|1007: Spreydon Baptist, Christchurch, New Zealand|
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|Mystery Worshipper: The Flying
The church: Spreydon Baptist, Christchurch, New Zealand.
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The building: The auditorium is simply a converted gymnasium (complete with basketball hoops), which I found slightly difficult to get used to as a church. Attached to it is another smaller auditorium, a large cafeteria, book room, etc. The church also owns some of the other buildings in the area.
The church: Being a large church, it is involved in numerous activities and outreach ministries.
The neighbourhood: Spreydon Baptist is located on the outskirts of Christchurch, far away from any shops, etc.
The cast: The service was led by Julie Morrow, director of music and worship, with senior pastor Murray Robertson assisting. A special guest was the Chinese evangelist Brother Yun, well known for his biography, The Heavenly Man.
|What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
Very full – probably around 700 or so. I am not sure that they could have fit many more in.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
There was no one to welcome me as I entered. Once I was inside, a very nice lady in a flowery shirt pointed out where there were still seats to be had.
Was your pew comfortable?
Padded seats of a hideous design, all locked together. Comfortable, though, and when I didn't look at them they weren't so bad.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
With that many people, it was everything but quiet. At the same time, it wasn't so that we had to shout to be understood by each other. Quiet reflection, however, wouldn't have been very easy without some serious heavy-duty earmuffs.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
The worship leader apologised for the stifling heat in the room.
What books did the congregation use during the service?
No books or leaflets. Only the PowerPoint was used.
What musical instruments were played?
Keyboard, guitars and drums. The director of music and worship, Julie Morrow, played the keyboard with great energy whilst enthusiastically humming and singing along.
Did anything distract you?
The stifling heat mainly – hasn't a church that size heard about that modern doo-wackle called air conditioning? People were waving their hands about, thus blocking the projection screen. The worship team were very enthusiastic and I was worried one of them might at any minute fall off the stage from excitement. I'm personally not into screaming "Hallelujah" and "Mmm... Jesus... mmm" multiple times, and found that also a little distracting. After Brother Yun had spoken and was praying for the congregation, the people right in front of us started shaking, yelling, mumbling and jerking around – that was rather difficult to ignore.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Probably more on the happy clappy side, but apart from the couple in front of us I didnt see anyone else shake or tremble or all that. Plenty of waving hands, though, and the worship team were buttering it on thickly. At one point the worship leader asked us all to pray at once, followed by plenty of "ahhhh" "ohhh" "hallelujah" and "mmm." I couldnt help wondering how much of that was sincere and how much was for show.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
9 The sermon was by Brother Yun's interpreter, Brother Yun himself (through his interpreter), and another gentleman who merely sang a song. Brother Yun's interpreter was from Finland and spoke loudly but convincingly. Brother Yun, dressed in traditional Chinese costume, got rather excited in parts – but then he had plenty of exciting things to say.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The interpreter spoke about the Church under Chinese communist rule and how we need to get real about our faith. Brother Yun talked about the ordeals through which he has suffered, which were rather riveting. Both men stressed the power of Jesus and that he was worthy.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Brother Yun describing how he escaped from a maximum security prison even though his legs had been broken – how the gates just opened before him and he simply walked out. Amazing!
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Probably the worship leaders getting slightly carried away, the stifling heat, and the shakings, yellings and tremblings coming from in front of us (although some people would of course find this rather heavenly).
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
We stood in the foyer whilst people milled around, but no one approached us and after five minutes we left. To be fair, though, it is a big church and it can't be easy to keep track of new people.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
The church has a cafeteria with all kinds of drinks/foods/nibbles for sale. Great if you had someone to visit with, which we didn't.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
6 Probably a little too big and impersonal to make it our regular church home, and the worship leader riled me just a little.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes and no. The service varied between the mediocre and the "oh-aren't-we-spiritual," which made me cringe. But the message from the two main speakers really stirred me and made me ask, "OK, God, what is it you want from me?"
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The trembling and swaying in front of us as well as the cringe-provoking worship leading. Mainly, though, Brother Yun's amazing testimony and the stories of what Chinese Christians are going through for their faith.