|Comment on this report, or find other reports.
|Our Mystery Worshippers are volunteers who warm church pews for us around the world. If you'd like to become a Mystery Worshipper, start here.
|Find out how to reproduce this report in your church magazine or website.
|1684: The Journey,
Brooklyn, New York, USA
Journey, Brooklyn, New York, USA.
They meet in the auditorium of a Brooklyn public school. Standing
three stories high, the building is right off Smith Street one
block away from Atlantic Avenue. It's a nondescript, featureless
rectangular brick building.
Journey Brooklyn is one of three Journey church locations (the
other two being Jersey City and Manhattan, with a new branch
opening soon in Queens). The pastoral staff preach at each church
on a rotational basis, so every week Journey Brooklyn has a
different speaker. They emphasize the importance of groups,
both spiritual and recreational, that meet during the week at
Once a simple plot of Dutch farmland, the section of Brooklyn
once known as North Gowanus was home to working-class Puerto
Rican, African-American, and Native American Mohawk families
until the 1960s, by which time the area had fallen on hard times
and many old buildings were slated for demolition. But then
it was discovered by professionals and artists from Manhattan
who gradually gentrified the area and renamed it Boerum Hill.
Lying just east of the ultra-fashionable Carroll Gardens neighborhood,
Boerum Hill today features beautifully restored old brownstone
houses, a plethora of African and Islamic restaurants and crafts
boutiques, and new high end restaurants and shops. The area
is well served by subway lines. The church's immediate neighborhood
has a quaint vibe with a variety of different eating locations.
Executive Pastor Kerrick Thomas was the main speaker. Elliot
Sneed, Journey Brooklyn's pastor, spoke briefly.
The date & time:
February 1, 2009, 11.00am.
What was the name of the
Exponential: The Power of a Compounding Life.
How full was the building?
The auditorium, capable of seating 150 people, was only a third
full. Most of the attendees sat in the middle and right sections,
with only a handful sitting on the left hand side.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
I was greeted by ushers near the front entrance of the building,
and then again right outside of the auditorium. I was handed
the day's bulletin and sermon notes.
Was your pew comfortable?
The auditorium seats were like the ones I remember from my own
elementary school: wooden, with armrests and no cushioning.
How would you describe the pre-service
What were the exact opening words of the
"My name is Kerrick Thomas. I'm one of the teaching pastors
here at the Journey."
What books did the congregation use during the
The church bulletin had everything that you could possibly need
for the sermon. It had fill-in-the-blank segments, pre-punched
holes in the side for those who want to keep it in their binders
afterwards, and all of the day's scripture readings as well
as the scripture being projected onto the screen.
What musical instruments were played?
The worship team consisted of a keyboardist, acoustic guitarist,
drummer, and four vocalists.
Did anything distract you?
The most distracting thing about Journey Brooklyn is their weekly
bulletin. Containing an offering envelope, their 20-page growth
group listing, sermon notes, fundraising information, a flyer
promoting the next sermon series, a brief FAQ, and a connection
card, the bulletin gave enough reading material to keep me distracted
from actually paying attention to the sermon.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
The music was a pretty mellow contemporary style, à la Hillsong
or the Christian worship leader and songwriter Chris Tomlin.
But the only people who seemed into the praise were the people
leading it. Most of the attendees were standing – no clappers
here, folks – but for all I know they could have been sipping
coffee or talking for all the enthusiasm they showed.
Exactly how long was the
20 minutes, and that's stretching it. The 20 minutes included
the time given over to three video clips, and when Pastor Thomas
passed the preaching baton to Pastor Sneed and back. Not exactly
a lot of information to swallow here, folks, and on top of that,
bad jokes aplenty. I think the jokes added a good three minutes
to the sermon time.
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
3 The preacher tried a bit too hard to make jokes to connect to the congregation, and the feedback from the congregation was a bit lackluster.
In a nutshell, what was
the sermon about?
The sermon, entitled "Exponential: My Life to the Power of Relationships,"
focused on encouraging members of the church to join a growth
group as a means to facilitate spiritual growth and build relations
within the church community. In a nutshell? "Join the Journey
growth groups!" He gave five reasons why we should join the
groups, and backed them all up with scripture, but the backing
was rather weak and a bit of a stretch.
Which part of the service
was like being in heaven?
The best part of the sermon, for me, was when Kerrick Thomas
emphasized that "our church must grow larger and smaller at
the same time," which is a very important concept that many
churches seem to overlook.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The corny jokes were like being in the other place. The fact
that the pastor laughed at his own jokes while no one else did
was probably worse for him than it was for me, though. Ha!
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Nothing. Absolutely nothing. As soon as the sermon was over,
everyone vacated the auditorium as if it were the... er...
other place. The only people who stuck around were the worship
team members, who were packing up their equipment. Where did
everyone else go? I would like to know as well!
How would you describe the after-service
Coffee from a Dunkin Donuts shop, served in paper cups with
some sugar and milk available. Pretty good selection if you
ask me, but only because I would pick Dunkin over Starbucks
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
3 The vast selection of growth groups makes the church
community seem worthwhile. However, everything else about the
church leaves much to be desired. If I had the option of skipping
Sunday service and just attending a growth group, that would
suit me just fine. Perhaps it was just today, but the preaching
was non-existent. It was more like an infomercial than anything
else. Although Journey Brooklyn did not have a huge congregation,
there was a distinct lack of post-service fellowship. I thought
only bigger churches suffered from that.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
Not particularly. I just didn't feel like I was a Christian
at all after listening to this "sermon". There was a distinct
lack of the following words: Jesus, God, Holy Spirit, salvation,
repentance, fellowship, or anything that sounds even remotely
like a community of believers. However, I do know all the benefits
of being part of a growth group, and where they meet, and how
much fun they are.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
I will remember that the public school where Journey Brooklyn
meets is a lot prettier than the elementary school that I attended.
|We rely on voluntary donations to stay online. If you're a regular visitor to Ship of Fools, please consider supporting us.
|The Mystery Pilgrim
| One of our most seasoned reporters makes the Camino pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Read here.
| Read reports from 70 London churches, visited by a small army of Mystery Worshippers on one single Sunday. Read here.