Church Search 4

Last Sunday, for the second week in a row, we visited Fellowship of Oso Creek. My good friend, John Bradshaw, is the pastor.  I’ve long respected John and the work he’s doing at Oso Creek. I’ve preached at the church a couple of times, and I’ve traveled with a group of “Creekers” to Houston to help in Hurricane Ike recovery. So please know that my comments are probably a bit biased.

Before visiting Oso Creek, we attended two seeker-focused churches. The sermons are practical and life-oriented. The music has a concert feel to it. Both go out of their way to help visitors be as anonymous as possible.

If those two churches are at one end of a spectrum, Oso Creek is at the other end. Oso is geared for “churched” people. The sermons focused on believer’s relationship with God, the music had more of a “sing-a-long” feel to it, and visitors were anything but anonymous.

Please, PLEASE don’t hear that as a criticism. It’s not that one style is better than the other. It’s just that each kind of church begins with different assumptions about who is in the audience and how best to communicate life-change to that audience.

That Oso focuses on “churched” people is obvious in several areas. During both our visits the sermons challenged Christians to go deeper in their discipleship. There was lots of talk of “DG’s” or “Discipleship Groups”. (Most non-Christians wouldn’t even know what “discipleship” is). There was no invitation for salvation, instead the invitation was to go deeper in your commitment to Jesus.

During our first visit we attended the early service. It is the smaller of the church’s two services. It’s not the place for visitors to come who want to blend in. With so few members present, every visitor stands out. A friend of mine who attends Oso pulled me aside before the service and asked,”What are you doing at the 9:00 service? This service isn’t for you. The excitement is at the 11:00 service. You need to come back then.”

My friend was right, the 9:00 service is not geared for someone in my age bracket. While there are activities for my elementary aged daughter, there was nothing for my middle school daughter. Oso only offers a class for that age group during the 11:00 service. In many churches this would not be an issue. We could worship together as a family at 9:00 and attend class at 11:00. Unfortunately, Oso is a small-groups church. They don’t offer adult Sunday school classes. Perhaps my wife and I could find a ministry in which to serve during that time?

But I digress. . . getting back to ways that Oso Creek is more believer-focused than seeker-focused. . . . During our first week, John ended his sermon with an invitation that consisted of having everyone come forward as a sign of their commitment to break free of sinful bondage. Now, I understand the benefit of the simple act of having people take a step forward to show their commitment. It was a powerful call to deeper commitment. As visitors, however, we weren’t comfortable going forward, so we stayed seated. It just seemed safer to stay seated. We were new. We didn’t know what John would have us do once we went forward. Would he ask us to give our testimony? To give money? Would he try to perform some ancient blood-letting ceremony on us? We didn’t know what to expect; so, yes, it was safer to stay seated. Unfortunately, with all the members up front and the visitors left sitting (there were a couple of rows of us scattered through the auditorium) we stood out much more than I liked. It made us feel awkward. (But no one asked for any blood).

Again, please don’t hear that as a criticism. I don’t mean it that way at all. It’s just a few observations; not criticisms. In fact, being part of a church that focuses on building me up as a believer sounds pretty good right about now. My spiritual and emotional life could use a little TLC. So, we decided we definitely wanted to try Oso Creek again.

That brings us to this past Sunday; our second visit. We took my friend’s advice and attended the 11:00 service. . . . Wow! What a difference in atmosphere. The room was full, the crowd was excited, and we felt more at ease. My kids even loved their classes.

Yes, once again the sermon focused on the spiritual needs of believers. Instead of calling people to begin a walk with Christ, the invitation called people to walk more faithfully, to train harder for their walk with Jesus. The music was good. Unlike in the previous churches we attended, we knew the words to most of the songs. People sang along, clapped enthusiastically, even danced a bit. It was fun. It was worship.

As of now, Oso Creek is our top choice for a new church home.


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