Mystery Worshipper: Mini Mystery Me
Church: The Rock of Cleveland
Location: Cleveland, Georgia, USA
Date of visit: Monday, 5 November 2007, 11:00am
An older brick building – it may have been a factory at one time – that was bought by the church and renovated.
The Rock calls its members 'covenant partners' and claims to number about 600 people in its membership – remarkable given that Cleveland's population is about 2,000. The church sees its work as one of reconciliation (as their website states: "Many have received Jesus Christ as Lord, marriages have been reconciled, people have been set free from drug and alcohol addictions and many folks have found a renewed freshness in the Lord") and evangelization. Their many children's, youth and adult ministries are all described on their website, and they seem to place special emphasis on children. Many of the women in the congregation appeared to be pregnant.
Cleveland is a small city in northern Georgia where that "must-have" fad of the late 1970s was born: the Cabbage Patch Kid dolls. The dolls were manufactured at a facility named Babyland General Hospital. The workers who produced the dolls were called mothers and were said to give birth to the dolls; other workers who prepared the dolls for sale were called nurses. Although rights to manufacture the dolls were later bought by several toy conglomerates and the fad is now all but dead, the hospital still attracts a trickle of tourists. The church is located on the outskirts of the city.
The Revd David Crowe, senior pastor; Tony Elrod, director of student ministries; Karen Vandiver, worship leader. There was also a dance team but its members were not named.
What was the name of the service?Worship Service.
How full was the building?
It seemed mostly full, but there were plenty of seats in the back.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Everyone seemed very nice. People came up to me to shake my hand and say hello. A few others asked questions such as where was I from, etc. But read on!
Was your pew comfortable?
There were no pews, but chairs. They were padded and felt very comfortable.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
There was upbeat music playing in the background. Announcements were projected onto two large screens to the side of the stage. The lights were dim. People were talking and moving about.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning everyone. Come on in and get a seat."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
The Holy Bible, New King James Version. There was no bulletin. The words for the music were projected onto the screens along with shots of the band and singers.
What musical instruments were played?
Keyboard, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, bass, percussion and drums. There were also four vocalists. The songs were contemporary worship, in the vein of Hillsong and Integrity.
Did anything distract you?
There was a children's service taking place in an adjoining room, and the music from that service could be heard clearly through the walls. There was also a cameraman on stage; I found this distracting. And the lights kept changing color.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
It was definitely happy clappy. People were lifting their hands and clapping. The lights kept flashing and moving around as they changed color. The service started with a welcome by Pastor Tony, the youth pastor. Then announcements were given, and a dance team did a hip-hop dance to a Kirk Franklin song. More music followed, and then Pastor David delivered his sermon. At the end someone took up the offering.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – Pastor David skillfully blended personal anecdotes with biblical references. He would get excited at times and speak a little louder. There were a few "Amens" and "That's right" from the congregation.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Pastor David once worked in an automobile factory and recalled that defective parts had to be quarantined so they wouldn't end up in finished product. In our own lives, sometimes we quarantine ourselves when we encounter roadblocks or become upset. But think of Acts 14:19, where Paul is stoned, dragged from the city and left for dead. But later he got up and returned to the city. God is leading the process of our lives.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
I thought the sermon was a good message and spoke to a lot of people. Keep going even if life does not go the way you had planned.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
I was surprised more people didn't say hello to me. Of those who did, I counted only five who said hello, three who shook hands, and two who asked questions. I was also disappointed by the lack of take-away literature such as a visitor packet telling me more about the church, what it offered and when.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I walked around the building looking at the children's rooms, and was handed a small card listing some upcoming children's events.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Good coffee, served in a plastic cup. Danish pastries were also available. Quite a long line had formed for refreshments.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 – It was a very upbeat service, but I could have wished it to be more friendly.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
There was a freedom to worship God. Everyone seemed happy.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
The sermon, so applicable to so many people. That and the large number of pregnant women in the church.