Mystery Worshipper: King Solomon
Location: Köln, Germany
Date of visit: Sunday, 26 February 2006, 7:00pm
The church is part of an office complex called the Vulkanhalle (Volcano Hall). The entrance is at the front of the office complex but is not signposted at all. Even at the entrance to the ample car park there is no sign indicating that there is a church here. Inside the church is modern and functional.
This church is popular with students and young families. A high proportion of the congregation are new Christians or seekers who do not know Jesus yet. The church has been quite a trendsetter throughout its history, conducting a highly successful Alpha course (one of the first churches in Germany to sponsor Alpha) and a Willow Creek Association style of evangelism. It was planted in 1986 and is now one of the three largest evangelical churches in the Köln-Bonn area.
This is a poor area of Köln with a high percentage of Turkish immigrants. The church is also fairly close to the university, one of the largest in Germany.
A woman named Marion was running the show. She led the service and the worship, and even delivered the mini-sermon.
What was the name of the service?West-lounge. I think they chose a trendy name for their evening service to attract students
How full was the building?
It seats around 300 and was about half full. The majority of the congregation seemed to be in their 20s.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
No greeters were on hand. But while I was standing in the foyer looking lost, a member of the church came up to me, welcomed me personally, and helped me to feel at home.
Was your pew comfortable?
We sat on plastic chairs that felt OK.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
The worship band was practicing until five minutes before the start of the service, while the few people who had already arrived chatted happily amongst themselves. Most of the congregation trickled in only after the service had begun.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
The service started straightaway with the song, "Mercy is falling, is falling, is falling..."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
None. In fact, the building was kept pretty dark, so you could only read if you had taken your torch along. The songs were projected onto a large screen.
What musical instruments were played?
Piano, three guitars and a violin.
Did anything distract you?
One female member of the congregation was jumping up and down during the worship. It looked like she was warming up for an Olympic event. She bore a strong resemblance to the Winter Olympics gold medal winner Kati Wilhelm in fact, I thought it might indeed be she.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
West-lounge is held once a month, and its focus is praise, worship and spending time with God. The worship was informal and mildly happy clappy. It was not professional, but it was honest, reverent and straight from the heart. It took the worship leader about 15 minutes to get into it but then she kept us in the presence of God for two hours. It was wonderful to see that she tried neither to hype up the audience nor to use any gimmicks. Instead, she simply let her heart speak.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – A simple and short message that came straight from the heart.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
St Paul prayed that we should see what our calling is. Our main calling is not to do a certain job for God, but to be his children.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The whole atmosphere during the worship and especially during the Lord's Supper. The congregation showed a heartfelt desire to be close to God, and God responded.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The roads around the church are littered with potholes, not something you expect in Germany of all places! It was also sad to discover that our fitness freak from the distraction question wasn't the real Kati Wilhelm.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Several people came up to me and chatted with me. One even gave me a homemade DVD called Pimp my Life, about how some people from the church helped a girl called Shannon to discover Jesus.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
No food or drinks provided after the service.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 – The worship service was brilliant. In addition, this church is very active in the community and a blessing to the city. The members of the church are friendly and welcoming, and the church allows the Holy Spirit to operate without being over-the-top charismatic. Can't do much better than this.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Definitely! It was great to worship and to share the Lord's Supper in this church. It was not a professional show, but rather worship straight from the heart. God needs no hype his presence is enough.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
The message that our main calling is to be God's children.