Surprised at Abbott Loop Community Church

[img_assist|nid=126362|title=Abbott Loop Community Church’s Sign on the SE Corner of Lk. Otis & Abbott|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=170]June 22, 10:50 a.m., dodging raindrops to get to the entrance of Abbott Loop Community Church before getting soaked, I saw someone coming toward me with a handful of umbrellas. He was spraying out “Good Mornings” exuberantly. I thought “praise the Lord”. But it was not to be. Whoever he was, he had a great idea, but sailed on past me with a fair young maiden in his sights. I assumed she was a known church member. Thus, a visit rich with surprises quickly began.

What, No Greeting?
I was not greeted at all other than to be offered a bulletin and good morning from an older couple at the doors of the worship auditorium. On the surface, Abbott Loop does not seem to care about the visitors reaching out to them. However, as I looked for a seat, a younger woman with a child in her arms greeted me as she headed to her seat.

Abbott Loop worships, theater style, in a large auditorium accented by a huge screen. The band was setting up and Christian rock was playing on the sound system. The screen was flashing the message “PLEASE, NO FOOD OR DRINK IN THE AUDITORIUM”. This was a first in all my church visits and indicated there must be a problem with these items. Rather than this message, I suggest one asking that “CELLPHONES AND PAGERS BE TURNED OFF OR SWITCHED TO SILENT MODE”. I was amazed at the number of phones that went off during the services this day.

Music Show
At 11 a.m. the 9 piece band began playing. Delores Benjamin, the pastor’s wife was playing the grand piano center stage and appeared to be the lead musician. Initially, I became somewhat concerned as the screen only showed live shots of the band, not the unfamiliar words they were singing, which is “entertainment”, not “worship” style. Later, during “Meet n’ Greet”, I asked and was told the screen usually showed the words of the song, which later proved true. An added bit of entertainment was the light show playing on the backdrop behind the band. There was a half-hour of the music, some of which I would categorize as sappy sentimentalism. But…I was not totally disappointed. I loved their rendition of “I Am Thine O Lord”!

A glance at my bulletin showed this was not a normal Sunday. It was REUNION WEEKEND, whatever that meant. As a church reviewer I sensed disaster. All I wanted was a normal service by the regular pastor. As it turned out, Abbott Loop has seeded many churches and this was a reunion, of sorts, of those involved with the seeding, supplemented by additional meetings throughout the weekend.

What Higher Purpose do Meet n’ Greets Have?
During the “Meet n’ Greet” I noted spotty participation by those assembled. Many seemed uncomfortable with the process. I was asked by the people to whom I introduced myself, if I was a member or if I lived here. I felt I was being categorized as a member, a Reunion returnee, or a potential member, but not as a welcome guest. No one really every says, “I’m really glad you came to visit us.”

The remarks prior to receiving the offering used the biblical story of Hannah giving Samuel to Eli for service to God. I could be wrong, but I’m at a loss as to why this passage of scripture was used, almost as a defense, for taking the offering. I will address some current debates about church giving in an upcoming blog post.

Finally, a bright spot. A number of men, came forward, each giving a unique testimony of some facet of the Christian life. I don’t know if this a regular feature of Abbott Loop’s worship, but it worked for me. Who were those guys?

This Man Could Really Preach
Wait, wait…It can’t be true. The visiting speaker was introduced as Dick Iverson, a 79 year old pastor from Portland. He gave a marvelous message on Practical Christianity quoting scripture accurately and from memory. He noted that everyone comes with a problem, otherwise they wouldn’t be here. That we’re putting God in a box and going nowhere. He pressed we must think different, especially we must:
* Love our city
* Love the City of God

Without a doubt, this pastor spoke to me. He didn’t rely on notes, just spoke from his heart, something few pastors do, or even can do these days. Quoting scripture freely, as appropriate, he connected the dots about what makes us real community Christians. This was a wonderful message with meaningful illustrations that really spoke to my heart, especially one about reluctantly leaving his easy chair to go pray for a woman in a hospital with unexpected results. I intend to listen to the sermon again from Abbott Loop’s website.

The entire service lasted 1 3/4 hours but the time passed quickly. Abbott Loop is a charismatic church. They need to work on dealing with visitors but I still consider it a good option for the first time visitor. I hope to revisit this church to hear the Pastor, Rick Benjamin, speak.
[img_assist|nid=126365|title=Abbott Loop Community Church|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=166]

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