50 States Church Surch, Week 32
Heartland Worship Center
"They are fat and sleek, and there is no need to their wicked deeds. They refuse to provide justice to the orphans and deny the rights of the poor."
I had a good feeling about this church, since I rode up and down the parking lot, looking for a spot. But actually, the cars were from the 9:15 service, still going, and we late service people. Still, HWC is a big church, no doubt. The sanctuary (after the WalMart greeters) is understated lavender and maroons, with padded pews. The 9:15 crowd left with a six minute gap to seat us late people. The crowd is a mix of ages and races, yet predominately white, middle age and younger. I wandered throughout the foyer, up to the balcony and back without engaging anyone. The place filled with plenty of extra space, around 500 people. With the two other services, I figure there to be around 1,200 on a Sunday like this.
The bulletin indicates they provide a plethora of services: Divorce Care Financial Assistance, Celebrate Recovery, and Grief Share, to name only a few. Looks like a great church to join and grow. Since it's a Baptist church, they started with a baptism, where the pastor
appeared halfway up the wall behind the choir. Clever architecture. He baptized a fifteen year old girl.
The choir (two dozen people) sang a Christmas carol and we sang two songs, after the leader, for the second week in a row, encouraged us to raise our hands and get excited. We get excited for Kentucky basketball games, so what about The Lord? Yet at the games, no one tells us to jump up and scream. We jump up and scream because the team is doing something awesome. After he told us we needed to get excited, we sang two sleepy songs. Ironically, the worship didn't live up to the church's name.
Pastor Nathan (Dr. Nathan, actually) preached on their current series, 'Weep.' Sounds like a great pre-Christmas theme. Actually, I like challenging, uncomfortable messages. Nathan delivered, using Jeremiah 5:20-31 for his text. He spoke on how as believers we should have a heart for the downtrodden and hurting people. Going on a mission trip and getting all excited about the kids isn't the answer, as guilt and enthusiasm will pale, so we need a deep passion for the poor and 'the least of these.'
Pastor Nathan gets high marks for opening up and showing us his life. One of my problems with pastors is they hide their struggles. Nathan spoke of his pride as a college student, crushed as he became pastor of a church in a community in Tennessee called 'Sugartree' hill country steeped in poverty, with most of the faithful having no electricity or water. The church (around twenty people) was a single wide, and some of the faithful-well, they reeked. He and his wife later moved to Florida with no job and no money. God softened Nathan's heart in a big way, and he still has that fire for the poor. Very unsettling sermon, and I say, "Yes."
I wandered around a bit then headed to the bike. Bigger churches make it easy to enter and exit without entering into conversation with anyone. A guy left his card on the bike however, and wrote on it that he'd pray for our safe trip. Thank you! We know those prayers work after experiencing a few maladies, even one this week.
In spite of their weak worship and being not so friendly to this visitor, I nonetheless left Heartland encouraged, a church that isn't a country club, challenging one another to serve as Jesus taught. "Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, you do unto me."