Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Service Review

We have a local paper in Greenville, The Metro Beat, that runs a feature called "Houses Of The Holy". What happens is: a reporter from the paper pops in anonymously to local churches (mostly the large ones) and writes a very candid review of his experience. It's a great perspective from a total outsider's eyes. A few of the reviews that I have read have been interesting, but a little brutal. Well, a few weeks ago, he popped into one of ours. We actually found out after the service, because he enjoyed it so much he felt like he could tell us the article was coming. We even provided the photo for the headline. I was really nervous about it and it finally came out this week (right in time for Easter - yeah!!!). I do give this disclaimer: if you decide to check out their website, you are on your own. Let's just say - they don't come at things from a "Christian" perspective. :) Here is the article:

APRIL 4, 2006
Houses Of The Holy
Candid First Impressions of Upstate Church-Shoppers

There are thousands of houses of worship in the Upstate and our Prophets are sampling them. From time to time one of our reviewers (or Prophets) will visit one of these Houses of the Holy and share ten standard observations (The 10 Pronouncements) with our readers. Prophets are anonymous visitors, usually on a first-time visit. They are to be respectful at all times, as any visitor should, but we ask them to be candid in print. Our Prophets’ 10 Pronouncements are not set in stone. They’re just first impressions. But first impressions are usually the eternal, er, lasting ones. Feel free to take what follows with a pillar of salt…

Seacoast Church (Greenville)
212 Roper Mountain Road Ext.
Greenville, SC 29615

Setting/Environs: Located at the former home of New Life Christian Fellowship, at 18 months old, Seacoast (Greenville) is the newest of nine locations for a Charleston-based church with videotaped sermons from the main campus being replayed at the 8 satellite locations. I didn’t know this going in, but if you think it’s weird, read on.

Name of Head Spiritual Guru: Pastor Chris Surratt (in residence)

Denomination/Affiliation: Independent; preaching an unerring Bible and salvation only for baptized believers

Date and Time: Sunday, February 26 at 11 am with a post-service baptism Top Billed Clergy For Today: Pastor Chris with the video sermon by his older brother, Greg.

“I chose this specific House because….” the name seemed so out of place. Literally. Seacoast? In Greenville? What’s up with that?

Have you visited here before? If so, how often? No.


“Once inside the doors, the first thing I noticed was…” I was in a first-rate music venue with seating spaced generously for the 80 or so at this service. Think Handlebar with a baptismal pool backstage.

“As I sat down, the people around me were…” mingling mostly near the coffee (free) and the soundboard, mindful of the video countdown clock for the start of the service.

”The service opened up with…” two rockin’ songs. Lyric-wise they were Christian songs but musically you’d never know that except that the vocalists were, well, heaven-sent (and American Idol-worthy).

“The one thing that struck me as being positively profound was…” the baptism by immersion at the end of the service; something I’d previously only seen on TV. If not that, then having free coffee and doughnuts in the sanctuary where you can walk up and refill at any point without missing a beat.

“The sermon was exactly 38 minutes long and it was basically about…” the Beatitudes and how we all need to accept God’s help, including a gripping testimonial from a Charleston Seacoast member.

“After the service ended…” most people lingered in the sanctuary, which is not surprising considering the service was comprised of a video sermon sandwiched between two rockin’ songs on either side of it.

“Newcomers and visitors are…” clearly instructed on what to do and they are welcomed by all, without being singled out to the crowd. A newcomer service with meal and childcare (call ahead if possible) follows the 11 am service on first Sundays.

“The most painful part was…” once again being dressed improperly. This time a suit and tie for a decidedly blue jeans crowd.

“I was pleasantly surprised when…” the final song sounded like U2 performing in a small club.

“My most lasting impression will be…” the video feed starting up, to my complete surprise, and then later realizing that it wasn’t all that odd or gimmicky as I had first thought.

Seacoast slams its predominantly young (25-40) crowd with top-quality rock and heavy doses of “DirecJC.” Not for anyone nursing a hangover.

D’yer Maker is a 40-something male. A former Catholic, He’s currently “blowin’ in the wind.”

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