Sunday, June 8, 2008

Sunday morning field trip

Yesterday when I arrived in Houston Chris and Patrick suggested we attend Lakewood in Houston for services. I was excited at the opportunity and so this morning we attended. Admittedly, I am not a regular church goer... that is to say, I regularly GO to church... but I work about 50 Sundays a year. Lakewood is a big church, I think there were 4000 at the service we attended today and it's 1/3 services.

Today I attended with my producer's hat on and in the company of two college students- this second fact was probably the most impactful to me. Another thing worth mentioning is that I don't think I'd ever seen a full Lakewood episode on TV so while I knew the church had a reputation for a "prosperity" message I didn't fully grasp how that would play out.

Here are some notes/photos from the service that probably only someone in my world will understand. And, I cannot find my notes! ARGH so this is all from memory.

Service Notes:
90 minutes 61 minutes BEFORE the message

Ad Reel- Canned video ads with voice over ran at the top of the service

9 person worship team plus band with 4 brass players and worship choir. 3 worship leaders traded lead vocal. Mix was soloist plus one vocal plus choir sound with heavy bass. Lighting was tasteful, not over the top, IMAG was solid with keyed over lyrics and scripture. They missed a cue or two which always makes me feel better, but overall the service production was excellent.
The congregation was very diverse and most of the attire was formal. Men running boom cameras (they had two) wore suit and tie.

Service Notes:
Song: Awesome God
Song: My Savior Lives
Song: All Because of Jesus
Song: Lakewood Original
Song: I Worship You Almighty God- solo by worship leader
Song: Here I Am to Worship
Theme Statement: Joel Osteen >5 minutes of vision/theme- set up time for prayer in the service, come forward now and be prayed for
Special: Vocals and worship choir with lyric up
Song: In the Freedom We Know
Set up Offering/Prayer- Victoria Osteen ~5minutes of vision/prayer
Offering- felt like a special but the lyric was on the screens, people joined and the energy was up, celebratory as the offering was collected

Message: Joel Osteen

Invitation to make a first time commitment or recommit
Walk Out Music: Live Band and vocal short version of My Savior Lives

Things the producer in me loved...
- The participatory worship while it was polished and felt professional also felt authentic.
- Loved the prayer time in the middle of the service where people could come forward so early.
- Loved the canned announcements at the top and the way that Joel very naturally blessed worship team, children's ministry and pulled off an announcement about a mid week prayer & healing time effortlessly. Also liked how he would come on stage from the side during the last song so his transition seemed seamless.
- Enjoyed the partnership of a couple in ministry. His wife in a lead communication role.
- Loved a worship choir

Now... I've read peoples impressions of Sunset after attending once so I'm struggling with how to move ahead with my commentary. The big idea is that I really struggled with the repeated message of the end goal being that God would bless people. I didn't find anything said not to be truthful, it just felt like it's not the whole story. I can see how this is a church of hope for people, but what was missing in the message, from both the communicators today, was the reason why we exist as a church which I believe is not to prosper personally but for the goal of connecting others to Jesus.

There's an ongoing discussion about whether the church is for the saved or the unsaved and today a fire was lit in me to fight for what we do in the sanctuary being about connecting with those who aren't there. This was lacking today.

Attending with the boys was VERY interesting! Chris grew up at Sunset and Patrick was raised Catholic and rarely attends church now.
A few comments from them...

as we walked in to the building one of them said "people dress nice here"
I had never been in a situation where I had heard this comment before, but it's definately true that visitors are paying attention to whether they fit in!

“More like a motivational speaker than like a church service” --- Patrick

Another note- props to the Middle School pastor, as we toured the building following the service he was warm and welcoming, connected with the guys and invited them back.

overall... I missed my community at Sunset...


tyler said...

interesting. thanks for the in depth analysis.

GodSide said...

Not unlike the middle school Sunset ;)

Melinda said...

. . . and you were missed, too. I am so glad that you have had the time with Chris!