Sunday, September 28, 2014
Today we worshiped at Bellevue Christian Church, 680 Lincoln Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15202, 412.761.2754, www.bellevue-christian.com, Chuck Gohn, Lead Minister.
Scripture – John 14:12 NIV
Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.
It is hard to complain when I come across a large broken-mirror cross, but I did wish it was in the front of the sanctuary. A few people said hello during the service but other than the obligatory greeting time, only one person welcomed us.
I enjoyed the stained glass, the wooden ceiling, and especially the choir…it’s always great to see choirs that smile.
I wish we had an opportunity to hear more of the violin.
The congregation seems diverse and friendly with each other.
We understand the pastor was recovering from surgery. I don’t know if his stand-in had preached before. I had a lot of difficulty understanding what was said as it seemed very fast.
During Communion there was a cross projected on the screen.
We did have a moving experience afterward at the traveling Vietnam War Memorial in Beaver.
As we walked into this well-kept building, I was struck by the stunning expanse of stained glass over the main entry doors. Little did I know there would be more inside, along with a large cross made from broken glass.
A greeter handed us bulletins and upon request pointed us toward the restrooms. It turned out there was signage, I just could not read it from that distance. As we came back upstairs to the sanctuary, a gentleman greeted us. It is common for multi-service churches not to recognize new faces as visitors.
The music was contemporary and included a violin, which added surprisingly to the sound. The worship leader played the piano and the choir backed her up, blending well. We were pleased to be sitting directly behind a baby who sang along with the voice of an angel.
The message entitled “Living With the Resurrection in Mind” was presented by a guest, Jamie Weiss, an Associate from His Place Contact Center (www.hisplacecc.org). In a comment he connected with sci-fi movies, he urged listeners to see life “4th dimensionally – see it as it will be,” as well as to remember to take an active role in God’s work and worry less about ourselves. We will find we have left a mark on earth because our minds were on heaven.
I appreciated participating in Communion and especially that instructions were projected on the screen.
Our prayer for this church:
Father, we pray You open the congregation’s hearts to the direction You are leading this church. Amen.
Sunday, September 21, 2014
Today we worshiped at Alive! Community Church, worship held at South Pike Cinemas, 130 Cinema Way, Route 356, Sarver, PA 16055, 724.816.2713, www.alivecc.com, Dave Roddy, Senior Pastor.
Scripture – NIV
And God spoke all these words:
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
“You shall have no other gods before me."
Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
We were invited by a worshiper to come visit this church, and from the invitation we expected only a few, so were pleasantly surprised by 50+ in worship.
The church meets in a movie theater, which from what we learned is a win-win for all. The theater’s sound system was too much for my ears but what a blessing for the church.
God has blessed them to be a church without the burden of a building. My only disappointment was the lack of a cross; I thought there might be one displayed on the large screen, but did not get to ask why not.
A visiting couple, the Youngs, spoke about their ministry against human trafficking in Europe and we were blessed to be there to hear a little about it and meet with them afterward. I was pleased that the pastor would call the family forward and pray a blessing over them. In all, the pastor’s prayers were a highlight for me as he sounded very comfortable and willing to lift up prayers.
This was week two of a sermon series on the 10 Commandments and God used this pastor to clarify a seed He had planted in me. I thought I was called to grow a half-acre garden on our hillside and donate the proceeds to feed the hungry. Last year, while lamenting that it was killing me, it came to me that this was Bob’s idea, not God’s. I kept putting off getting my little wood shop operational because I was too busy with the garden and woodworking was just for fun. I came to realize that was God’s whisper to get my shop in order. I still got carried away this year…the garden is smaller but still way too much. Now I have rotator cuff tears in both shoulders, and He has my attention.
Some of that enjoyment in obeying God finally will be praising Him for His leading to however He will use me.
After receiving an email invitation to visit this church I found myself wondering what worship in a movie theater would look like, as this concept was new to me. I learned that this is far from a new idea: I was told that at least two national theater chains have divisions devoted to arrangements between the cinemas and churches.
As we approached the building, the doors were held open for us and we were greeted with smiles and bulletins. We found information about the church on a folding table in the lobby, and several friendly people greeted us, including the pastor.
The restrooms were well marked of course and we easily found our way to the appropriate theater where the band was set up and seating was excellent. The words to the songs were projected toward the top of the screen, leaving plenty of room for worship leaders to stand in front. The concession stand was open, making it possible to bring drinks in and use the convenient drink holders built into the arms of the seats.
Some of the music was unfamiliar to me, but the group had a great sound. After the opening songs the pastor spoke about the importance of the theology expressed in the music, and I completely agree that accurate theology is vital.
An unexpected visit from a missionary family was a special treat for us as well as for this congregation. This husband and wife team, along with their 3-year-old twins, are obeying God’s call to help stop human trafficking. The challenges presented in this scenario would seem insurmountable without faith that God empowers those He calls.
The message, “You’re Not God,” is the second in a series about the Ten Commandments. One of his most powerful points was a tweet quoted from David Platt: “The great mistake made by most Christians is hoping to discover in themselves that which is found in Christ alone.” I think there is much truth to this statement today, even though this observation originated with and was credited to A.W. Pink, an evangelist who lived from 1886-1952. Neither times nor people have changed much since, which you can easily tell from a quick glance at Facebook.
The pastor taught that “our ability to follow the other nine Commandments is based on our ability to follow this one;” that God can be replaced in our hearts and minds by His good gifts to us, i.e., our kids, our spouse, our job, our hobbies. These “good things can become god things”…we can find ourselves worshiping these good gifts from our loving God instead of worshiping God. But “God will not share His Bride, the Church, and He prevents heartache by being the center of our lives.”
I could only add that He not only created us but paid the ultimate price to redeem us; He deserves to be the center of our lives.
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we give You thanks for blessing this congregation that they are free to be a church and not caretakers of a building. Amen.
Sunday, September 14, 2014
Today we worshiped at Bakerstown Alliance Church, 4030 Bakerstown Road, Gibsonia, PA 15044, 724.443.7040, www.bakerstownalliancechurch.org, Pastor Vern Borchert.
Scripture – Proverbs 30:8-9
Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.
Our arrival just as the service started eliminated any opportunity to exchange greetings.
The church had a warm feel to it, like a country chapel, and I appreciated the large wooden cross on the chancel wall.
The singer/keyboard musician was enjoyable, and the woman in the front row interpreting the songs in sign language brought back a significant memory of when our daughter did the same thing. When our daughter signed the Lord’s Prayer I never could stay all the way through it.
My guess is these folks have worshiped together for a long time: when prayer requests were made, often someone added to or clarified the request.
The sermon was about greed, but the very personal story the pastor shared – along with the time he spent telling about the loss of a friend – made me think he needed prayer, so that is how I spent the time.
Most of the congregation stayed for a meeting after church so we did not get to visit with them.
Unfortunately we were a few minutes late arriving, but an usher immediately handed us bulletins and we found seats while we joined partway through a song.
Musical leadership was provided by a talented gentleman who played the keyboard and sang.
The sanctuary was the only part we saw of the interior of the building, but it boasted a huge wooden cross, a stone chancel wall, white frosted windows topped with a decorative triangle of frosted purple glass, and, with only 3 walls, a very open feel.
The pastor spoke at length about a member whose memorial service was held yesterday after which the prayer requests took a good deal of time as everyone seemed to know all about everyone else.
The message was entitled “Greed” and I was a little confused when the stated Scripture was not read or even referred to. The point was that “greed is a disease that stems from worry and if we allow worry to control our lives we will end up choosing to have security at any price. The cure for greed is to sell/give away what controls you.”
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we pray the heart of this congregation will be receptive to Your leading. May they grow in Your service. Amen.
Sunday, September 7, 2014
Today we worshiped at Waverly Presbyterian Church, 590 South Braddock Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15221, 412.242.0643, www.waverlychurch.org, Rev. Rebecca Hickock, Pastor.
Scripture – Jeremiah 29:1-9
This is the text of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders among the exiles and to the priests, the prophets and all the other people Nebuchadnezzar had carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon. (This was after King Jehoiachin and the queen mother, the court officials and the leaders of Judah and Jerusalem, the skilled workers and the artisans had gone into exile from Jerusalem.) He entrusted the letter to Elasah son of Shaphan and to Gemariah son of Hilkiah, whom Zedekiah king of Judah sent to King Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon. It said:
This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” Yes, this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,” declares the Lord.
It never fails to amaze me how God tweaks our church visit efforts. We had hoped for Jan to reacquaint with the pastor, but instead we met the student pastor and prepared to worship. During the Passing of the Peace a young lady introduced herself as a girl we knew from a youth group years ago.
It was a difficult place to find our way around as signage was lacking.
The sanctuary is long and narrow with an exceptionally high ceiling, or so it seems, at least. It was interesting later when a soloist filled the sanctuary to the roof timbers with her rendition of the 23rd Psalm.
I appreciated that the student pastor repeated the prayer requests so the congregation could hear.
Maybe we sat too far forward, but for me a lot of the sermon was lost to the echo. It dealt with her time in Scotland and incarnational ministries: we must be intentional in bringing Christ to the people and somehow get past our desire for the reverse.
She made the interesting point that Christ grew into adulthood before starting His ministry. People knew Him and He knew them and how to minister to them.
I am fairly certain I have never been to his area before so it seemed somewhat like visiting another country…an appropriate feeling as it turned out.
I was looking forward to catching up with the pastor, a friend I have not seen for some time, and at first was disappointed that she was away. Instead we discovered a friend from another church who had moved to this area and we met some new friends as well. Many people greeted us, introduced themselves, and even gave us hugs. One gentleman took the time to talk with us about the history of this older structure.
The intricate stained glass is a sight to behold and an important part of the heritage of this church.
If the choir is as musically gifted as those who led the singing and presented the solos today, I imagine they are exceptional.
Student Pastor Rachel Riggle offered the untitled message based on her trip to Scotland with World Mission Initiative. From this sermon I learned that only 2% of the Scottish population attends church and that many are 3rd and 4th generation unchurched. Prior to her visit she had expected to hear sad stories about how the church was deserted, but instead she heard a message of hope.
Through the Fresh Expressions Movement, churches there have stopped trying to attract new members and are being incarnational, programming for and ministering to those who are there, with the result that those who witness this being the church want to become part of it. They are bringing Jesus to the people instead of trying to bring the people to Jesus.
I appreciated the humor, optimism, and passion with which this message was imparted. I admit I am unfamiliar with the culture in which the church exists in this area of the world, and my unfamiliarity with this part of this city brought this point home for me.
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we pray this church can step out in faith and take You to the people in the neighborhood. Help them to know how to minister in Your Name. Amen.