comfy chairs were provided.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
It was chatty and pleasant, with a video of a recent church social event projected onto a wall. It was a fairly amusing video showing a softball game, and well put together.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Shall we just quickly pray."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
None - all scripture references and songs were projected onto a wall.
What musical instruments were played?
An electric keyboard and acoustic guitar.
Did anything distract you?
The bunting from a recent women's event was still hanging across the room. This got in the way of reading the words projected onto the wall.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Very happy clappy, which isn't normally my cup of tea (I'm more a Hymns Ancient and Modern sort of guy). However, after a few verses of the first song, I was shocked to find myself weeping. By the third song I was filled with the Holy Spirit, which surprised me as I normally feel uncomfortable with this style of worship. Communion was via morsel of bread and wee cuppie.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 – Pastor Steve didn't deliver a particularly good sermon – in fact, it was rambling and fairly shallow. However, I'm giving him a high score as he displayed great humility and courage. Halfway through his sermon, he said that he felt God had told him someone needed prayer for healing. This could have gone badly wrong if no one responded, but a woman did. I was impressed with the risk Pastor Steve was prepared to take.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The sermon was a jumble of proclamations about faith. He cited Galatians 5:6 (all that counts is faith through love), Proverbs 4:20 (pay attention) and Psalm 23:6 (goodness and mercy shall follow me). He talked of salvation through faith, the need for passionate and free people of God, the gift of faith, dealing with adversity using the word of God, and basing your life on faith rather than feeling. Due to the assorted messages it was unclear what he was trying to say.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The worship a very strong sense of the presence of God throughout.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The only criticism I can put my finger on was the bunting getting in the way of the wall projection. But even though it was a distraction, it was beautiful bunting!
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I was approached by a lovely friendly woman who marched me into the back hall for coffee.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Filtered in a proper mug. Pretty good quality and served well.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
4 – This is a difficult one, as evangelical churches aren't my taste. However, the congregation were sincere and passionate for God. Whilst Pastor Steve didn't deliver an impressive exegesis of Galatians with a profound theological narrative, I was very impressed with his courage and obedience in responding to God. His actions spoke louder than his words. Most importantly, I was struck with how strong the presence of God was during the worship. So if I were to attend an evangelical church, this would be near the top of the list. A good advert for evangelicalism, but sadly I am not an evangelical.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
It did. Whilst observing the congregation, I was struck by how in love with God they appeared, and how hungry they were to worship him. I was very impressed with their sincerity and devotion. I came away with a sense that I was amongst God's people at Christian Life. Whilst I'm not a fellow traveller in their particular brand of theology, it would be a privilege to call them my brethren.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
The strong presence of God during the worship, and Pastor Steve's courage and obedience to God.