Sunday, January 29, 2012
Today we worshiped at Harvest Bible Chapel Pittsburgh North, 5145 Wexford Run Road, Wexford, PA 15090, 724.306.1012, www.harvestpittsburghnorth.org, Jeff Miller, Senior Pastor.
The church gathers in a school building, and although we had some trouble figuring out which one, when we did choose one, we found a sign outside the entrance. Visitors may be helped with a few external signs.
We were warmly welcomed and able to get directions to the restrooms which again could be helped with a sign on Sundays.
There was a nice mix of youth to gray hairs in attendance. We were sitting too far back to tell if the congregation was singing, but if it wasn’t for the words on the screen I would not have been able to figure out what we were singing. After the first few songs I was able to understand the male lead singer.
I thought the prayers were heartfelt but could not find a cross anywhere.
The sermon, “Supernatural Born Killer,” wove around our need to kill off the sin in our lives, and I felt Christ was using the pastor to bring a personal message to me.
The confession of your struggle with the temptations of sin is one of the easiest segues to witness for Him. When I talk of who I was before Christ claimed me, people can relate to similar trials they are facing.
My motto used to be “Shoot them all and let God sort them out,” and maybe in regard to sin it’s a good plan. My current approach to sin is more like, “Sin shot, survivors shot again.” The Devil will bring the temptation back; like a bad horror movie it keeps coming back.
This is an extremely new church plant, having just started up last October, which meets for worship in the auditorium of Marshall Middle School. Since we came in from the back road we missed the directional signs, but we were grateful for the sign we saw outside the door or we would certainly have been lost on this sprawling campus.
The people were very friendly, greeting us and introducing themselves before and during worship. They took time to chat prior to the service and gave us a brief description of their story. At this point in their history, this space seems perfect for them.
A display table outside the auditorium contains printed information about the church and the small groups as well as Bibles which anyone needing one was invited to take and keep.
An effective starter I’ve seen in several churches recently is the countdown clock displayed on the screen.
Worship began with lots of music which was well done, although I only knew a couple of the songs.
There seemed to be plenty of children and plenty of care and teaching for them.
Small groups are an important part of this congregation and everyone was strongly encouraged to join one of the five that are available.
I had to chuckle…when it was time for the offering the pastor quoted the Scripture which said that “God loves a cheerful giver,” then went on to say that it was time for the offering and everyone hooted and cheered!
The sermon series is working through the book of Colossians, and I appreciated the paragraph at the top of the sermon notes page which recapped the major points up till today. The sermon, “Supernatural Born Killer,” was based on Colossians 3:5-11 and revolved around the universal struggle with sin in our lives. It stressed the nature of sin and our dependence upon faith in Christ alone for salvation.
He was very much a “lay-it-on-the-line” preacher. He pulled no punches and gave no quarter, but was strong enough to be vulnerable. The statement I liked the best was that “If your faith hasn’t changed you, your faith hasn’t saved you.”
And he pointed out the importance of compassion for the unsaved, asking the same question I have asked myself: “Why should we be surprised at the actions of those who don’t know Christ?” He pointed out that they are hungry…we should share what we have.
The final question, “Will you yield and cooperate with the Holy Spirit?” I suppose is the bottom line for each of us. I’m still breathing, so I guess I’m still working on it.
Sunday, January 22, 2012
Today we worshiped at Gospel Fellowship Presbyterian Church, 161 McFann Road, Valencia, PA 16059, 724.898.3322, www.gospelfellowshippca.org, Rev. Dr. Nick Protos, Senior Pastor.
I was wondering about the signage when I saw the directional arrow for the driveway…I think it is orange on green, but the contrast is so poor I had to look again to see which direction was indicated. When we parked in the upper lot, the Sanctuary entrance was well identified, and we found a restroom sign easily inside.
We were warmly welcomed from when we stepped in the door and the usher shook my hand and looked me in the eye.
The first song on the screen also had poor contrast, making it hard to read from the rear seats. There were a lot of children in the Sanctuary, a personal joy for me.
A large round stained glass window accentuates the rear chancel wall but was covered with a black drape. I thought the window might contain a cross, as I couldn’t see one in the Sanctuary. But as we left I drove around to check, and no cross.
The sermon was on differentiating Scriptural references to killing and murder. I believe the Bible is very clear that abortion is murder, and it always seemed to me that being pro-abortion after you have been born is hypocritical.
We were greeted warmly as we entered the building, then by several others who introduced themselves and welcomed us.
The building seemed fairly new, but we did not have an opportunity to tour at all. The only signage I noted was toward the restrooms. We also noticed a bulletin board indicating the numerous global missions in which the church is involved.
The Sanctuary was spacious and pretty. Unfortunately the only stained glass was covered by black cloth to prevent the sun from blinding parishioners. However, as the pastor pointed out, it was also appropriate on this Sanctity of Life Sunday.
We heard some contemporary music when we first entered the building, but missed it since we did not enter the Sanctuary until the announcements were underway.
As usual we sat near the back, and I briefly considered moving closer to the front in order to see the words on the screen. Had they been white on that dark background, or at least larger, it would have been easier.
The sermon, called “The Unsanctity of Life,” was based on Exodus 20:13. The pastor had an excellent progression from “In Scripture, the choice of words is inspired by God” to “This particular Hebrew word (for murder) does not apply to animals, to execution by the state, to killing in self-defense, to killing in the course of a just war, or any other matter except the unlawful, premeditated killing of another human, including involuntary manslaughter.”
He pointed out, however, that "we live in a culture of death," where even some who would raise money to help save animals from death may believe that a woman has a “right” to an abortion because “it’s her body.”
He made too many points for me to enumerate, but his clear stand was that life originates with and belongs to God, that we have no “right” to end a life prematurely, that “there is a difference between terminating life and terminating treatment,” and that “there are no throw-away people.”
It’s too bad that in this world we need a day to have this point brought consciously to mind.
Come, Lord Jesus, come.
Sunday, January 15, 2012
Today we worshiped at Memorial Park Church, 8800 Peebles Road, Allison Park, PA 15101, 412.364.9492, www.memorialparkchurch.org, Rev. Dr. D. Dean Weaver, Senior Pastor.
It has been a long time since I was at Memorial Park and I had forgotten what a great sanctuary they have. The stained glass is brilliant, with a large cross in the main panel.
There seemed to be attention to signage but no direction to the restrooms. I engaged in conversation with a few people, but I suppose with multiple services a guest is hard to notice.
As a visitor it was much appreciated when one of the Associate Pastors stepped to the lectern and introduced himself.
Today we witnessed the ordination and installation of Deacons. I knew I could not stand long enough to lay hands on these disciples, and I missed that.
The sermon, “The Gospel for Dummies,” was simplified down to the basics. The question was raised, “Who are the Jews you preach to?” The message developed smoothly and included a good personal story to bring us to the question, “Can I pray for you?” Thinking back, those are the prayers I remember.
This is one of the churches suggested to us recently and it, too, had been on our list. It boasts a huge campus, beautiful facility, and gorgeous stained glass in the sanctuary. Upon entering the building we needed to look for the signage and eventually located it behind a couple of signs on easels. Unfortunately none of the signage we saw indicated the direction to the restrooms, but fortunately the restroom sign protruded from the wall.
There seemed to be lots of everything anyone could possibly want at a church: outside was plenty of parking along with a drop-off area right in front, inside I noticed what looked like a well-staffed nursery, literature and amenities appropriately available, a welcome booth, and halfway back in the very large sanctuary were (presumably) closed-circuit TVs (I don’t know exactly what they’re used for since they were not In use today).
The bulletin is large and user friendly, almost like a mini-newsletter, but quite readable with the Order of Worship all on one side (with the exception of the constitutional questions posed to those being ordained and/or installed as Elders and Deacons).
We were treated to the Women’s Trio singing “More Than Amazing” and accompaniment of many songs by the Memorial Park Brass, and both had great sounds.
The ordination/installation of the Deacons took place at the 9:15 service, which we attended, and the Elders were ordained/installed at the 11:00 service. In the course of the ceremony it was mentioned that 35 Deacons comprise Memorial Park’s Board.
The Sermon was centered on Romans 1:1-17 and was the first part of a series called What Every Follower of Jesus Needs to Know “The Gospel for Dummies.” It was clearly the beginning of this series, explaining many of the basics in the introduction of this theological book.
Just about the time I found myself wondering when he would get to the application, he told a story about breakfast with a friend who modeled the two questions it takes to start a conversation about church with a virtual stranger: 1 – “How can I pray for you?” followed immediately by doing just that, and after the prayer, 2 – “Where do you go to church?”
We sat in the pew closest to the back of the sanctuary and near a door. I somehow doubt the women on the other side of that door realized that parts of their animated conversation were overheard.
Sunday, January 8, 2012
Today we worshiped at North Park Church, 600 Ingomar Road, Wexford, PA 15090, 412.267.9032, www.northparkepc.org, Dan Hendley, Senior Pastor, and Jonathan Shirk, Associate Pastor.
We were warmly welcomed at North Park Church, where we were invited to worship. We found good signage; it is a large complex and there was only time to see a small part of the facility.
I noticed no mention of missions in the literature I saw. There does seem to be a healthy mix of ages in the congregation. The church body sang the worship songs with passion. To me there seemed a high ratio of male voices, which is unusual in all churches.
I could tell that there was a large cross behind the screen, but when the screen was raised for the sermon, for me it was like coming through the tunnel and seeing the City of Pittsburgh: it was a special moment.
The sermon was on the basics of our lives: Jesus is essential. The pastor revealed a bit of the Antichrist in us and those around us in that we are happy to have Christ in us but resistant to be also in Him. We gladly claim the Savior, but not so acknowledging Him as Lord.
The pastor spoke with the conviction of Christ and let Christ speak through him. It was refreshing to hear the Word preached without excuses. I think we accommodate people for so long that we forget what we believe.
God is calling us to be rhinos. A dear friend who is an engineer related to us once that a rhino charges at a speed that far exceeds its eyesight, so that he cannot see what he will be running into. The time has come for all of us to be rhinos for Christ. Make no apologies for your faith…your witness may save a life.
Over Christmas we received a kind invitation via email to visit this church. I had heard of it before and it was “on our list” but I really knew nothing about it.
The directional signage as we pulled into the parking lot was most helpful, and parking spaces marked for visitors are a clear indication of a hospitable church.
The building is rather new, quite large, and well-kept with excellent directional signage. Many people greeted us, though I’m not at all sure they knew we were visitors (which does not matter in the least).
The bulletin was well arranged and attractive to the eye. I especially liked the font.
The large Sanctuary contains comfortably-padded pews that were filled to capacity. The praise band consisted of a drummer, two female vocalists, a pianist, a keyboardist, and a violinist, and the music sounded professional. (We learned in conversation after the service that the Director of Music and Worship was a professional musician.)
I realize that we often comment negatively regarding the volume of the music, so I feel compelled to say that the volume today was perfect. We sat toward the back, as usual, but not once today did I think that the volume was excessive. (My ears and my head were grateful.)
Making announcements during the offertory seemed to work exceptionally well, and I appreciated that the screen was put up during the sermon. I knew Bob would like that too, since it revealed a plain but beautiful wooden cross.
The sermon, entitled “BASICS: Jesus is Essential,” was based on 1 John 2:18-27, and was part of a series. When I first saw the title I wondered if the series was geared toward those new to the faith, but nothing could have been further from the truth. The main point (as expressed on the sermon notes insert) was that “Jesus is essential for discerning the truth, fighting hard for truth, enduring in the truth, and enjoying eternal life.” He spoke to points with which most Christians struggle (Christians I know, anyway) such as the Antichrist, eschatology, cultural pressure to conform, knowledge, discernment, religious pluralism, and eternal life.
His instruction included using Scripture to interpret Scripture and to define one’s position on cultural issues, how to identify false teachers, the admonitions that “The fight for truth is now” and “Where there is no truth, there is no love,” as well as encouragement to know that God has given believers His Holy Spirit. He concluded with the lovely directive to “Be winsome but never compromising, and be joyful in the journey.” It was one of the most challenging, interesting, courageous, on-target sermons I’ve heard in a long time.
Following the service we were given a tour of the children’s space, which was truly outstanding, and had a pleasant visit with the gentleman who had emailed us and the Director of the Children’s Ministry. I was truly blessed by our visit today.
Sunday, January 1, 2012
Today we worshiped at Bridgewater Presbyterian Church, 408 Bridge Street, Bridgewater, PA 15009, 724.774.1454, Dr. William H. Silver, Pastor.
Today we found ourselves back at Bridgewater. At our last visit I didn’t have time to talk to the Pastor, who is a Marine. It was interesting to talk to someone who was shaped for the ministry by his service in Vietnam. I thought I was a Christian when I was there, but I now realize I didn’t really know Christ. In hindsight I see where God was at work even then preparing to claim me.
I remember this church having a good mission project, the “Heifer Program,” and I was hoping to add my bag of change but couldn’t find a place to do that.
They have a large paved parking lot since we were last there. We were warmly welcomed when we came in and the Pastor quickly introduced himself to us. He told us how the church was blessed at Christmas when the ceiling of their downstairs hall collapsed while no one was in the building.
I was so pleased to see a large wooden cross. I didn’t realize how much I missed seeing a cross in worship.
The bass notes from the organ sounded odd at first, but it evened out after a bit.
I was encouraged by the theology and understanding expressed in prayer. I think there is a good grasp of how Christ taught us to pray.
The sermon wove around our short time on Earth, and making the most of the opportunities we are presented with. The strong point for me was to praise God always, whatever the circumstances.
Communion elements were served silently and the Pastor was served by an Elder.
This was our second visit to this small, family-like church. We were impressed to see the fruits of their labors in the parking lot: there are now significantly more parking spaces, and it looks beautiful.
The people were friendly, and they all seemed caring and attentive to each other.
The congregation is currently facing a building issue as the downstairs ceiling collapsed in the very early morning hours of Christmas Eve. (A huge blessing is that no one was present.) A Professional Engineer has determined that the building is structurally sound and they are now looking into the necessary repairs. Interestingly, this seems to have brought the members closer together.
I appreciated the Pastor’s often-stated belief that God is still sovereign, even in this new year…something that can be forgotten when the years change. This is a battle I fight at this time of year, and this year I’ve been consciously reminding myself of that same fact – that God is sovereign, even in this new year – so for me it was confirmation of God’s leading to hear the Pastor state this several times this morning.
The sermon was centered on Ephesians 5:15-17. The title said it all – “Our Time on Earth, Making the Most of Every Opportunity.” God is in charge in all times and places. He provides us with opportunities and it is up to us to do our part and make the most of them. I appreciated the positive, encouraging message to start off the New Year.
I was grateful to receive the Sacrament of Communion.
May God bless you abundantly this year!
On these special days we worshiped at two different local churches, both of which were rather sparsely attended. On Christmas Day we had hoped to reunite one of our daughters with a college friend who is the Associate Pastor, but she was given the day off.
I felt both messages were rather uninspired. Another pastor friend confided that holidays are some of the hardest to preach because there is only so much you can say without repeating, but I was disappointed not to hear some passion for the birth of Christ.
I had experienced some exhaustion Christmas Eve and, although I was quite a bit better Christmas Day, I still needed to take it easy.
I hope everyone had a blessed Christmas!