So, we were first shown the office area--very tidy corporate set up . . . 8 full time staff including a full time graphic designer . . . and different ministry outreach programs, national and global . . . and one in particular that was encouraging which is a ministry to help people in this area get out of polygamy . . . .
Then we were led to the youth center and met the two young hipster youth leaders . . . and again, quite impressive the activities and facilities there for teens and tweens and college age folks to meet and get involved.
Next, the tour went across hall into the auditorium and this was another "wow" factor moment . . . . A large (900 seat) hall with multiple flat screen monitors above the stage . . . a professional looking and sounding rock band was (or so it appeared?) shooting a video, with a camera crew roaming around, but they paused when we came in (which, honestly looked choreographed to me) and here we met the tall, bald, outgoing Pastor who gave the lowdown on worship services. He instructed the band to play a song to show how it goes . . . and words to the worship-rock appeared in sync on the video screens . . . the guys in the big control both controlled lighting and images shown on the screens . . . and it was all quite like a cutting edge rockstar show . . . . Then the Pastor explained how worship goes . . . and that papers would be handed out with bible verses but some of the words left blank . . . which the congregation fills in during the act--er, I mean sermon--and then those filled in papers are then taken afterwards to small group meetings where the sermon is discussed . . . and this is where my radar started beeping a little louder as I recalled hearing something alarming once about a new style of bible study . . . where people get into small groups . . . to discuss scripture . . . but with the objective not so much to learn what the actual truth is about the passage but rather, everyone shares their personal ideas about the meaning and a "consensus" is arrived at . . . .
The Pastor then pointed out some smaller, black screens lower on each side of the stage on the back wall and said this is where "your number" might come up . . . "if your child is having a meltdown" in the nursery, so that you know you are to leave the services and go to your child . . . . And he talked about the different "cliques" and "small groups" and . . . how they meet during the week and coordinate with some other groups and then some of these form retreats and-- . . . this is where my head started spinning as I could not keep track of all the programs and how they meshed and the purposes thereof and the filling out of worksheets and . . . well, it was all starting to feel something like a self-help/self-improvement seminar/conference with "steps" and "programs" and "groups" and "sub-groups" . . . . The Pastor warned--with subtle glee--in closing, that while the room held 900 seats, 1400-1600 people had been showing up since the opening and so, "you had better get here early."
The tour then went to the kiddie area and this is where it felt and looked like a childrens' museum or kiddie amusement part . . . what with the murals on the walls and the "Dora the Explorer" safari jacketed staff . . . and more big rooms with video projectors, screens and sound systems . . . .
Here me and Isaac bailed out and wandered around a bit. I wanted to look at the book store section to see what authors were there . . . and this is when my suspicions were confirmed. I didn't recognize most of the authors, except for C.S. Lewis' "Mere Christianity" . . . and . . . two fully stocked rows of Rick Warren's "The Purpose Driven Life" . . . .
"Uh-oh. There it is . . . . "
"What? Is there a problem?" Isaac asked.
And I explained quickly there to him the significance of this book and author being so prominently displayed and the quotes therefrom sprinkled throughout the church's pamphlets . . . .
So . . . this was what a "Purpose Driven" church looks . . . and feels like . . . I thought to myself.
Quite impressive, admittedly. This bunch will give the local Mormon churches a run for their money . . . literally . . . and in terms of "shine" . . . and . . . in organization . . . programs . . . personal involvement . . . social functions etc. The place in fact had a very similar feel the L.D.S. "Temple Square" Visitor Center where tours are conducted daily--a multi-media, top quality presentation.
A lot to be proud of . . . and I dare say, there was a fair amount of pride in the air during the open house . . . in this stunning, high-end, highly organized operation . . . .
I also dare say . . . that the woman at the greeting booth/information desk . . . was not very good at hiding her disdain and impatience with the two odd long-haired fellows (one in a multi-colored knitted beanie; the other in a grey bandanna) gathering up the various brochures available there. That she couldn't wait for us to leave--probably just not liking the looks of us . . . Me and Isaac . . . was quite obvious . . . .
Anyway, I gave another glance to the large "Abbey Road" picture hanging above . . . the espresso bar . . . the "Your Next Step" kiosk . . . Safari Sue . . . and we took our leave.
As we were exiting the front doors . . . into the parking lot, the large, silver cross stuck in the flower bed there . . . slightly startled me--reminding me . . . that, indeed, we had just been in a church . . . .
[Next . . . "bible study" and Isaac's big "breakdown" . . . . ]