|527: Bethel, Redding, California|
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Mystery Worshipper: Poppie.
The church: Bethel, Redding, California.
Denomination: Assemblies of God.
The building: Big, warehouse-shaped building sitting on the top of a hill with a 360-degree view of the surrounding hills and mountains! The driveway leading up to it is lined with flags from different nations. There is a Prayer House sitting to the left that is open 24 hours a day. A really neat waterfall and fountain, called the Bethesda Pool sits in front of the Prayer House.
The neighbourhood: The immediate area is pleasant, peaceful and fairly rural, even though it's only about 10 minutes from the main part of Redding. The land has rolling hills and fields, with Oak trees all around.
The cast: Bill Johnson is the senior pastor. They have a wonderful worship leader, a woman, who was not introduced.
What was the name of the service?
Sunday Worship Service.
How full was the building?
Really full. My husband guessed there were close to 1,000 people there.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes. At the door people were handing out the morning "program". They greeted us, and a few times during the service we did the "turn to someone and say hello" thing.
Was your pew comfortable?
The kind of padded chairs that are hooked together. They were comfortable.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
A busy hum of conversation going on all throughout the building. People getting settled, seated, greeting each other, hugging, praying with each other, etc. I would describe it as relaxed and friendly.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
They opened the service with music. The first words of the opening song were: "Let your glory fall in this place, let it go forth from here to the nations" a song by David Ruis.
What books did the congregation use during the service?
No books. They have a huge overhead screen on the stage with the words projected. Very easy to read and follow.
What musical instruments were played?
The leader played keyboards, other people were playing guitar, bass guitar, flute, saxophone and lots of drums at least three people were playing different drums. It was an upbeat, fun sound.
Did anything distract you?
This is a church that worships in different ways, with dancing, people using banners and flags. There was a young woman in front, with a white flag and a blue star of David on it. She had a white prayer shawl around her neck, her hair was long and dark and she was twirling and twirling, moving the flag at the same time in a circular motion, making a funnel kind of movement. To me, it evoked a symbolic picture of prayers for Israel, rising to God. It was very beautiful, and especially meaningful at this particular time with world events as they are.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Definitely not stiff, but not happy clappy either. It was contemporary, with great songs not just about God, but to him! There was a choir group on the stage, not wearing traditional robes but just street clothes, and worshipping right along with the congregation.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
It wasn't really a sermon in the classic sense. The pastor spoke about 30 minutes.
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 I liked his style. He was casual and relaxed. Friedly and open. Very "real".
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
He talked about all the physical healings that had been happening as people were prayed for. Then he shared about the vision for where God was leading their church in the future. At one point he asked if there was anyone there who wanted to become a Christian. He asked them to come forward as an outward sign of their intent. I think about 25 people went forward. He led them in a prayer and then everyone clapped for them, welcoming them to the kingdom of God.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The worship part. I really loved it. Afterwards, I went to the front and some people prayed for me. That was really awesome!
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The only slightly uncomfortable thing in the whole service was greeting each other, done maybe a few times more than necessary. On the other hand, you couldn't feel too isolated with all the greeting going on.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
After the service,there was alot of visiting going on all over the room. I decided to go forward for prayer. When I got to the front, two people began to pray for me, and then a third person, a teenage girl, joined us. That's one of the things I liked about this church there was a wide age-group involved, from young to old. I didn't get healed, but I felt really blessed by the experience.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was no after service coffee too much other stuff going on, I guess.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
10 If I lived close to this church, I would go in a minute! I'm sure there are not many dull moments.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Oh yah! It was free and powerful, the way church should be!
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The flags whirling, like prayer going up to God.