On a beautiful Sunday morning in Dallas, my oldest son, Stephen, and I decided to head to the Dallas Northway Campus of The Village Church for the 11:15 a.m. Worship Service. Actually, Stephen didn’t really have any choice in the matter. Truth be told, I didn’t really have a choice either.
While I might be an inconsistent Calvinist in my practice, I know and believe in God’s total sovereignty. When I share with the congregation at Bethel Alamogordo on Sundays, “No one is here by accident or coincidence. God has brought each of us here today with purpose and reason, to hear from Him and to leave changed because we have been in His presence,” I truly believe that. By the way, I don’t think you have to consider yourself a Reformed Southern Baptist to be able to affirm God’s sovereignty 😉
God gives us freedom to choose, but He often will use our own background, experiences, and circumstances to help us make our decisions. If Cornerstone Church, where Pastor Dwight McKissic serves as Pastor, would have had a later service, we might have chosen to worship with those brothers and sisters. If FBC Farmersville, where Bart Barber serves as Pastor, was not about an hour’s drive north of our hotel, I seriously considered worshipping with those fine folks. And, if I would have told C.E. Buttrill, who served on the Pastor Search Committee that God used to bring me to Bethel Baptist Church in Alamogordo, NM, that I was in the Dallas area (C.E. relocated to Dallas a few years ago), I would have probably ended up worshipping with him at Prestonwood Baptist Church and finding some great BBQ in the process (more on that later). But, The Village is where God wanted Stephen and me on Sunday, February 19, 2012!
On The Village’s website, worshippers were encouraged to arrive 30 minutes early. Stephen and I arrived about 40 minutes early, just as the 9:00 a.m. service ended. With so many vehicles, The Village has staff to assist in parking. That was great. We found a spot close to the front. When we walked into the main entrance, we were greeted warmly by two ladies holding the doors open.
I quickly noticed that I was overdressed. I was wearing khaki’s and a button-down shirt, but I could have just as easily worn jeans, tennis shoes, and a hoodie. Most of the folks were dressed like my son. He fit right in as far as his clothing was concerned, although he stood out because he was one of the only minors in the service. I stood out, not because I was overdressed, but because I was old!
The overwhelming number of people must have been in their twenties and thirties. Those my age — 45 — and older were definitely in a distinct minority. Nothing wrong with that and, in fact, it is certainly a blessing to see so many younger people at church on the Lord’s Day! That is the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the faithfulness of the covenant community of The Village Church.
One of the reasons that I wanted to worship at The Village Church was to hear God’s Word proclaimed by Matt Chandler, the Lead Pastor. I didn’t know whether he would be preaching live in-person or live via streaming video, but either way, I was excited to hear what God was going to say through Matt. Alas, I would not hear Matt preach in-person or via video, as this was the church’s Quarterly Celebration Service.
But, as Campus Pastor Steve Hardin reiterated several times throughout the service, what was happening at The Village Church was not centered around a pastor or anything that individuals have done, but instead was centered on Jesus Christ and His glorious Gospel. If you walked away from the service confused as to who Jesus is and what Jesus has done for you, it was not for lack of a clear Gospel presentation.
God would speak throughout this service, from the congregational songs that were sung with passion (including “Oh, How He Loves,” a song that my Student Pastor would tell you is one of my very favorites 😉 ) to the Baby slide show and from the Baptismal Service to the observance of the Lord’s Supper, God spoke.
There were some aspects of the worship service at The Village Church that I found different from my own experience as a Southern Baptist. Just to be clear, different does not necessarily mean bad or wrong — it just means different. Apart from the last baptismal candidate, the first five were baptized by friends and/or family (including one man who was baptized by his sister and wife). I don’t believe any of those performing the first five baptisms were ordained (although I could be wrong), but I have never experienced a non-ordained man (much less a woman, ordained or not) officiating a baptism. While I may not do it that way in the church where I serve, the beauty of autonomy of the local church allows us to do things differently. Ultimately, I thought each of the candidates’ testimonies were powerful and spoke clearly of how God, through Jesus Christ, had changed their lives. Not only did they preach (testify) with words, they preached a sermon by being “buried with Christ in the baptismal waters, rising to walk in newness of life.”
At the conclusion of the service, the Lord’s Supper was observed. Before the bread and juice were served, Pastor Steve told the congregation that this was “an open communion” for those who have trusted Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. That was about as much fence that was put around the Table. Serving the Lord’s Supper were both men and women (mostly younger) who were covenant members of The Village Church and who had volunteered that morning to serve. In order to quickly serve about 500-600 people (my estimate), both the bread (in bowls) and the juice (in standard cup holders) were passed around at the same time. Stephen and I both participated in this very special time of worship.
I don’t know if The Village Church has Deacons (none are listed under “Leadership” on the church’s website), but it was different to have the Lord’s Supper served in the way that it was. Again, different is not always bad or wrong — it’s merely different. After we took the bread and the juice, we waited for everyone to partake together. At that moment, I wasn’t really thinking about who served me the elements that day, but instead was meditating upon the One who came, not to be served, but to serve and give His life a ransom for many.
After we sang a concluding song and the Worship Pastor prayed, we walked out. I dropped my “Guest Card” in the black box at the back of the Worship Center ( which was also used for tithes and offerings as there was no “formal” offering taken nor was there a “formal” response time or invitation). Perhaps it’s Dallas and/or other big cities, but Stephen and I were able to come and go rather anonymously. Apart from the fellowship time during the service, no one really talked to us or tried to make contact with us other than when someone directed us to move toward the center aisle to make room for others. I don’t say that as a criticism, but rather as an observation of some of the differences between larger churches — where it’s easier to blend in and go unnoticed — and medium to smaller churches, where that’s much harder. Of course, there are some smaller churches that don’t talk to
strangers guests either, but that’s another post.
I can honestly say that Stephen and I enjoyed worshipping at The Village Church. We were blessed to have had the opportunity to go to church in a city away from our home. I have no doubt that The Village Church is impacting the city of Dallas and the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That’s as it should be, whether in Dallas or in Alamogordo, NM. But, having worshipped away from my home church, it does make me appreciate all the more how God has blessed me with a wonderful church family to serve as Pastor.
The church service lasted about 1 1/2 hours, getting out at 12:45 p.m. That’s just long enough for the Presbyterians and Methodists to have come and gone at the restaurants. Being Baptists, we headed out on our continuing quest for great BBQ in Dallas. We ended up at a place that served ribs as their only pork on the menu. They were good, but not great. Maybe we’ll try another spot tomorrow. I’m beginning to think that Texas in general, and Dallas in particular, doesn’t know how to do great BBQ. I hope I’m wrong, but that’s rare 🙂