|364: Christian Life Church, Milton, Florida|
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Mystery Worshipper: Profane Saint.
The church: Christian Life Church, Milton, Florida.
The building: Quite a sizeable campus consisting of several buildings. The original sanctuary is a round building which is now used for youth ministries. The service was held in a large, multi-purpose, rectangular building with stucco exterior and lovely palm trees planted around it.
The church: This church is very contemporary and informal. It has its roots in the Jesus and Charismatic movements of the early 70s. It has grown into a strong, vibrant congregation of over 600 with multiple Sunday services. They seem to have a large network of home cell groups as well as many types of ministries and outreach programs. This is quite remarkable for the relatively small size of the town of Milton, near Pensacola in the northwest Florida panhandle.
The cast: Senior Pastor Doug Holmes and Keith Wilkinson, Pastor of Music and Arts.
What was the name of the service?
10.30am Worship Celebration.
How full was the building?
Only a few seats were left available. There appeared to be over 300 people in attendance.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
There were a few "hellos" before, during and after the service.
Was your pew comfortable?
We sat in chairs instead of pews. They were padded nicely and were comfortable enough.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Fairly quiet with a good amount of socializing going on with the attendees. There was recorded instrumental praise music softly playing.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning. Welcome to Christian Life Church."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
Everything from the song lyrics and scripture reading to the sermon notes were projected on the screen. The sermon notes were also given in the handouts.
What musical instruments were played?
Keyboards, guitar, bass and drums.
Did anything distract you?
Nothing serious. I did, however, notice that a chalice and bread were used as decorations on the table onstage. I was curious if this meant that communion would be celebrated... but no such luck.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
It was very contemporary, upbeat and relaxed. The singing began with a rock style praise song and then abruptly shifted into the introspective Gospel hymn, "I Surrender All," done in a soft, contemporary style.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
Around 40 minutes.
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 Pastor Doug Holmes speaks in a conversational style but adds some volume and intensity at appropriate times. He is enjoyable to listen to and communicates his ideas in a simple and understandable fashion.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The title was "Overcoming Obstacles to Faith." It covered many areas where we struggle in our lives. Attitudes such as fear, disappointment, shame, pride, unforgiveness and impatience often keep us from experiencing God's fullness in our lives. For every obstacle named, an appropriate biblical reference was given.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
I was especially moved during a time of prayer during the "I Surrender All" song. The pastor led in a brief devotional, reflective time, emphasizing the need to give all our struggles to God.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
This is not quite what I would call hellish, but at the very beginning of the service there was a lengthy discussion and promotion of the preschool ministry. This was probably meaningful to the members, but it got a bit boring to me, since I was expecting to start out with singing.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
There were a few friendly greetings.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
I did not partake this time. Coffee was available before and after the service in the large entry area.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, it was encouraging to see so many young believers. Though the style is a bit different than my usual, I felt glad to be part of the family of God.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The basic message of the sermon. With the notes up on the screen, the fill-in-the-blanks handouts and the pastor's communication skills, It was pretty well downloaded into my somewhat failing memory banks and heart.