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1590: Tucson Community Church, Tucson, Arizona, USA
Tucson Community Church, Tucson, Arizona, USA
Mystery Worshipper: FiveSolas.
The church: Tucson Community Church (the "Cool Church"), Tucson, Arizona, USA.
Denomination: Non-denominational.
The building: It is a small stucco building with a tiled roof at the back of a cobblestone parking lot. The building is not visible from the street. Inside there were chairs in rows facing a platform where the musicians stood. That is also where the retractable screen was lowered when it was time for the live remote. Also there were high bar-style tables and chairs that some people chose to sit at. At the back of the "sanctuary" (seems like the wrong word!) there was a booth where t-shirts, bumper stickers, videos, etc. were offered for sale.
The church: They call themselves "the Cool Church" based on the notion that God is poorly represented by most churches, but when we make an effort to understand him we realize that following his principles will improve our lives, and "that's cool!" They have a main campus plus three branch locations. They conduct a special outreach to children and teenagers, although the ages of people at the service I attended ranged from the 20s through 50s. I did find one thing that is somewhat unique. The church insists that having a paid staff accountable to a paid senior pastor is the only type of church leadership sanctioned by the Bible. And the senior pastor is accountable only to whichever members of the congregation can prove that there have been occasions of sin in his life. Their website gives no fewer than 12 scriptural references from Acts and the epistles of Paul, Timothy and Peter to support this contention.
The neighborhood: The service I attended was at the TCC East facility, which is located in Santa Fe Square Plaza, an upscale strip mall near the intersection of Grant, Kolb, and Tanque Verde Streets, not far from the street most interestingly named Speedway. This is a busy part of town, where there are many businesses and a lot of traffic.
The cast: Dr Andrew Laurie, regional pastor of the facility, led the service. The sermon was given via video feed by David McAllister, senior pastor.
The date & time: June 29, 2008, 9.30am.

What was the name of the service?
There are two Sunday services at each of the facilities. There didn't seen to be any name that I could find other than "The 9.30 Service."

How full was the building?
I estimate that the building seated about 75, and it appeared to be three-quarters full. Everyone was casually dressed.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
A friendly woman at a literature table near the door welcomed me warmly. She introduced me to Dr Laurie and was glad to tell me about the church and answer a few questions. The only other person who spoke to me asked me if the seat next to me was saved.

Was your pew comfortable?
There were individual chairs rather than pews – padded and quite comfortable.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
There were contemporary Christian music videos playing before the service began. People were filing in, and there was a fair amount of friendly chatter.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning and welcome to Tucson Community Church."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
None other than a bulletin that gave the basic outline of the service, with space for you to write down notes. Most people did not have Bibles with them..

What musical instruments were played?
Keyboard, guitars and drums – about ten musicians in all.

Did anything distract you?
During the sermon, which was a video feed of Pastor McAllister, innumerable slides plus a movie clip were flashed onto a screen. Several props on a small table were also used. Although all of these were supposed to be tied in with the sermon, I found the relevance of most of them tenuous at best, and the whole presentation seemed a little patronizing. And the band was playing so loudly that I could feel the bass vibrations in my chest.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The worship was somewhat happy-clappy in that the tunes were upbeat and people were clapping. But no one sang along with the worship band. I kept looking around me, checking to be sure. I didn't quite know what to make of this. One song was even accompanied by a small light show. There was no communion at this service, but they do occasionally have communion. As mentioned, the senior pastor's sermon was piped into all four locations via video feed. I understand that the Wednesday night service, called "ExL" for "extra learning," is quite different. At that service Pastor McAllister holds forth on topics such as "What God thinks about divorce" or sex or being single, etc. He also occasionally answers questions that have been submitted beforehand by the congregation.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
35 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – The senior pastor had a very "cool" youthful look. He even described in his sermon the routine he goes through to maintain his hair, which was bleached blonde and spiked in a cap-like shape on the top.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The sermon was entitled "Five Steps to Walk the Walk" and his text was Mark 5:1-20, the story of the Gadarene demoniac out of whom Jesus cast a thousand demons. Jesus did not allow the demoniac to follow him after he had been set free; rather, he instructed him to go back to his usual circle of family and friends. Jesus did this as a more powerful testimony of his power, as these were the people who had known the man in his previous condition. He also spoke about spiritual warfare, and warned about trendy views that exaggerate the power and scope of demons in the lives of Christians. He emphasized the power of Christ over the devil.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The sermon was full of much thought-provoking insight. At first I thought that hearing a sermon via video feed would be rather strange, but it turned out to be not so strange after all.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The rock-star-like, performance feeling on the part of some in the worship band.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I stood around, but only one person made eye contact with me, throwing me a quick "Hi" as she walked by. I was surprised by the lack of friendliness or introductions, especially in such a small group. It was probably very obvious that I was visiting.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Free coffee was served in styrofoam cups. Other snacks were available for purchase.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
4 – Although the teaching was quite good, I am too fond of singing in church to make this my home church. Perhaps I have "aged out" of this type of service.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes! I think there are so many different kinds of people in the body of Christ, thus different kinds of services, etc. I like the variety, and how all true believers are part of the church universal, regardless of nonessential differences.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
I will remember the live video feed.
 
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