|795: Destiny, Mt Wellingon, Auckland, New Zealand|
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Mystery Worshipper: Lady Pen.
The church: Destiny, Mt Wellingon, Auckland, New Zealand.
Denomination: There are approximately 16 destiny churches in New Zealand.
The building: This is a converted warehouse. Entering the foyer, you can glance up at large airbrushed photos of the leadership. The black-suited ushers lead you to a seat. Do not, I repeat, do not upset their seating plan! The auditorium has grey walls, and commercial, anonymous carpet. The raised stage is home to the black-suited (with orange shirts) musicians and choir. No newsletters are given out, although there is some written material in the foyer. The foyer has a cafe, which sells canned drinks. The youth and children's groups meet in separate rooms
The church: This is the top destiny church – the one that broadcasts on TV2. The one whose pastor, Brian Tamaki, was profiled in The NZ Herald this month (November 2003). The one with the link to the new political party Destiny NZ. Need I say more?
The neighbourhood: It can be found on a residential street named Allright Place. Over an hour before the service, black-suited car-park attendants are there to direct you with their white gloved hands to an appropriate space. They also wear US secret service style earpieces: I didn't see anyone speak into their watch, but it wouldn't have surprised me.
The cast: Brian Tamaki preached.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
Around 80 percent full.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
I received a smile from a be-suited person as I walked in. Then the ushers ushered. Maybe its hard to spot visitors in a congregation of 1300-1500.
Was your pew comfortable?
It was okay. I sat on a pew length, red-cushioned seat.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Excited; but all the black suits were intimidating.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Welcome to Destiny church" – this was shown on the preflight/preservice video. Before the service proper began, we had a video beamed on to the two giant screens above the church detailing the rules, etc. I was reminded of the preflight safety videos we get on the plane. The screen informed us that "Because we're being filmed for TV, hats, sunglasses and chewing gum are not allowed."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
No books. The words for the songs were projected on to two large screens, as was the pastor when he spoke.
What musical instruments were played?
Keyboards, guitars, brass section, drums.
Did anything distract you?
The clicking as the ushers passed by with hand-held people counters. (The type you see people using as you board the ferry, a tour bus etc.)
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Forty minutes of jazzy, hip-hop-style rhythms accompanying songs that mostly held the Integrity Music copyright. The first song was "Our God is an awesome God" but sung to a beat I couldn't manage. Most of the congregation seemed happy to let the choir do the singing.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
One hour and 37 minutes – it felt more, if that's possible.
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
3 – I could have done the whole thing in 15 minutes including a joke. His congregation think he's great; with many shouts of "yes pastor", "tell it pastor" etc., complete with raised hands as he spoke. He obviously has great appeal, but not to me.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The prosperity gospel. With a strong emphasis on we, "the breakthrough generation," passing on financial wealth to our children and grandchildren. Unlike our predecessors, we will follow the biblical principal of "generational transfer of wealth". Some Old Testament references were made, but I believe they were out of context.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Sorry, but nothing for me.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Having the offering passed down my row after the pastor began praying. Presumably we were supposed to be joining him in prayer, but nothing gets in the way of the offering.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
When the ushers relented and let us out the door we didn't hang around. Two hours and ten minutes was more than enough.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Apparently people don't stay for coffee.
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?
No. This church has no appeal for me whatsoever. Yet it is growing. Sadly, I've been unable to make up my mind whether God's in it or not.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The car park attendants, their gloves and earpieces.