Last weekend I had the privilege of travelling to Causeway Coast vineyard, whilst on holiday with my family. We went to the early morning service at 9:30 AM hands, even though we arrived a little late, were greeted superbly by a team in the expansive foyer who gave our children smiles and fruit, helped us sign our keen child (5) into a group, and nearly helped persuade the other two (7) & (9) that they would enjoy theirs as well.
The large children’s complex included large rooms, a great array of playthings, (including an inflatable for the six and seven-year-olds) and groups for about seven different ages.
The church have just learnt that the senior pastors were going to be moving to the USA in the summer, and that the one time youth pastors were stepping up into the role of senior pastors. No one seem to have the jitters about this, it was a calm everything as normal sort of occasion. One of the incoming senior pastors was leading the service, and the current senior pastors were sitting in the front row supporting, fully participating and cheering their team along.
The worship, when we got into it after dropping children off was a great blend of recent and slightly older songs, and it had a sort of conference feel. The lyrics were projected, but not video of the worship leaders which seemed right. The volume was not so high as to deafen my children, but loud enough that you felt carried along and some momentum.
An offering was taken up in baskets, which I felt very happy to contribute to, given how good the morning was going. They explained that there were various other way is to give as well as cash, including via an app, the website and a Visa machine in the foyer at the end of the service. But there was no pressure to give, and I felt under no obligation at all.
The speaker was possibly fairly new to his task, and was spotted revising his talk between the two services with the help of the senior pastor (after he overran – which you can tell because the speaker has to stand facing a massive basketball style countdown clock that we could see from our sidewards facing seats in the flanks). But the talk was immensely helpful, and really grounded in the book of Ephesians which the church has obviously been teaching through for some time.
He used a chair illustration to pose the question why do we think darkness beats the light? The idea was that we should get out there into places / with people that more conservative generations might have said we should avoid, for, ‘Who will pull you down if Jesus is your strength?’
He also made a great throwaway comment that ‘Real holiness is so beautiful’, which reminded me of my time visiting E.Malaysia years ago. There the community in the interior of the country was in the afterglow of revival, and a deep attractive holiness shone for everyone to see.
He finished with a great illustration for which a preacher needs an iPhone. He shone the phone onto his face say that’s what it used to be like in the old covenant – i.e. this is what Moses had when his face shone after meeting God. He had light shining on his face and he reflected its glory.
He then put the phone on his chest and let the light shine out directly from his chest. This, he said, is what we now have with Jesus living inside us. We are, ‘The light of the world’.
And then, the clever thing…
… ‘sometimes you try and hide your light’, (sliding the phone through the buttons of his shirt), but even then the light breaks out. We could still see that the light from the phone shone through the shirt even though nowhere near as brightly as it could’ve done unencumbered. Even if you try and hide Jesus he still shines through in your life once he’s in your heart.
At the end of the service we were invited round for a meal later in the week by the people sitting behind us who also paused to compliment us on the way our children had behaved during the service (which was a highpoint for us as parents).
It was such a positive experience, and the start for a brilliant family day.
In the evening I went back to the invitation service where the speaker was from Bethel church. Again the church was packed, the worship was really lovely, but the talk needs a whole post of its own.