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Christian Church, Geelong, Australia
Worshipper: The Messenger.
Waterfront Christian Church, Geelong, Australia.
They meet in a grey cinder block ex-bowling alley, so from the
outside itís nothing impressive. However, inside it is a bright,
clean, recently renovated, large and spacious auditorium. The
focal point of the auditorium is the large stage with a backdrop
of hundreds of white paper chains reaching from the ceiling
to the ground lit with colourful stage lights. (I was half expecting
tongues of fire to descend on the band with the flammable combination
of strips of paper and stage lights.)
They seem to be a vibrant, energetic and responsive congregation.
They love praising God with their hands, holding them high and
clapping to the beat during praise, applauding the band and
speaker, and nail biting during the sermon. It is clear that
they are a welcoming church who deeply care for the people of
their city and trust in Godís power to save.
Geelong is a port city in Victoria, not far from Melbourne.
In 1844, a local inventor built the world's first ice making
machine, and shortly thereafter he was commissioned by a local
brewery to build a machine for cooling beer. Gold was discovered
nearby in 1851, and during the ensuing rush, false maps were
issued to draw prospectors away from claims already staked.
Geelong today is an important industrial centre, with the Ford
Motor Company, Alcoa Aluminum and Shell Oil maintaining major
facilities there. Waterfront Christian Church is the closest
church in the heart of Geelong and shares a street with many
pubs and clubs.
The lead singer of the band was a young woman called Chelsea.
The speaker was Jonathan Winkler (in his early 20s, pastor in
charge of creative ministries and also a son of the senior pastor,
John Winkler). Prayer for the city was led by the senior pastor.
Another young man, whose name wasn't mentioned, read scripture
and spoke some motivational words before the offering.
The date & time:
Sunday, 24 March 2013, 6.00pm.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
When we walked in at 5.50 there were only three other people
in an auditorium with 300-400 chairs, and room for twice that
many. A couple of people came to welcome us and promised that
more people would come. By the end of the second song, which
was an amalgamation of three songs creatively blended together,
it was around 35 per cent full. The age range was from teenagers
to the elderly, but the early evening start time didn't seem
to attract many young families.
Did anyone welcome you
Yes, in multiple ways. As we walked in, a shy young girl was
holding information sheets but didnít welcome us. However, a
man (her father?) welcomed me, shook my hand and asked if I
wanted an info sheet. As we were looking lost as to which of
the 398 spare seats we should sit in, a young woman welcomed
us and encouraged us to take a seat. Once we were seated, three
young men, all of whom would turn out to have roles up front
that night, took turns at welcoming us with friendly words and
a firm handshake. They even tried remembering the names of all
five of us in our party!
Was your pew comfortable?
There were blue plastic seats attached to each other, probably
five to a row. They were wide enough so as to not feel like
you were sitting on your neighbour. They had no cushions but
were moulded perfectly to fit one's nether contours, so no complaints
How would you describe
the pre-service atmosphere?
The band were practicing loudly at first, then they left and
we sat in a comfortable silence. It didnít feel like you had
to be silent, though the few people there were chatting
away while the rest of us watched the countdown timer on PowerPoint
and admired all the paper chains.
What were the exact opening
words of the service?
Chelsea said: "Welcome, Church!" Then someone asked,
"What day is it?" to which we all answered, "Sunday!"
What books did the congregation use during the
None were offered and none were in the pews. Most people brought
their own Bibles. Not that we were ever encouraged to look up
passages. The songs were all on PowerPoint.
What musical instruments were played?
Keyboard, three guitars, drum kit, male and female backup vocals
and lead singer. Halfway through the sermon, the speaker was
going to play the grand piano but decided instead to use the
Did anything distract you?
There was an elderly man who stood facing an older lady, working
out the song lyrics to her through sign language. I couldnít
understand why he needed to sign the words to her, seeing that
she could have easily read them herself on the screen. Also,
I noticed just how many people bit their nails during the sermon.
But the biggest distraction was the church being encouraged
to applaud the band, or the speaker, or the keyboard music that
played during the senior pastor's testimony and prayer.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or
Happy clappy. The drums were played well, and you couldnít help
but find yourself bopping to the rhythm or snapping your fingers
to the beat. They encouraged us to raise our hands in different
directions as we prayed, to applaud, to yell amen and respond
with loud verbal affirmation to what was being said.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
31 minutes, although it included a piano solo on Psalm 1 in
the middle. It was played and sung beautifully but didnít really
have anything to do with the sermon. Even the speaker admitted
as we left the building that he played it because he thought
his sermon was too short and he needed to fill in the time.
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
1 This score is for content. He really hadnít grounded
the sermon on a biblical text, although he referenced some texts
seemingly without any regard for their context. Parts of his
sermon didnít seem to relate with his big idea. But if I scored
solely on delivery and style, it would have been an 8. He gained
attention at the start and kept it throughout. He was clear
and well spoken.
In a nutshell, what was
the sermon about?
New is always better. Weíre a new creation. Although new character
seems impossible, we need to grow up and mature. A Christian
life seems repetitive reading, praying, reading, praying
but there is no substitution for the Word of God. Read
it. (It would have been good if he had demonstrated how to read
it through his preaching.)
Which part of the service
was like being in heaven?
The warm welcome we received. Blokes seemed genuinely interested
in greeting us and taking the time to learn our names.
And which part was like
being in... er... the other place?
The repetitive nature of some of the songs, e.g. "We are
free, we are free, we are free" over and over again, like
a broken record. The times at the end of some songs when every
musician just played as noisily as possible while people shouted
and lifted their hands for a couple of minutes. I wonder if
this was what Paul meant when he said that people sometimes
sound like "a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal"
(1 Corinthians 13:1). And let's face it new is not always
better. Should I take a new wife?
What happened when you
hung around after the service looking lost?
No time to look lost. Before we could get out of our seats,
the senior pastor came over, introduced himself, and spoke with
us for some time. On our way out, we noticed an angry homeless
man in the foyer, but they seemed to be handling it well.
How would you describe the after-service
There was nothing. People left quickly, as their dinner was
probably awaiting them back home.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
3 People were warm and engaging and seemed genuine in
their faith and praise of God, but the lack of hearing God speak
through his word was a large drawback.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
It did. I loved the genuine concern they had for the city and
its lost which came out in conversations after the service and
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The keyboard solo in the middle of the sermon.
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