I don’t want to name this church, the last in this series, because I’m going to be critical when I don’t have all the facts. But it would be a shame not to complete the tour, so here goes.

The church in question is a well known evangelical church with three Sunday services, one at 9.15 which includes participation by children and teenagers, a more traditional, ‘reflective’ service at 11, and a ‘prayer and praise’ service at 6 pm. It’s not C of E but in worship style the 11 am service fit right in with those described here and here. In fact, I’m pretty sure that the words of the prayer of confession came right out of Common Worship. At any rate, the similarities were strong enough that I don’t need to go into any detail, except to say that the singing was almost as good as at St Helen’s, and I was given the opportunity to sing Lyngham, which always leaves me feeling like a lion. I was also introduced to an excellent new hymn by Stuart Townend and Keith Getty (a metrical setting of Psalm 23).

So I feel like an ungrateful churl in being critical, but when there’s a problem with the preaching, no amount of good music can undo the damage done. The preacher, who appeared to be the senior minister, began by explaining that he felt the need to address certain issues the congregation was facing. Some of these arose out of a possibility the church had of acquiring retail space in the shopping precinct in which the church finds itself after redevelopment of the area some years ago, others arising from the growth of the 9.15 service in comparison to the 11 am in particular. The first issue would involve the congregation in raising money, the second would involve change in the 11 am service. I knew he was in trouble when he asked the congregation if they were excited about this, and, getting no response, asked them if they could at least look excited. I assume this was meant as a joke—there was scattered laughter—but it appeared to represent his approach to the whole subject: ‘The leadership has a plan and we want you to cheer us on.’ He then applied various verses from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, out of context, to the situation. Not understanding the situation very well, I can’t say whether his plan was good, but his preaching was not the careful exposition of scripture to which Evangelicals have historically been committed. If I were a newcomer wondering whether to make this my church home, I’d probably go somewhere else next Sunday.

Actually, I will certainly go somewhere else next Sunday, but that’s the end of this mini-series!

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