Sunday marked another adventure in our church search. Mimi and I both made it through the church service with only a few tears; which is better than last week when we both cried most of the way through the service.
We met up with some friends at Bay Area Fellowship. BAF is “the” church in Corpus Christi. It’s branded as one of the fastest growing churches in America. Each week thousands upon thousands of people attend to watch a mini rock show and listen to Bil preach. The church has been hugely successful at reaching the lost.
As with Real Life last week, we previously visited this church numerous times. During those times, however, I viewed the church from the eyes of a pastor. “Wow! Wouldn’t it be great to have these facilities? . . . this much money? . . . this much technology?” Now, however, I was looking at the church through the eyes of a Christian needing a church home.
I absolutely love BAF’s commitment to reaching the lost. I wish other churches shared even half of the commitment to saving people from hell. Their willingness to do whatever it takes (short of unbiblical things, of course) is admirable. I love their bravery in saying the hard things and their creativity in saying them in a way that makes them easy to hear.
Bil Cornelius’ preaching is excellent. I’ve heard him preach several times over the past 8 years and each time I’ve been impressed. It is a stupid myth that says mega-churhes are “Christianity light” or “soft on sin”. People who say such things about Bil Cornelius and Bay Area are simply wrong. Time and again I’ve heard him preach hard-hitting sermons that boldly declare the gospel.
His style, like that of many mega-church pastors, is similar to that of Rick Warren: fill-in-the-blank sermons that focus on life-application. Perhaps it’s the life-application emphasis that causes other Christians to think mega-churches aren’t deep enough. It’s true that such sermons don’t delve deeply into the historical, theological, and textual aspects of a given passage. They do, however, delve deep into helping people live what the passage teaches. Many Christians, I fear, hide behind their “knowledge of the Bible” so they don’t have to honestly deal with the sin in their lives (in my humble – but accurate – opinion).
Granted, I’m not a fill-in-the-blank kind of preacher. I much prefer narrative preaching that focuses more on inspiration than information. But I can’t argue with the effectiveness of Bil’s preaching. Lives are being changed — and that’s got to be pleasing to God.
The music, light show, and stage set-up are all top-notch at BAF. It’s loud and flashy. A friend told me after visiting BAF for the first time that her husband – who didn’t feel comfortable at his previous church and therefore didn’t attend too often — said, “Wow! I love this place. It’s like going to a rock concert.” That style is obviously attractive to non-church goers. I can’t argue with the success of Bay Area. But now that I’m a church-shopper I have to admit that it’s not the style that attracts me. Very few people sang along with the band. Even my kids complained that the music in the children’s classes was too loud. So, if we end up at Bay Area it will be in-spite of the music rather than because of it.
We want lively music. But we want it to be more “worshipful”. I’m not exactly sure what that word means. Was God praised through the music Sunday? Absolutely. Did the music enable us personally to praise him? Not really.
Bay Area might be a good church for us to get lost in. That’s something that has some appeal to us right now. Maybe we can just hide out there for awhile and heal. Of course, we don’t want to stay hidden. So, if we decide to regularly attend BAF we’ll want to volunteer for a ministry and dive into a small group. Fortunately, the church seems to have lots of options for getting involved.
All in all, our visit was a positive experience. It’s one church we’ll definitely want to consider further.
Still, it didn’t feel like home. But I guess it will be a long time until another church feels like home for us.