After rereading Pastor Bob Mather’s Advent Reflection today, I figured it was time for me to revisit this growing congregation. Baxter Road Bible Church is stable spiritually and growing rapidly, in marked contrast to other congregations in town. While BRBC does not follow the liturgy of Advent, they certainly aggressively pursue the intent of Advent.
I arrived a few minutes late this morning for the second service at noon, was greeted by a sole greeter, and handed a bulletin. Other than Pastor Bob greeting me after the service, no one else talked to me or greeted me. This is one of the few areas this church could improve upon.
The music has improved significantly. It’s more subdued, played by a contemporary praise band of piano, sax, drums and several vocalists. A nice selection of Christmas carols was played during parts of the service. The congregation seemed to enjoy singing them. I would estimate that no more than 30% of the service was music.
Communion was served early in the service. While it was being distributed, one of the elders gave a short communion message concluding with “Let us eat together”. It was a reverent and meaningful time. No mention was made as to whether it was open communion so I did not partake. It is important that churches make this clear.
John Carpenter, BRBC’s Associate Pastor and former Channel 2 sportscaster, gave the message based on The Road to Bethlehem. He is a good presenter and received many “amen’s” during his sermon, unusual in most Anchorage churches. I liked the way he concluded by inviting worshipers to “…trust God, though the journey is long…”.
When the offering was called for, Pastor Bob greeted the visitors again, letting them know an offering was not expected from them. This practice is extremely rare among churches, yet as noted on CBS Sunday Morning today, it’s one of the reasons the 20% without religious affiliation say they shy away from church membership. As noted earlier today on Pastor Bob’s Advent Reflection on this blog, this church is giving 100% of church income this month to local worthy non-profit organizations as their gift to Jesus, under the theme, “Whose birthday is it anyway?” This church is a true blessing to our community. Last year they contributed over $50,000 from this extreme charity to local charitable causes without fanfare. I’m unaware of any local church that practices this degree of dedicated giving.
Finally, I appreciated the fact that the church was very spare on decorations with only two Christmas baskets, and a bow on the microphone, up front to denote the season. This church has been making significant changes to keep up with the best practices demonstrated by growing and loving churches.