Monday, July 14, 2014

Crossroads Christian Fellowship: The church on the hill with the great coffee

I went to Crossroads Christian Fellowship, part of the International Foursquare Church, an Evangelical Christian denomination with Charismatic undertones. How was it?


This church was kind of a cool building. It's up on top of a hill just off the side of the mountain. We drove up to it and were greeted by a wood building and a beautiful view.

The interior was pretty cool, it felt a lot like a ski lodge with the downstairs portion seeming to be dedicated to church offices, classrooms, and a larger space for miscellaneous things. The sanctuary was upstairs. Upstairs was another open space with a coffee bar that had a barista behind it.

He asked if we would like some iced coffee. I said, "Yes, please," and was handed a frappuccino in a ceramic cup. I kid you not, this was one of the best cups of coffee I've ever had in my life. I have not had coffee this good since I was living in France.

The sanctuary was very cool and kept with the ski lodge sort of theme. They had a stage up front where the live band was setting up to play, chairs lined up in rows, but also tables over to the side. We snagged one of the tables and sat down for the service.

The atmosphere alone sold me on this church. I jokingly said at the beginning, "With coffee and atmosphere like this, they're already getting a good review. I don't even care what they say." Obviously, I do and won't give them a good review simply based on atmosphere. But it was an awesome setting for a Sunday.

The People:

The people of the church were extremely friendly. We were greeted at the door by a nice man in an NRA hat. A woman also greeted us and pointed out where the programs were as well as some name tags we could fill out. We to the stairs and were greeted by the pastor, a kind, middle-aged Irish man. He welcomed us to the church. He later came and talked to us while they were singing hymns and made sure we'd found the coffee bar and joked with us for a minute. A few other people introduced themselves and in general they were all very polite and kind to us.

The Service:

The service started out fairly typically of Evangelical services with about a half hour of worship songs. The songs were contemporary Christian songs. The people really got into them, including clapping, raising their hands, a few rocking back and forth. I saw a grandpa who sat at the table with us during the music portion take his toddler grandson's hands and move them like they were banging drums. That was a very cute thing to see.

One song's lyrics were really interesting. It was a song called, "How He Loves Us." This song's opening verses talk about how God is jealous for me and how his love's like a hurricane and we're trees. This is not the model of a good relationship. That's sort of abusive imagery. But the tune was really pretty.

After the musical worship, there was a baby dedication. This is actually similar to something from my Mormon heritage, a baby blessing is what they call it. Basically, it was just a blessing on the baby for a long and happy life. The baby's father gave the blessing and they asked the congregation to raise their hands and join in the prayer.

I thought this was a sweet little ceremony. It amazes me that virtually all cultures have ceremonies centered around a new child coming into their life. I think that's one of the things we crave as humans, to mark significant events in our life ceremonially with the community.

After that, there was a brief intermission before the sermon. Before the sermon, a young woman came up and explained that her mother had died suddenly recently. Her mother died without life insurance, and they didn't have enough money for the funeral. The church had helped raise funds to pay for the final expenses. I thought that was a wonderful gesture.

After the sermon, there was an altar call which was fairly simplistic, and just involved him asking anyone who wanted to talk or accept Jesus to come up to the front after the service and speak with the people up there.

Overall, the service was fairly typical of an Evangelical service: contemporary, Christian music, sermon, altar call, casual atmosphere.

The Message:

The sermon today was on prayer. The sermon was an interesting one and started out with a video featuring two men in a comedy act about different ways people often pray. They poked fun at people who make lists of demands for God, portraying the demands as petty and ridiculous. Then they poked fun at people who babble on praises to God by showing them babbling on praying as they fell asleep, then God trying to wake them up, but unable to tell them what they needed to hear because of their babbling.

The pastor then got back up and stated that we don't need to babble on to try to get God's attention, as he's always there waiting for us. He also said that God isn't a sugar daddy there for us to hit up for things we need. Instead he said that God is like a kind father waiting there to try to help his child be the most they can be in life.

Then, using The Lord's Prayer as a model, gave a list of things that will guarantee that prayers will be answered. He called it an ingredients list. But before listing them, he stated that we should approach God like a Father, because he is that to us.

  • Ingredient 1: Declare God's greatness. He said not to babble on incessantly about God's greatness, but acknowledge how big God is compared to you. He said God doesn't want all the ceremony and pomp, but the honest praise of man.
  • Ingredient 2: Surrender your will to God. Realize that you don't pray to get what you want, but what he wants.
  • Ingredient 3: Acknowledge your dependence on him. He stated that everything that we have comes from God. He said God gave you your job, your home, your livelihood, everything. Then he turned around and said that not all promotions come from God. That sometimes, man forces the hand of God to do something even though God has other plans. I find it an interesting idea that a mere human could force the hand of an omnipotent being.
Additionally, he gave 3 pieces of advice:
  1. Talk to God as though you have a deep personal relationship with him, like a friend or parent.
  2. Learn about God.
  3. Give back to God. Just a little bit of your time and money per week.
Personally, prayer is something I have issues with. As a method of focus, a method of feeling connected to something bigger than yourself, or a way to sort out your thoughts and get in contact with parts of yourself you wouldn't normally access, I take no issue. It's no different than meditation in these aspects and has a number of benefits. But I have problems with prayer as it's generally practiced, and this sermon hit on all of them.

Declaring God's greatness for example. If there is an omnipotent being responsible for the creation of our entire universe, then our hymns and praises to this God would be meaningless to him. Why would a God who creates nebulae, stars thousands of times larger than our sun, can orchestrate billions of galaxies with billions of stars across an immense stretch of space so big our brains can't even conceptualize it care that we take time each day, and take particular care on Sunday, to praise him? It would be like us being concerned that a colony of ants in Zimbabwe took time out of their day to make sure they praised you. If you believe in God, and praise him simply for your own awe at them, that's one thing, but the idea that God demands it and needs it is absurd to me.

But that aside, that's not my big issue with prayer. If anything, that's a very minor issue and one that's neither here nor there. My big problem with it is that people pray to God to find direction in their life from an external source, and that it's supposedly praying to God you must pray in accordance with God's will. If you are praying in accordance with what God has already planned for you anyway, then what is the point of sending up petitions to God for what you want?

But bigger than that, there seems to be no rhyme or reason as to what prayers get answered in this world. It certainly doesn't appear to be a plan that's just in any way. This was actually the matter that led me to stop believing in God entirely. Every day, in many parts of the world, there are people who suffer from famine, disease, poverty, and unspeakable horror. These people all seemingly innocent in the conflict. There are God fearing Christians in African countries that live in villages where rebels come into a town and find people they feel were sympathizers with the government and as punishment will rape the wives and daughters of those they feel are guilty, wound, disfigure, etc. They will then burn the village to the ground. A few months later, the government forces will come through and do the same thing to those they feel were loyal to the rebel forces. In other places, mothers will scream and cry as they watch their 4 year-old child die in the night from starvation because a drought and barren soil have left them with no food. Every single day, most of these people send up heart rending prayers for deliverance to God. They want nothing more than the basic necessities and security in this world. Yet, most of them will die without any hope, any comfort, and nobody will ever come and save them.

Meanwhile, in the United States, people think God helps them find their car keys, or that God was responsible for getting them their promotion, or making sure they got home from work safely. Why would a God dote on the rich, industrialized world so much and shower them with blessings, meanwhile the lowliest of all suffer and die needlessly without comfort?

This is why I don't believe prayer works in a cosmic sense? It all seems very random as to who gets their prayers answered, and who does not. When it comes down to it, for me at least, it seems that the events in our life come down to a lot of hard work and even more dumb luck.

I don't discourage people from praying, I'm not the kind of person who says we should eliminate religion or belief, nor do I want to take that from people. But this is a huge conflict I see in the world that I have heard no great and satisfactory answer for.

The message was a positive message, the pastor presented it in a way that was very uplifting, and the people seemed to be filled with nothing but the best of intentions. I enjoyed the emotion the pastor expressed and you could tell that he had genuine faith in everything he was saying.

Overall Experience:

This was actually the best Evangelical service I've ever been to. I enjoyed my time there a lot. I don't agree with what was taught, but I never really will in a Christian setting. I still thought it was a positive message, the people were so kind, and the atmosphere was so wonderful that it's hard not to feel inspired and enjoy your time at Crossroads. I would definitely go back for another service and love to get to know some of the people at this community even more.

Additional Notes:

This week I will be attending two services. One will be a Gnostic Mass held by the Ordo Templi Orientis, a ceremonial magic fraternal order founded by Aleister Crowley. That should be rather interesting to see. I will also be attending services at Embry Chapel, part of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, a historically black church.

Stay tuned for more on those. Until next time, peace be with you.

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