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Points Community, Auburn Hills, Michigan, USA
Community, Auburn Hills, Michigan, USA.
Non-denominational. They are a member of the Alliance
of Confessing Evangelicals and as such subscribe to the
Declaration of 1996. They also espouse the Calvinistic doctrine
which teaches that the Holy Spirit brings about the spiritual
regeneration of people without the need for involvement of the
human will. In addition, they subscribe to the London
Confession of 1689 and the New
Hampshire Confession of 1833, giving their beliefs a decidedly
The congregation first met in 1940 in the home of a Michigan
farmer whose land stood at the intersection of five dirt roads.
Later a small chapel was built, and over the years several additions
were appended to the original chapel so that the building complex
today is a potpourri of rooms and hallways. The campus comprises
a very large plot of ground that includes a softball field and
an undeveloped wooded area. The worship building itself appears
to be a conglomeration of three structures: the original chapel,
a white clapboard church in the American prairie style; a larger
chapel of tan-colored brick with dull-colored stained glass
windows typical of the 1960s; and finally a modern gymnasium.
All three sections of the building are connected by dimly-lit
interior passages. What's more, there isn't one main entrance
but three. Surrounding the buildings is a large asphalt parking
lot, with little landscaping, dotted with many light poles strung
together with overhead wires. Worship now occurs in the gymnasium,
which is outfitted for worship on Sundays – a "sanctanasium,"
as this Mystery Worshipper calls it. The sanctanasium is accessed
through a labyrinth of interior passageways.
The worship folder asked us to "pray and fast on Wednesdays
for the purpose of taking our church before the Lord as we are
walking through this valley of suffering." But the "valley
of suffering" was never explained during the service nor
mentioned in the prayers. In addition to the Wednesday fast,
the church serves up a wide menu of ministry and education opportunities
for all under the supervision of the male-only church council.
There is a Bible study every Sunday as well as a morning and
evening worship service.
The church is located in the Detroit suburb of Auburn Hills,
Michigan, near the intersection of five major thoroughfares,
successors to the five dirt roads on the farmer's land. Hence
the name "Five Points Community Church" – not
a reference, as I had assumed, to the churchís adherence to
the five points of Calvinistic doctrine, but nevertheless a
providential double-entendre. Auburn Hills is home to many automobile
plants, including Chrysler and, until this past year, Volkswagen-Audi.
The Oakland University campus is across the street from the
church and occupies the former estate of the Dodge family of
automobile fame. To the northwest is the Palace of Auburn Hills,
home court venue of the Detroit Pistons basketball team.
Neither the song leader, worship leaders nor preacher introduced
The date & time:
Fathers Day, June 15, 2008, 10.45am.
What was the name of the service?
Lordís Day Morning Worship.
How full was the building?
Loosely three-quarters full, about 200 worshippers.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
No one greeted me in the sanctanasium or in the maze leading
to it, even though the close quarters caused me literally to
brush shoulders with fellow pilgrims on the way in. I was hopeful
for a greeting when one gentleman approached me after I was
seated, but he merely asked how many seats I would be needing.
Curiously, when I responded, "One only," he sat down
four seats over. I guess he had need for lots of personal space
– at least three chairsí worth – and I tried not to take the
Was your pew comfortable?
Individual, padded chairs. Economically firm but not plump.
How would you describe the pre-service
Busy and buzzy. Most congregants were conversing with their
friends. The high ceilings and gym floor of the sanctanasium
amplified the pre-service chatter even more.
What were the exact opening words of the
"Good morning. A few announcements to get us started."
What books did the congregation use during the
There were no books. A huge screen, which covered the cross,
displayed texts to songs (but no music). It appeared as though
there is a practice that congregants bring their own Bibles
What musical instruments were played?
A small bevy of instruments supported a well-dressed and manicured praise team, members of which held individual, sponge-muffed microphones.
Did anything distract you?
What intrigued me was how the gymnasium was turned into a worship
space for the morning. While no attempt was made to hide an
electronic scoreboard or the basketball hoops, most curious
was the addition of four Corinthian columns on the front stage.
This congregation purports to be thoroughly Calvinistic in their
theology and life; so the columns – a reminder of the most
pagan and humanistic temples ever of Corinth – were incongruous
to me. In another irony, the Roman cross placed on the wall
behind the stage for the occasion was covered by an even larger
projection screen. The screen was recoiled for the sermon with
the push of a button – the low hum of its engine and its electrical
surge that dimmed the lights drew our attention to this mechanical
marvel. I must confess that it was rather entertaining to watch
the big screen go up and down, down and up, and then up and
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
It is very difficult to label the style here. The structure
seemed free-form Baptist. The songs, apparently known only to
the praise team, were a warm-up for the 43-minute sermon (see
below). So it was more as though we "went to sermon"
than that we "went to church." No one seemed really
to get into the music anyway, and things really didnít settle
down until the sermon. One of the musical selections was "A
mighty fortress," a Lutheran hymn that had no connection
to the theme of the service, surely used only because it was
a "churchy" piece known to most that counter-balanced
the other unknown songs.
Exactly how long was the
On a scale of 1-10, how
good was the preacher?
5 The minister had a very intense, laborious and somber
delivery. His language was heady and his theology fundamentalist.
He sat upon a stool behind the acrylic pulpit, and wiped his
brow often with a white handkerchief. His illustrations were
mostly of father-martyrs; so either consciously or subconsciously
his delivery certainly matched his content on this day. I felt
for those otherwise young, single, or married but childless
men in the congregation – to say nothing of the women present.
In a nutshell, what was
the sermon about?
Fatherís Day. The preacher instructed us how to be good biblical
fathers. He held up as an example the distinguished and well
known television journalist Tim Russert, who had died just a
few days before. He said how much he mourned Russert's passing,
but I couldn't help but wonder what there was about Russert,
who admitted to being a devout Roman Catholic but with some
misgivings, and whose favorite beverage was Rolling Rock beer
(indeed, fellow anchorman Tom Brokaw had toasted Russert with
a Rolling Rock at his funeral), that so captivated this Calvinistic/Baptist
Which part of the service was like being in
The commitment of a congregation to gather in a gym on a hot,
And which part was like
being in... er... the other place?
Because I didnít know the songs flashed on the screen, it was
frustrating not being able to participate. Also, I was struck
by the disconnect between their Calvinistic theology and verbiage
and their actual worship practice. It was as though a group
of Baptists had "discovered" predestination and then
re-badged themselves with the Calvinist descriptor, believing
that predestination only is the beginning and end-all of Calvinism.
What happened when you
hung around after the service looking lost?
I meandered about a bit through those endless, dimly-lit passageways in search of an exit. The pre-service friendship circles reassembled instantly and no one spoke to me.
How would you describe the after-service
Weak and nondescript coffee-flavored water served in non-biodegradable
styrofoam cups with plastic stir sticks.
How would you feel about
making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
1 I would not put this congregation on any of my short-list
of churches to re-visit. The community seemed very closed, and
the style and content of worship is limited to a very special
niche of Baptist/Calvinist Christians, despite the tag "community
church" in its name. Further, I think the direction, ministry
and aesthetics of the church suffer from male-only leadership;
I'd want a church that affirms the gifts of all members regardless
Did the service make you
feel glad to be a Christian?
Frankly, the overly-laborious style of the minister left me
depleted and dry. (Would someone please place a glass of ice
water in the pulpit for him?) The shame-based tone of the sermon
matched the heavy feel of the service. Worshippers received
the message as old hat, and not as fresh food.
What one thing will you
remember about all this in seven days' time?
That this Protestant church felt a gymnasium was "made
holy" by flanking the minister with faux Corinthian columns.
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