So I've decided to check out the different churches in the area. Not to become a member of any of these organizations but simply to evaluate and get a true perspective on the way others in the community practice their faith. I will be visiting only Christian churches. This excludes Unitarian Universalists and Mormons. I will be checking out their websites if available and listing their times of service followed by a review of my impressions.
Appleton church of Christ
I actually started this past week. I went back to visit my friends over at the Appleton church of Christ on Newberry Street on Sunday Morning. I attended both the 9:30am Bible Study as well as the 10:30am Worship Service. It was really good to see many of the faces I have come to know and love over the last 10 years. There will always be a special place in my heart for those folks there at Newberry St. Especially the preacher Whit Sasser. Heck, I named my kid after him. (His first name is James and my son's middle name is James.)
More info can be found at:
My review of this congregation would be slightly skewed because I know them all so well and they know me as well. I don't feel I can properly gauge the experience on a relative scale since I would have to be a total stranger for there to be an understanding from my current perspective. I will say this however, that when I first appeared there over 10 years ago I was greeted very well by many if not all of the members. They were very kind and very heart-felt. A group that genuinely cared about being hospitable and making strangers feel welcome.
As far as anything else is concerned I dare not say since, like i said before, 10 years of experience at this congregation leaves me with a bias that would not be fair to the other congregations in which I will be attending and writing reviews about. First impressions, unfortunately, in my case, are lost.
For the evening service I attended the Victory Baptist church on Richmond St. Since they don't have a website, here is a link to as much info as I have:
Their evening service time is at 6:00pm. I am not positive on the morning services.
I actually grew up in a Baptist church which is why I decided to "check them out" first. When I walked into this quaint little building I wasn't quite sure what to expect. When I had driven by earlier that day, I figured there couldn't be more than 20 or so members in this congregation. Indeed, it was a small congregation of about 4-5 families. the only young members were the members children and it seems it has been this way for some time.
Now, I must admit. I am quite familiar with the core Baptist Doctrines, so I had a little bit of a "heads up" before walking in the door. When I walked in of course it was right before services were ready to start so I assumed I would have to rush to my seat and try not to hold up the service.
I was greeted by the evangelist of the group, one Mr. Ken Griesbach. Much to my surprise he took some time to get to know me a little bit. Albeit, with a small amount of confusion. I got the impression that this congregation doesn't get too many visitors from the area. The atmosphere was a little uneasy as I observed the strange looks on some of the members faces and the children's blank stares of curiosity.
Of course the first question on Mr. Griesbach's mind was, "Are you saved?" To which I happily responded, "Yes!" This was a little weird for me since it's not often one asks me this question. I told him that I had grown up in a Baptist church but didn't have the heart to tell him that I lost count of the number of times I was "saved". But to ease his conscience I told him, and later on, another one of the member's that, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." For some reason, I wondered at that moment..."How do they know I'm not lying?" Of course I wasn't lying, but how would they know?
Well, services started and there were many songs that were sung with the guidance of a single slightly out of tune piano. I tried to recall the days of my youth as a Baptist growing up but it was tough since the church I grew up in only used a guitar. Played by "Pastor Mark" every Sunday. I knew quite a few of the songs they sang and we got to one of my all time favorites, "Jesus Loves Me". I always enjoy watching the kids sing that song. Sometimes I think of how innocent they are, liking the song for it's simplicity and not necessarily for it's message. As an adult it makes me appreciate the song all the more. Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so! There is a GIGANTIC message there and speaks to so many fundamental tenants of our Christian faith.
As the service continued after the songs, a collection was made but the Lord's supper was not served. I found that particularly interesting. I was actually looking forward to witnessing how this is practiced at this particular congregation.
I always find it humorous when small congregations still insist on "passing the plate" for their contribution. Especially at evening services. If you watch you might actually see someone put something in there that wasn't present that morning or perhaps they believe they must give every time they gather together. Who knows? I still find it funny though because the guy holding the collection plate kinda looks around aimlessly knowing full well that out of the maybe 10 people in the congregation that have money to give either already gave or are too young and don't have any income. But I digress.
The sermon was unfortunately something left to be desired. Without going into a huge discourse about why I can't stand the 1611 KJV of the Bible, I will just say that for most of the sermon I was kicking myself for not having brought my Bible. I understood what the preacher was trying to get at though with the lesson. It was a discourse on Genesis 30 and the slick business decision by Jacob to take the spotted and speckled sheep and then breeding the spots and speckles out of the sheep thereby showing how smart the Isrealites were, having the basic understandings of genetics. A good lesson all in all.
Of course no wonderful Baptist "homily" can be let go without at least one paragraph on Pre-millinialism. So he told a story of a news reporter asking an old friend of his when Jesus would again re-appear. Slickly quoting Matthew 24:14 "And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come."
I remembered that so I could fulfill his request that if anyone had questions they could ask after services. So I approached him after some fellowshipping with a couple other members who did their best to sell me a membership. :) I asked Mr. Griesbach what exactly the Apostle Paul was referring to when he said in:
Romans 16:25-27 "Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, But now is made manifest , and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith: To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen." KJV (emph.added)
Colossians 1:23 "If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard , and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;" KJV (emph. added)
He readily admitted that throughout history there have been times that Christianity had been preached to the whole world but gave no explanation as to why Christ did not return at that time. I just smiled and said "Okay." He seemed interested in talking about the Christians role in our government but bordered on tossing out the validity of scripture when I brought up Romans 13. I was quite surprised at this. But I didn't want to argue. So I changed the subject. He asked me about my family and wondered if we would be seeing each other again and I told him "Perhaps."
One other thing of note was that during a conversation with one of the other members, it was decided by him that it was important that I know that there are churches "out there" that believe that baptism is necessary for salvation. WHAT!!!! lol. :D I told him, "And you're okay with that, right?" I then stopped paying attention when he went on with the calvinist cookbook, eventually moving on to my conversation with Mr. Griesbach.
Overall, I would say these are genuinely nice people but I can see it getting ugly if anyone were to disagree with them. Heck, I am not sure one would gain any respect if you studied from any other Bible than the 1611 Authorized KJV.
One question I would LOVE to have asked and just didn't get the chance would be why they don't worship with Grace Baptist a few blocks down the road since they also are an independant Baptist Congregation. Maybe that is where I will visit next Sunday.
Have a wonderful day folks!