|730: Greenlane Christian Centre, Auckland, New Zealand|
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Mystery Worshipper: LadyPen.
The church: Greenlane Christian Centre, Auckland.
Denomination: It appears to stand alone.
The building: This purpose-built auditorium opened in 1988. It is one of Auckland's larger churches, with 300 spaces in the car park. The entrance to the auditorium is from the foyer which features a cafe, sofas that wouldn't look out of place in a 1950s diner – think bright scarlet facing lusty gold – plus stalls advertising tapes of sermons, fundraising items, etc. There is a central raised stage, spotlights, coloured lights, plain carpet and walls. The seats are arranged in three blocks facing the stage. Separate buildings house the children's ministry, Bible college and bookshop.
The church: According to the literature, the church has established a Bible college in Papua New Guinea, an orphanage in India and (closer to home) has a link with Habitat for Humanity in New Zealand.
The neighbourhood: The church is situated in a residential street near a major motorway intersection, and it backs on to Auckland's (often snail paced) southern motorway. According to the Christian urban legend grapevine, the church was approached by Telecom NZ with a request to install an aerial for the mobile phone network. Permission was granted with the proviso that the aerial be shaped like a cross and that Telecom also pay for the night-time illumination. It's a big, white, hard to miss cross. As stopping on the motorway is illegal I've had to photograph the church from the somewhat less interesting front view.
The cast: The senior pastor, Terry Calkin, gave the sermon, and Brian Krum, the youth and family ministries pastor, made some opening comments and later gave notices.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
Mostly full. I arrived at 6.50pm, and the "Carpark Full" sign was out.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
The lady who handed me the programme at the outer door said "hello", and had one of those welcoming smiles that suggest if you give them an opening they'll be really nice to you. Two ladies at the inner door handed out pink invitations addressed to "real women" (nice to know I qualify!). I sat in the back row for about 10 minutes before the service began. No one from Greenlane said hello to me, however.
Was your pew comfortable?
Individual blue cloth chairs. Perfectly adequate for the length of the service (1 hour and 15 minutes).
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Expectant. Most people arrived between 6.55 and 7.05pm.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Welcome to Greenlane Christian Centre."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
No books. The words for the songs and the sermon notes were projected on to a central screen. There were also several other TV monitors in the corners, and in the rear overflow room.
What musical instruments were played?
Keyboards, bass guitar, lead guitars and drums (hidden behind glass screens).
Did anything distract you?
This place is way too professional to let anything distract you. The sound system was more than a match for the series of pre-winter coughs around me. But I am curious to know what the older chap standing alone in the upper balcony was looking at, and scribbling in his pad. (This was after the offering and I did wonder if he was trying to spot the mystery worshipper.) I also noticed that the layout means your eyes are focused on the stage constantly.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Intro music was the kind that is so loud that you don't feel the need to participate. I noticed a number of people were standing, but not singing. In the quieter numbers, more people sang. Not happy clappy per se, but there were some uplifted arms dotted around. Contemporary music – but thank heavens they weren't into repeating the same thing over and over again. Actually, I was impressed with how the music was paced. Notices about upcoming events made the place seem alive and fun.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 Hallelujah! A preacher who does biblical exposition and does it well.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Daniel chapter 12. How long the tribulation was/will be, so how to count the number of days. I loved the fact that the guy was really using the Bible in his preaching – however, I was a little disappointed on the lack of practical application. I mean how does knowing "it" means three years motivate me onwards? However the pastor ended by reminding us that the message was about hope, and then he led into an altar call which allowed people to remain in their seats and signal their intent while everyone else had their heads down. Sensitively done, I thought.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
This is a toss up. Loved having a biblical focus in the sermon, and even the power point that went with the sermon was restrained, putting the focus on the biblical text and not on flashy graphics. But the big buzz for me was seeing someone I know clearly at home playing in the band.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Honestly, this is a well-oiled machine. My only disappointment is that no one gave me a personal welcome. Plus the opening music was a bit loud for me.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
At Greenlane, they ask visitors to raise their hand (20 minutes into the service) so they can be given a visitors' pack. The pack includes a contact details card to fill in, and if you take it to the connections counter afterward you'll get a coupon for a free capuccino in the cafe. After the service ended, I remained for 10 minutes in my seat reading the literature. I loitered in the foyer area for another seven minutes. By the time I'd decided to go to the connections counter, it was no longer manned. I had a bit of a wander around outside, but still no one said "hi". I think it would be a good idea if those who gave out the visitors' packs then checked to see what happened to the visitors.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Will try the coffee on my next visit, as I don't drink coffee in the evenings.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 Would want to check out a few more times, but was impressed with my initial visit.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?