There is not one square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’”
The atmosphere was electric. Worshipers came in, greeted each other with friendly chatter, and found seats as close to the front as they could. It was obvious even before the service began that this worship time would be much more energetic and celebratory than what our English-speaking Christian Reformed congregation was used to!
The sermon ends and the organist launches into the “sermon hymn.” In many congregations this is where the service begins winding down. But at Eliot Presbyterian Church in Lowell, Massachusetts, the sermon hymn signals a worship practice that people look forward to all week.
As the congregation sings, several people move forward to sit in the front pew. Others join them. Two by two, they talk quietly and then pray together—with eyes open or closed, heads bowed or not, hands folded or clasped.
For a mid-sized city with a thriving downtown arts scene, the annual Celebration of the Arts in Grand Rapids, Michigan, may seem like just one more art show on a busy cultural calendar. But art lovers are often taken aback when they learn who’s behind this event. The Celebration is entirely hosted, promoted, and run by a church—First United Methodist Church, a Gothic church building on Fulton Street in the heart of the city.
It was his first church service since World War II. Two weeks earlier Danny had buried his wife of fifty years. The family had searched the Internet for a church that might host her memorial service, choosing Granite Springs Church because it was close. Now he was attending worship. As the congregation stood and began to sing the opening song, I noticed him near the back. He selected a seat on the outside edge, the perfect place to make an early exit. As the congregation sang, “He gives and takes away . . .” tears were streaming down his cheeks.
You may be wondering why we chose to profile Mars Hill Bible Church, since usually we profile churches within the Reformed tradition. Mars Hill, led by Rob Bell, has a national reputation for being a growing, leading-edge church. While many churches are grappling with the seeming exodus of their young adults, Mars Hill and churches like it are attracting young adults in droves. That led me to wonder what it was about Mars Hill that appealed to young adults, and what we can learn from that church.
Each Sunday, more than a thousand people of varied ethnicities and languages come from all over metro Manila, the Philippines, to worship in the presence of God’s people at the Union Church of Manila. They come from a range of economic and social backgrounds, but each Sunday morning and during the week they unite to share what they have in common and to participate in the work of God in the Philippines.
The hundred-year-old church building where Grace Central Presbyterian (PCA) Church worships sits in the heart of the Short North arts district of Columbus, Ohio. It’s a neighborhood known for its unabashed creativity and eclectic character. Located between downtown Columbus and Ohio State University, the name comes from the shorthand term police used for the area in the 1970s and early ’80s when it suffered from a high crime rate. Since its revitalization, the Short North’s brick streets and historic buildings have become home to small galleries, shops, and restaurants.
Even here, people come for a church service,” says Pastor Rob Knol, standing at the back of the gym of the Boys and Girls Club in Valparaiso, Indiana, where Daybreak Community Church has just completed its worship service.