Crossing @ Birchwood: Better Visit

After my June 11, 2009 visit to The Crossing @ Birchwood, I posted a less than favorable review. (Click here to read my previous review). During my revisit on April 3, 2011, I found a more congenial service.

The greeting was great, music ok, and message interesting. Still some rough spots, but I’d revisit if I were a first-time guest. With this kind of welcome, I was surprised they didn’t haul out a welcome gift and present it.

Greeting – All Out
Before I reached my seat, I was greeted four or more times; Twice at the outside door, one at the inside entrance, and upon going into the sanctuary. In preliminary remarks, Pastor Rud encouraged people to come early, get a badge, and be a part of the welcoming team. Very laudable, this was the first time I’ve heard any church encourage becoming part of the welcome team so openly.[img_assist|nid=156552|title=Pastor Brad Rud and the Praise Team|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=191]

The screen up front displayed a countdown clocking displaying minutes until the service commenced, a helpful and timely reference point for guests. Promptly at 11 a.m. the praise group took to the stage. The worship leader announced “So you can go ahead and stand with us.” Worship leaders in guest-friendly churches always invite people to stand rather than tell them.

Let the Music Begin
The Crossing’s nine member praise group sounds good. Most of the group, however, were in the dark and could barely be seen, an easy fix. This is one of the few churches I’ve seen that projects the words to the songs on the back wall for the benefit of the singers. Despite this, several key group member’s eyes were glued to their music stands. Eye contact and smiles are critically important for musicians to establish audience rapport.

The musicians covered five songs during their part of the program. My favorite was the powerful Stuart Townend song, “In Christ Alone”. If you’ve never heard it check it out on iTunes. Including brief preliminaries, there was slightly over ½ hour of music.

Why Do Meet n’ Greets?
I estimate 300-500 people were in attendance at this service, but when they were encouraged to greet those around them, I was touched by only three members. As a guest, it’s always an awkward moment to stand there feeling invisible. Why do it if it’s not working? Seriously!

Some Awkward Moments
-Guitar strumming during prayer distracting
-Long pauses/rests during some praise group songs
-Guests not excepted from morning offering
-Guests not welcomed or mentioned
-Pastor speaking on main floor. Couldn’t see him.[img_assist|nid=156553|title=Pastor Rud Speaking from Main Floor|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=144]

Pastor Speaks
Starting his message, Sr. Pastor Brad Rud asked all to turn to Philippians 4. He then proceeded to take an unnecessary swipe at those who use iPods, iPhones (me), iPads, Kindles, etc. for their scriptures. Rather, he encouraged people to read real Bibles in church. The world is in a vigorous change, in many ways, from printed to digital printing. If The Crossing @ Birchwood wants to be relevant to all comers, this argument should possibly be discarded. We were then asked to stand for the reading of the scripture.

Rud’s sermon, Part 2 in a study of Philippians, was well delivered. He’s a good speaker. To listen to this sermon, click here. Dressed in jeans and a dark shirt, Rud uncharacteristically did not look like a typical Baptist preacher. I liked it. A few more Baptist preachers ought to try it. Suits and ties came in during the 1700’s.

Altar Call
Rud ended his sermon with a characteristic Baptist altar call. The pianist came on stage 20 minutes before the altar call. At the appropriate time, she began to play the piano softly. To me, it interfered with my concentration on Rud’s remarks. Music seems to be used in many churches, like the soundtrack in a movie. Almost every facet of the service has music over or behind the activity. It can be distracting. It plays too much to the emotions.

After the offering (Did I mention guests were not excepted?), the praise group took to the stage for a closing song. This time we were invited to stand with “Would you please stand and join us?”. I enjoyed this second visit, with exceptions noted, and would have revisited if this had been my first visit. It’s my opinion they still have a ways to go in becoming more guest-friendly, but I can see why The Crossing @ Birchwood is quite popular.

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