Gospel Light Baptist, Winder, Georgia, USA


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Mystery Worshipper:
Church: Gospel Light Baptist
Location: Winder, Georgia, USA
Date of visit: Sunday, 25 July 2021, 11:00am

The building

The exterior is mostly red brick with white columns outside the entrance, with a very traditional feel. The inside was slightly more updated, but minimalist. The walls are different shades of tan and the lights seemed dim throughout the entire service.

The church

The congregation seemed mostly comprised of people 50 years of age or older, but they were the only ones who spoke to me.

The neighborhood

There is a manufacturer of paper products, drums and containers located not far from the church. An automobile showroom, auto repair shop, and other miscellaneous small businesses are nearby. The church is located only about 200 feet from a railroad track. Thankfully, no trains went by during the service.

The cast

Several people, whose positions within the church were unclear to me, spoke and sang. A pastor delivered the sermon, and another pastor closed in prayer.

What was the name of the service?

Sunday Service.

How full was the building?

The worship center was about half occupied, if not a little more.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

Several people greeted me with a hearty ‘Good morning!’ accompanied by handshakes and eye contact. An elderly lady wearing a pink floral dress with a white knit cardigan sought me out and welcomed me. She told me her name and asked for mine, then told me how happy she was that I was there. The pianist also came from the stage before the service began to introduce herself and welcome me. The pastor met me in the aisle and welcomed me during the ‘greet your neighbor’ portion.

Was your pew comfortable?

The chairs themselves were comfortable to sit in – although, several seemed dirty and worn, and the rows were unkempt. A candy wrapper and several other items littered the floor underneath the chairs.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

Before the service, many people were very chatty with one another. It seemed like everyone was really happy to be there. Children were on the floor playing with toys, and the worship team huddled on stage to pray.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

‘Hey, good morning! Welcome to Gospel Light Church! It's good to have everybody here today.’

What books did the congregation use during the service?

Many people used their own Bibles, but none were available in the rows of chairs.

What musical instruments were played?

Piano and drums were used during some songs. A cajón, a box-shaped percussion instrument, was utilized in conjunction with instrumental tracks for other songs.

Did anything distract you?

There was a child in the back who yelled several times. There was also a noticeable temperature change during the service. Upon arrival, I noted that the room was cool and comfortable, but as the service progressed it became warmer and warmer to the point of discomfort. At the end of the service, the vocalist started singing during the prayer and I could not follow what was being said.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?

The worship was ... eclectic. There was a sprinkling of traditional hymns and contemporary Christian hits. Some people clapped and raised their hands, others swayed with the music. It was mostly off-key and off-beat, but was still sung and played with vigor.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

52 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?

4 — The pastor delivering the sermon exhibited a dynamic range of emotion and exertion. Sometimes he seemed almost to whisper. But that whisper could quickly turn to a bellow that made his microphone clip. He often asked for somebody to ‘help’ him or tell him that he is ‘preachin' good.’ He was very animated, though, and that kept my attention.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

I think the sermon was about experiencing change within the church – it was a little hard to follow. In my opinion, the sermon seemed motivated by the desire to be culturally relevant, as ethnic diversity was a major topic throughout. The scripture cited to support this was all over the place and didn't seem to correlate well with the message. The pastor stated that there are two crowds that react to the thought ‘I've never seen this before’ (Mark 2:12). In regard to new things happening, we either think it ‘must be wrong’ or it ‘must be God.’

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

The most enjoyable part of the entire service was the friendly face of the elderly lady who seemed genuinely glad to see a visitor and offer a welcome.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?

The singing was hard to follow along with because of the inconsistent tempo changes. The pastor spoke about how he yells at his wife and threatens to kill his children (and mean it). But, the worst was the fact that most of the doors in the restroom did not close or lock, so I definitely saw more than I wanted to when I entered!

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?

The same elderly lady who sought me out before the service noticed that I was wandering around and asked if I was looking for the restroom. I told her yes, and she gave me detailed instructions on how to get there. Several other people greeted me, and the gentleman at the front door said he hoped to see me next week.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

I did not see any beverages or food items offered before or after the service.

How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?

3 — While the congregation were very welcoming, I would not want to sit through another service where the pastor consistently seeks affirmation and expresses his self-assuredness by commanding people to say ‘Amen’ and telling the congregation that he is preaching good. I do not identify with ecstatic emotional experiences and seek more of the ‘meat’ of the Word than the ‘milk.’ While it does appeal to some people, it's not for me at this point in my spiritual walk.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?

The Christians in this church made me glad to identify with them by their good deeds and desire to evangelize.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?

Seeing someone sitting on the toilet has definitely been forever burned into my memory.

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