Your friend pulls into the Schafferke Industrial Complex on a Sunday morning. You expect the place to be empty, but you notice through the flowering trees that there are at least a few dozen cars that have filled up the front parking area and more are spilling into a back parking area. The building before you is a few stories tall, it looks like any other commercial building of its time – nothing but glass and concrete.
When you step inside, you notice the large concrete and steel staircase that groups of people are ascending. There is an elevator, your friend notes, but it’s just easier to take one of the sets of stairs. After being greeted at the double doors, you walk into the sanctuary. The lights are quite dim, but it’s enough to see through.
There are three sections of chairs at least ten deep. The front row has a third of the chairs that the back row has. You take your seats in the middle of the far left section. The stage before you looks like a miniture concert stage or a smaller version of a school auditorium. The biggest difference is that there is a large wooden cross in the back of the left side of the stage and there are some flickering candles on the front corners of the stage. To both sides there is a screen with announcements and other information displaying in a continual slideshow with a box counting down the time in the corner.
Once the countdown is complete, the people quietly take their seats and stop talking amongst each other. The lights go from dim to dark as a number of people take the stage. As they begin to play the drums, guitar, and base, words to the song now display on the screens, “I am free to run … I am free to dance … I am free to live for You … I am free …” They play two other songs that sound vaguely familliar. They play them loudly and correctly. You notice how the other people take in the music, some people have raised their hands in praise. Another has just whistled loudly. Nobody seems to mind. The lights are returned to its former level of dimness.
Then the pastor takes the stage wearing a graphic t-shirt, jeans shorts that look as if they’ve seen better days, and sandals. His sermon includes a video that is played on the screens, which also shows all the bible references he is using. Today he is talking about the danger of people who are going in vaguely the same dirrection but a little further to the left or right than you. A slight turn can begin the trip to doing a full one hundred eighty degrees. Then there is a prayer and that’s it.
Your friend had told you that his church was different, but that could have meant anything. They might do the order differently, they might do the music differently. But this? It was so different it just felt wrong somehow. Your friend, as if he knew what you were thinking said that the first time his friend brought him to this church he wasn’t quite comfortable with it because it was so unlike the church he had known for so long. In fact, it took him half a year before he came back to this church for a second visit. But after that, he kept on comming.
This church was a seeker’s church, for those who hadn’t grown up singing children’s songs in Vacation Bible School. This church was a church for those who had been burnt by other churches but weren’t at the point that they wanted to quit church alltogether. He takes you down another set of stairs to see a mural on the wall. It is like the graphic art on a graffiti-stewn wall in the city, there is Jesus on the cross, being viewed from his side. His finger pointing toward the viewer. His face looking at you.
This church does alot of things differently. They dim the lights in the service so that people can feel free to walk out if this place doesn’t suit them. There are boxes by the doors to collect tithes so that people don’t feel forced to give if they don’t really want to. The whole point of this church is be different because all of the other churches aren’t much different and if it works for the people that go to them, that’s fine. This church is an alternative if the other churches don’t suit you.