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988: Paradise Community Church, Paradise, South Australia
Other reports | Comment on this report
Paradise Community Church, Paradise, South Australia
Mystery Worshipper: Sinisterial & Ecumaniac.
The church: Paradise Community Church, Paradise, South Australia.
Denomination: Assemblies of God.
Comment: We have received a comment on this report.
The building: As we approached the church we were directed into a carpark that covered the landscape as far as the eye could see. As we entered the building we passed the Paradise Express, a "train" that transports people from the nearest stop on the O-Bahn (a large modern busway system serving the Adelaide area) 400 metres away. The building itself is a brown brick, late 70s auditorium. The foyer resembles the entrance to a cinema, with a cafe, bookshop, and registration desks. The auditorium, carpeted in a deep plum colour, holds around 3500 people. There are six massive data projectors, with various lights, chasers and smoke machines.
The church: Paradise Community Church is the area's largest church, with approximately 4000 members. The church has had publicity recently due to its involvement with Family First (a political party that supports legislation that in their opinion will benefit families in Australia), and Guy Sebastian, a recent winner on Australian Idol (a popular Australian talent search television programme).
The neighborhood: The church is located in the lower-middle-class suburb of Paradise, about ten kilometres northeast of the city of Adelaide near the river Torrens.
The cast: Matt Heins, a member of the senior ministers team, led the service. Darlene Zschech of "Shout to the Lord" fame (a popular contemporary Christian song) put in a guest appearance. We were also introduced to John Villani, who recently joined the church's pastoral team.
What was the name of the service?
6.00pm Interactive Church.

How full was the building?
When we arrived at the church 15 minutes before the beginning of the service, the main auditorium was already almost full and they didn't open the balcony until the floor was completely full. Our group of five had trouble finding seats together, especially because many people had "saved" seats by placing water bottles on them. There were about 3000 people in all by the time the service began.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
A gentleman shook our hand and smiled at us as we walked into the foyer. There were people at the entrance to the auditorium selectively handing out "welcome" cards – no one in our party received one.

Was your pew comfortable?
The seats were padded chairs that were fastened together in sets of four. They were not secured to the floor and thus moved about a bit. We were on our feet for most of the time, but when we were sitting the seats seemed comfortable enough.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
The band was playing a little, but they couldn't really be heard because of the din produced by 2000 or more people catching up on a week's worth of gossip.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Are you ready to praise God in the house?"

What books did the congregation use during the service?
None at all. Even the newsletter was projected onto a screen. The Bible was not mentioned at all apart from an offhand reference to Micah.

What musical instruments were played?
Two keyboard players, two percussionists, guitarists and a saxophonist. There was a choir of about 50 plus six 'lead' singers.

Did anything distract you?
One of the songs included the words "It's you that has made my life complete." The people sang it as: "It's you who have made," etc. And all I could think of was whether this was an ad for the glue stick brand UHU.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The service was about as happy-clappy as it goes. Judging from previous visits to this kind of worship service, I would say that the majority of songs were less than a year old. We sang a few of Darlene Zschech's songs ("Shout to the Lord", etc.) but we also sang "How Great Thou Art", which I was not expecting.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
There was no sermon, although during the offering there was an inspirational speech that went on for seven minutes.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The enthusiasm of the people. Darlene Zschech's song lyrics were amazing – dare I say – awesome! And to get back down to earth, the building's toilets were spotless.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The presentation seemed so professional until I began to notice silly little spelling mistakes in the song lyrics. And some of the lyrics seemed cut and pasted.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
In a bustling crowd of 3000, if I had hung around looking lost then nothing would have happened. Instead, all the visitors were invited to the guest lounge, which was air-conditioned and furnished with couches, brewed coffee, and nibblies such as brownies and rocky road.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Freshly brewed coffee served in china cups. I didn't taste it but from the looks on other peoples' faces it seemed quite nice.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
4 – I prefer a structured service with periods of silence. The structure of this church would make that impossible. Also, I would find it difficult being a member of a church so large that you have no hope of knowing everyone.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, it was great to see so many people fired up for Christ.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
During the church news presentation, they advertised a carol service that was to be held soon. They said, "The man himself will be there!" I was thinking that it was quite a coup that Paradise had got God to come the carol service in person, until I found out that they were referring to Guy Sebastian!
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