Mystery Worshipper: Spirit-Seeker
Church: Ardent Faith Christian Fellowship
Location: Huntersville, North Carolina, USA
Date of visit: Sunday, 15 July 2007, 6:00pm
The congregation meets at Creative EJ Studios, a music school-recording studio on the outskirts of Huntersville. The large, white, modern building sits in a beautiful rural area and is surrounded by a parking lot. One enters a foyer filled with paintings by local artists, and then descends a staircase to the auditorium. The windows in the rear of the building open onto the beautiful North Carolina woods. It is a very tranquil setting, far removed from the hustling lifestyle many live.
They hold worship services on Sunday evenings and meet in smaller prayer groups during the week in people's homes. They support several community outreaches and overseas missions. The people seemed warm, friendly and unpretentious, and appear to have a sincere love and devotion to both the Lord Jesus and to each other.
Huntersville is a small town outside of Charlotte in the west-central part of North Carolina. Formerly an important agricultural and cotton producing locale, the town today is known primarily for its recreational opportunities and as a quiet, elegant place to live away from the city. The drive to Creative EJ Studios is along tree-lined, beautifully landscaped roads.
The Revd Jeffrey Watson, pastor ("Pastor Jeff"), and his wife Julie led the worship service, and facilitated the involvement of many others in the proceedings.
What was the name of the service?Family Worship
How full was the building?
There were only 20 people at the service. The pastor announced that this was only their second meeting at Creative EJ Studios. Previously they had met only in people's homes.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Pastor Jeff was standing at the entrance to the auditorium. He shook our hands and warmly welcomed us. Within seconds, two other people who introduced themselves as Rina and Julie came up to shake our hands and tell us how glad they were that we had decided to visit them.
Was your pew comfortable?
The chairs were movie theater chairs with cup holders. They were comfortable and spaced far enough apart so that you had walking room.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
The people in attendance were all inside quietly conversing before it was time for the service to begin. We didn't notice any latecomers.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Welcome! This is our second service in this facility. We'd like to thank you for coming to visit us here. Our purpose is to bless the community, and engage other ministries in our area in unity. We will all stand together to enter into worship but after that, please feel the liberty to raise your hands or not, and even dance if that is your style.We endeavor to allow you the freedom to worship and still keep things in order."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
The words for the contemporary songs were on two overhead screens, which made it easy to see them. There were no hymnals. The Bible I saw on the row of seats in front of us was the New American Standard Bible, but Pastor Jeff quoted from the New King James Bible.
What musical instruments were played?
Julie played the keyboard and Pastor Jeff played the guitar. There was a drum set on the back of the platform that was not used.
Did anything distract you?
The temperature seemed to fluctuate a lot. But the main distraction was the blinking colored lights that kept flashing and changing colors. I felt that the board operators were not familiar with all the equipment yet. Pastor Jeff stepped down off the platform when he spoke, but the lights were not focused on him. It was difficult to see his face except when one yellow light would flash on his face.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The worship was wonderful. The moment they opened in song, the Spirit of the Lord was tangible in the room. It was nice to be in a true worship service and not watch a performance group. Pastor Jeff has one of those simple singing voices that is easy to harmonize with, or just to listen to as one silently worships.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 – Pastor Jeff seemed nervous when he spoke. I felt like he was learning to "wear the new hat" of pastor/teacher. He spoke with refreshing humility, and continually held out the baton to other members. He had notes in front of him, but gave many personal examples to illustrate what he was saying.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Practical ways of establishing God's kingdom in our lives every day, and living out his commandments in practical situations. The pastor invited the children's minister to share with the people what the teaching for their children would be; then he asked the prayer leader for the Tuesday evening meeting to share an example of God answering their prayers for unity among the churches in the area. He then prayed for the Presbyterian church body they had fellowshipped with earlier in the week during a fish fry. He mentioned they pray for the other churches in the area each Tuesday night at their prayer meetings.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The worship service provided each person the opportunity to spend one on one time communing with the Lord. At the conclusion of the service, the pastor closed by inviting everyone to find someone close to them and pray with each other over their needs. That reminded me of heaven's reunion and fellowship with others.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The dark spots on the pastor's face when the lights were not focused properly.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
People came to us and asked permission to pray with us. Then after prayer, four people went out of their way to say goodbye to us as we left the building. There was never a time when we were left standing alone. There was no embarrassment, just genuine love and concern.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
No refreshments...but the fellowship was great!
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
10 – This would be a nice group to belong to as it grows. We related to the belief system that was expressed and enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes. The service showed me that God is raising up churches that are expressing the kingdom mentality instead of growing their own kingdom. It was refreshing to find a church that was not into pride, pretension and performance.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
That the focus was on blessing other churches, not competing with other parts of Christ's body.