Abbott Loop: 2nd Visit – Not Much Change

[img_assist|nid=142688|title=Tanner Interviewing Baptismal Candidate – Music Group Onstage|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=173]Summary
Last year I visited Abbott Loop Community Church on June 22. I found a church not visitor-friendly, the music long, loud, and too much a show. However the message by a guest preacher was awesome, one of the best I’ve heard in my life.(click here for the review) One of their members contacted me recently, noting they had a new pastor and urging me to give them another try. I visited again on July 26 finding the church still not visitor-friendly, the music even longer, louder, and still a show. The new pastor, Josh Tanner, came across more like a youth pastor with lots of energy, excitement, but not particularly plowing deep into his topic. There may be more “under the hood” than meets the eye in this church but as a local church visitor, I’ve discovered there are local church choices doing a better job: visitors, music, preaching, connecting, in about half the time. This will remain a challenge for Abbott Loop.

Visitor Unfriendly
Abbott Loop doesn’t seem to know what to do with visitors. Visitors tend to be ignored until the middle of the service when they are asked to raise their hand to receive a welcome packet. From the parking lot to my seat, only one person said “hello” and that was the bulletin passer at the door. Only one person shook my hand at the “meet n’ greet” but there were dozens of people around me being glad handed and vigorously hugged by each other, obviously friends and acquaintances. The espresso stand outside of the auditorium doors seemed to be doing a brisk business. No onscreen messages about beverages being brought in either. I do have to say that one member came over and introduced himself before the service, which was nice. That’s it though, just one.

Bring Your Earplugs
The music started promptly at 10 a.m. and continued, almost without interruption for close to an hour. It seemed more show than worship. People dutifully stood, without being urged to do so, when the first chord sounded. Maybe that was a Pavlovian response. But the music was so loud, you could scarcely hear yourself, or others around you for that matter, singing. (I really miss Delores Benjamin now.) The light show was still in play and it was quite a spectacle. The music was interrupted by new Pastor Josh Tanner who presented a passel of baptismal candidates. He interviewed each briefly and that was good. But, he then had everyone go back to their seats and they waited almost 45 minutes to be baptized while enduring the endless musical performance. I’m sorry. If you say you’re going to baptize someone, and introduce them, then do it. Don’t make them wait.

Different Preaching Style
Josh Tanner is a younger preacher, but his talent, energy and delivery come across more as a youth pastor than that of a pastor who can bridge generations. The sermon seemed to be oversimplified and somewhat pedantic. On taking the pulpit he joked that he was “…all fired up with six Red Bull’s” then admitted he was playing with the crowd. It made me wonder about what else in his remarks he was joking about. You can listen to Tanner’s sermon here. It had a little scripture and lots of stories, vignettes, and remembrances. I didn’t realize that Abbott Loop was a prosperity gospel church but with Tanner’s various allusions to money, discovered they probably were. In a baptismal prayer, he asked God to “Increase her financially O Lord”. During the tithes and offerings, he prayed that “God bless our finances”, and posed the question, “How did I get in debt?”

Abbott Loop Evolving
I am left with a distinct impression that Abbott Loop is evolving and going through another phase. It concerned me that the auditorium was about 1/3 full when church started. People drifted in for the first hour or so, what I consider just short of disrespectful. Eventually, the auditorium was about 3/4 full. The two video cameras up front were a big distraction. I can’t say why they were there. The website did not indicate what use was being made of the video. I do give ALCC high marks getting the sermon quickly posted in podcast form. I pestered Pastor Benjamin for months after my last visit about the non-availability of a marvelous sermon by visiting Pastor Iverson. Finally, the website is way too busy. If someone really wants to give this church a visit, they have to scroll and click around to find the worship times. That’s the first thing that should hit a reader’s eye, not a splashy picture of the music team. Google is spare for a reason. Abbott Loop could benefit from Google’s insight.

The baptism was full-immersion water baptism. It concerned me that the pastor doing the dunking seemed to be chewing gum throughout which, if true, I would consider to be in poor taste. I may have missed the point here, but my impression was the service level had declined since Rick Benjamin stepped down. But, I’m more interested in what you, the reader, have to say about this conspicuous eastside church.[img_assist|nid=142689|title=Tanner Preaching|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=263]

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