A Tale of Three Churches

I’m on a working vacation. It was the best compromise I could make with my loving family in order to line up five generations coming together in Colorado AND me getting to keep my jobs at Rooftop 519 and Desert Foursquare Church.

One of the tasks I assigned myself during this 10 day hiatus was to dig into the missional church (and the missional parachurch, which I’ve already compiled several thousand words for a blog post at some point in the future). Yesterday, while the remaining 13 of our vacationing clan either slept or scared fish, I drove off to visit Adullam, a missional community I learned about from Hugh Halter’s book Sacrilige.

I planned to swing by one church with a 9 a.m. start time before joining Adullam at 10. On my two hour drive from Estes Park, I passed another church at about 8:15 that had just started their service, so I popped in for a short visit. Three churches before noon. I chose not to name the first two not because there is anything wrong with the churches, but simply because my primary interest was in visiting Adullam.

Church One

The website says they have services at 9:30 & 11, but I know there were about 600 people there singing hymns at 8 a.m. They have about 1000 Facebook followers and 200 Twitter followers. I scoured the sanctuary, but I couldn’t find a single person of color. That may have been an indicator of the community, but my hunch is that it was more a representation of the community of 30 years ago. Their weekly giving (just under $90k/week) was listed in the bulletin, something I’ve heard about but never seen.

Church Two

This is the up-and-coming church in Denver. The lobby was bigger than most church buildings I’ve seen (by at least 3x). I have never seen such a polished, picture-perfect place of worship. They have 11,000 facebook followers and 2000 Twitter followers. Roughly 3000 people gathered for their 9 a.m. service. Lights, smoke machines, awesome band & huge screens, they really put on a show. They are the most perfect attractionally modeled church I have ever seen.

Adullam

They meet at Denver Seminar, which I used my GPS to locate. There were a handful of cars in the parking lot and maybe a dozen people filtering in at 9:50 a.m. Only one sign was at the front door and there were no signs on the inside of the building. I’d never seen anything quite like this.

Inside the chapel at Denver Seminary, about 200 chairs were arranged in a semi-circle. Tech equipment consisted of a few microphones, two small speakers, a projector and laptop, and not much else.

The first person to introduce himself to me was Hugh. I recognized him & told him that I was a pastor checking out Adullam. His immediate response was, “We don’t try to hard at this”. I knew exactly what he meant. It wasn’t laziness or an apathy for the church, it was his intentional efforts to not over-produce service. I found it very refreshing.

Hugh had not intended to be at service that day, as he was speaking at a conference that weekend. In the wake of the Aurora theater shootings, Hugh longed to be with his church family.

The community of faith gathered slowly from the time I got there until worship began at about 10:30. We sang simple songs of worship, followed by open table communion. Families were encouraged to serve communion to their young children. These tender moments may have been the highlights of my time with Adullam.

Our speaker that day was Craig Colon. He brought a message from his heart, and it seemed to spark a lot of conversation after the service concluded. Craig recently left a church he was pastoring near Boulder, and he is joining the Missio team with Hugh.

Here are several of my big take-aways from Adullam:

1. The congregation was diverse (multi-generational & multi-ethnic).

2. They will not burn out volunteers anytime soon.

3. Sundays are not the church (it is obvious the gather of believers is important on Sunday, but they obviously live in community).

4. Visitors are expected to come at the invitation of people who are already there (I deduced this from the non-seeker sensitive approach).

5. Service to the poor is at their core. Next week they’re not even having Sunday morning meeting. They are gathering in the park to feed people.

My experience at Adullam gave me an appreciation for the simplicity of the church. Being the church shouldn’t be hard because there is too much to do on Sunday mornings. It should be a narrow path, which means we are measured by our service, not THE service. I’m still wrestling with what this looks like for me, my family and my church family. I am enjoying the learning journey.

There is so much I could write about all three churches. I learned so much in just a couple of hours. Feel free to ask me questions if you’d like to know more about my busy Sunday morning.

Peace,

Shawn

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