Friday, May 6, 2016

Gateway Christian Church - Saint Albans Site

Gateway Christian Church's SA Campus
Gateway Christian Church's St. Albans site is located on the corner across for the post office and the social security office. When I say corner, I actually mean the block, because the "campus" as they call it is enormous. There is designated parking for guests and the elderly, right beside the main doors, which is a nice welcome to those of us who (still) have no idea where the general parking would be.
It would appear to be at Riverview Towers (the assisted living apartments) and the social security office parking lot, as well as the post office parking lot itself.

The first service starts at 9:30, and I did a drive-by about 30 minutes early, and the doors were open and a few early birds were shuffling in. Turns out I should have arrived then, because there was apparently coffee which I missed out on (and desperately would have enjoyed for this trip).

When I did park and enter about 10 minutes before the show was to begin, a door was opened for me with a polite smile and by a man in his late forties. No directions, no hello.... No, "have you ever been here before?" or realizations of a new face. So I glanced around the strange "lobby" which is made up of two conjoining hallways one to the left and one to the right. To the left were tables of pamphlets, leaflets, tracts, and signup sheets for various projects and events. I turned back to the men holding doors and asked, "I've never been here before, where is the service held?" and was pointed in the direction of double doors on the left hall.

The "chapel" was enormous. I took notes for the first 10 minutes while the three enormous digital countdowns on the hi-def projector screens ticked away. They are as follows,
Joey Copley - SA Pastor
Very large campus. Comfortable seating in interesting setup. Large modern chapel countdown on huge projector screens. All looks very professional & expensive, though congregation is modestly/modernly dressed. Even mix of younger vs. older.
Came in 5 min early, nods as greetings. good place to fade into the background. Took seat towards back right corner.
The chairs were comfortable, they weren't benches, but it did remind me of the evangelicals you used to see on the lower channels on TV on Sundays. It was comfortable, the seating was spread out enough as to not jostle your neighbor when going through your purse, and it seemed that, provided the person in front of you isn't too tall, you could see the stage equally well from all sections.

The guest speaker was introduced after entirely too many non-traditional hymns that I (having been raised in several churches and in Christian schooling) had never heard of. The lyrics were projected on those big screens, but without sheet music it was hard for me, personally to sing along. The band was very near professional, and their equipment was top of the line. While I appreciated the aesthetics, and it was impressive, from an outreach point of view the two sets of tithes taken were more of club dues than offerings to "The Lord's Work".

Greg Koukl was the guest speaker, whose corporation (some may say organization, but I won't) you can learn more about here, and I will go into more depth about my personal opinions (and past experience) with the man in a later post. (Suffice it to say I've "known" him my whole life...) And the message, which was lauded by pastor and preacher, was, and I quote, "Life is hard, then you die." It was called Apologetic Christianity, which upon first hearing the term I was pretty excited, but it's not exactly what it sounds like. According to Mr. Koukl, it's more about having and teaching realistic expectations about what life as a Christian is all about. It's Christianity's answer to the 70's and 80's Jesus Freak fad. (And again, his words, not mine. The speech is documented, you can look it up. It's called The Four Hard Realities of Spiritual Faith.  The outline and my notes are as follows
4 Hard realities of Spiritual Faith
1. Spiritual Growth is Perplexing [ II Cor 4:8 Paul was perplexed] Experience does not equal expertise [Proverbs 21:24] 
2. Spiritual Growth Takes Time
3. Spiritual Growth Hurts [Phill. 2:29 ; 1 Peter 4:1 ; 1 Peter 2:22 ; II Cor 4:16]
4. Spiritual Growth Doesn't Ultimately Satisfy
Press on for the goal, there will always be a dissastisfaction in this life because we were not made for this world [I Peter 1:13]
Life is Hard and then You Die

Candy Payne - Children's Minister
After the first service, I went up front to speak with the home pastor about the church and childrens' programs. I was given a gift bag for coming for the first time (which contained a branded water bottle, bumper sticker, some flyers for programs, a branded carbiner  keychain, and a DVD I have yet to watch), and led to the children's area behind the sanctuary. My notes are as follows.
Excellent setup. Some hesitation when asked about stance on Baptism. Is considered essential for salvation, and is taught as a "when you're ready" thing, but not clear if it's taught as requirement for salvation at that age group. 
All volunteers are vetted fully, check in/out system in place and well organized, groups for babies, pre-k, and gradeschool ages. Staff was friendly and space looks safe and clean. Only concern is a lot of stairs to pre-k, but maybe good to deter dangerous persons. Kids all looked happy and seemed to be having fun.
Greg Koukl - Guest Speaker
I did stay for the second service, hoping for the home pastor to speak, but it was another sermon by Koukl. Again, I have had misgivings about this speaker for a long time, and moreso when I heard his second sermon. Also, upon exiting the chapel to explore some in the lobby, found his coworkers hawking DVD's, books, and CD's. Your normal "Motivational Speaker" merch set up. Take note that second service was much more heavily populated by an older crowd. I assume that had a lot to do with the tone change in sermons, which switched from comfort/newer age tone to more traditional damnation. Also take note that the pastor of both the Saint Albans and Teays Valley campuses were both present and both commended each sermon, indicating that the views of the church probably match up with the content of the sermons.
Hell and Death.
A Grief Observed by CS Lewis (which I plan to read very soon)
Can consciousness be reduced to something physical?
"There is not a soul because we can't find a soul. There is no space in the brain for the soul to fit (according to an article in Time magazine from 1975, which, after searching Time's archives from 1975 I have yet to find. If you can find the article, please link it in the comments so that I can revise this section, however until I am able to find this article I'm going to call this debunked.)
And from my actual notes on the spot
[[Feels like cherry picking quotes to prove a point. IF we aren't associating belief and science, why are we citing 40 yr old editorial pieces? Why not Psychology Today or BP Hope? No current sources to cite? I doubt that.]] 
Why do we need Jesus to rescue us from our God? If that is the case, who would want to worship that God?
He rescues us from The Father. Father is angry, and Jesus satisfies the wrath of God. Propitiation. [Matt 10]
[[So then what about people before Jesus?]]
[[When does sin start? birth? childhood? 18?]]
[[As a father, would you punish your child for life for disobeying, or would you eventually forgive them out of love?]]
[[If a human parent punished in a way like "hell", if that is godlike, good, love, why would they be called abuse when humans do them?]]
A lot of people who think they're Christians will end up in hell. [Matt 25]
[[Are we talking in an outreach view or a condemnation view? 
[[It's interesting which speeches he chose to speak to which group. Younger, more diverse early group gets life is hard but you'll be okay", older less diverse group gets "everybody but us is going to hell." Plays on holier than thou tendencies]]
[[If God can do anything and made all the rules, why did he make the system require permanent solutions to temporary problems? Why would he make humans value rehabilitation if we are made in his image, wouldn't our general values as a species be representative of his own? If God is truly GOOD, why would his actions not be good in our hands?]]
"Best sermon I've heard in a long time on the subject" - Pastor, so this is commiserate to the church's views.

TL;DR

  • I don't recommend this church to newcomers to the Christian religion. 
  • The children's program has the right idea on paper, but may be a little more Fire and Brimstone than new-age Christians or converts would appreciate, but it's hard to tell because of the secretive nature of the actual lesson plans. 
  • While there are outreach programs funded, they don't seem to be the best choices, in my opinion, since they are more based on converting contemporary and Catholic regions than helping the poor. 
  • The site is extremely well-maintained and the facilities are highly updated. It felt more like showmanship than anything else.
  • Overall, outreach and financial transparency fail at this site. The subject matter is sketchy. The children's program gets a weak "pass". The welcome and atmosphere fail (partially based on the large congregation due to both campuses meeting together for the guest speaker). I will give this church another go on a day that is less crowded to get a better feel for the "usual crowd". 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 What do I look for in a church?
What do I look for in a church?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 Disclaimer: The photos used in this post are not my own. I borrowed them from the church's website and from google search. If requested by church administration, I will take them down, but would request the opportunity to replace them with my own photos of the site and administration. I do not make money from this website, and I am giving full disclosure that I do not own the photos, so am not breaking any copyright laws, however I'm not a bad person so I won't use them if permission is revoked. Any edited or crafted images (headers, footers, previous and next leads) are my own creations and my own intellectual property. They may be used freely by other bloggers, but may not be revoked as they are my own property.
 
 
 
 

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