Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Journey Church

>This week's WorshipIdeas is by Chris Surratt, campus pastor of Seacoast Greenville. He and I both love to visit other churches when we can - here's his account of Journey Church in Manhattan. Read his blog at:

My family and I recently took a week of vacation and headed up to New York to do some major sight-seeing. Since we were going to be there over a weekend, we decided to do my favorite tourist activity - check out another church! Being a pastor for a living, I don't get the opportunity to see other churches very often, so it’s always a treat when I can. We decided to attend the Journey Church in the middle of Manhattan. I had been able to connect with their Executive Pastor, Kerrick Thomas, at our Multi-Site Conference in Charleston, and I really wanted to see what they were doing.

The Journey Church was launched in 2002 by Nelson Searcy, who had been on staff at Saddleback Church in CA. In 4 years, they have grown to over 2000 people and are launching their second site in Jersey City next month! All of this while meeting in a 7th floor ballroom on 31st street in Manhattan. It was the first church that I have been to that had a greeter on the elevator! We first stopped off on the 6th floor to drop our kids off for their kid’s church. The children’s volunteers were extremely friendly and walked us through the process of signing our kids in and finding their class. However, this was our first indication that their congregation is extremely young - there weren’t enough kids in my oldest daughter’s class, so they put her in with the little tots. She wasn't thrilled about that!

Our next stop was the auditorium on the next floor up. It was a very large, ornate ballroom that occasionally hosts boxing matches on Friday nights. The majority of the chairs were taped off, forcing us to find a seat towards the front. As more people entered the room, they would "un-tape" another row. This really helped the crowd dynamics, and filled up the normally empty front rows first.

The service started off with a very well done baptism highlights video that promo'd their upcoming beach baptism in a couple of weeks. The band then kicked into a cover of Tom Petty’s "Free Falling" that served the purpose of bringing the people in and getting them to their seats. When we first sat down, the seats were mostly empty. By the time the first song was over, the room was almost full. They then went into a few songs of rocking’ worship led by their worship arts pastor, Jason Hatley. I thought it was interesting that Jason led the entire set with an electric guitar.

Kerrick then came out and announced that because the message that morning was on getting out debt, they were going to give $1000 dollars to someone in that service to go towards their debt! Being that they are in the middle of the most expensive place to live in America, this announcement was well received. Nelson then came on stage and gave a good message on the basics of getting out of debt. He was able to use a personal example of how his family was able to crawl out of debt - after moving to Manhattan five years ago! At the end of the message, they brought out a guy who had just become a member and talked about the next opportunity for membership. This was a great idea for putting a face on a normally boring announcement. At the very end of the hour long service, they had a drawing on stage for the $1000 debt winner.

Over all, we really enjoyed our experience. They are obviously making a large dent in one of the highest un- churched areas in the country!


sweetswede said...

Maybe I missed it but at what point did they actually preach from the Bible? Call me a skeptic but it sounds to me they were preaching a fluff Gospel.

Don Chapman said...

I wouldn't call you a skeptic, I'd call you a genius. Since Chris didn't give details about the sermon, that you can conclude the content is "fluff" proves that your power of deduction is astonishing. I'll bet they didn't even have a sermon, since all of these new-fangled churches are just so... shallow. And since New York City is a horrible, drug-infested place, I would guess this wasn't, in fact, even a church, but some sort of cover for one of those drug parties they have up there.

worshipful1 said...

The thing that struck me most is that he mentioned the use of the Tom Petty song. I have heard of big churches using music from the secular world in their services. I have mixed emotions about all of that. Because I realize we have to bring people in and meet them where they are, I realize that secular music is a way to begin the process...but on the other hand my heart goes back to the "in and not of" argument. Just as quickly, I hear of another song that actually fits a service and topic nicely, and I see the value of using what people know and moving forward with it. What are your thoughts on the topic?

Don Chapman said...

I never was a fan of using secular music in church. My thinking was that you can listen to that all week long - can't we just concentrate on God for one hour on Sunday morning?

Then I met someone who told me she'd been drawn into her church when they did a U2 song to open the service. She had been invited by a friend and was so surprised to hear a song like that in a church that she came back, eventually became a Christian and ended up being really involved in the ministry. The U2 song was what opened the door for her.

I guess it depends on your church mission. Do you want to preserve church culture or step outside the box and see how God moves?

sweetswede said...

Chris said that the message was on getting out of debt. That seemed to me to indicate all the detail he thought important.

I'm glad they've started a successful church in such an unchurched area. I'm not gonna say this is the case at this church, but the church has paid a high price for popularity before.

Anonymous said...

The pharisees strike again! In their spirit, "If it is not of our tradition, according to our custom and attuned to our preferences, then it cannot be of God!" Check out their website. You will find each and every message preached on that site and you will find each and every message full of the gospel and Biblical truth. You probably won't like it though because they do not preach from a 1611 King James Bible and they refrain from saying "Jeeeesus!" in the elongated, religous, pharisaical way!

Sheep-Ear said...

What “sweetswede” is saying is that what the aforementioned article FOCUSED on. It spoke on money changers…I mean, on money…$1,000 to be raffled off; it spoke on the message/sermon about getting out of debt (couldn’t this be taught by any worldly person…say, Suzy Orman?); it spoke on taping off chairs so people would sit up front (seems to be an important problem); it spoke on “crowd dynamics” (also something Jesus did a lot, right?); it spoke about having a LOT of growth…over 2,000 people attended already (Jesus had more on Palm Sunday…oops, most were not true believers were they?); it spoke about doing “promos” on beach baptism (it was so “well done” that…who wouldn’t want to get baptized!?); it spoke on putting a “new member face” to become a member, so like jazzing it up, making it look cool (I think Jesus did that too—wasn’t it called John the Baptist?). My question is what about Acts 2:42? The four legs of the church are not mentioned. There’s no biblical basis for any of the thing mentioned in the article. Sounds to me like you are embarrassed to go to any church that isn’t “cool”. I mean, you can say, “I go to church where they play secular music and give away money. Isn’t that cool?” So, what the sweet 17 year old (out of the mouth of babes) was saying was yeah it sounded fluffy, because it is. But, I’m sure your loving retort back certainly showed her, huh? Don, what exactly were you trying to show her? I am just so saddened by this. Is “sweetswede” a “resister”?

Actually, to me, it just looks like a man who has been burned by a legalistic religion (and rightly so, it’s evil and more evil than just living without God), and who is now just rebelling into a weak and worldly religion. There’s no fruit of the Spirit or reality with Jesus. I can’t blame you. You’ve been taught to be whitewashed tombs your whole life (given lists and lists of unbiblical rules), never really knowing Jesus. But what about now? You judge yourself…Don, was your remark to “sweetswede” loving, kind, joyful, peaceful, patient, good, faithful, gentle and with self-control? There’s no scripture being used, there’s no thought or desire on what the Lord would want (or at least it’s not expressed), or what the Bible says, but just what will “excite” people into coming to CHURCH. Just ask yourself this: Did Jesus makes things kewl and new “relevant” at the temple to attract a crowd? Did they get the latest sandal washer to entice people to come? Or maybe I missed the part where they gave away a pair of sandals for anyone who invites a friend (yeah, I really don’t know what else they had that would have been cool, but you get the idea). What makes “church” (body of believers) exciting is seeing the true and living God at work changing people’s lives, giving them FREEDOM in Christ. It’s not by just using gimmicks like raffling off $1,000. Don’t mistake following the Lord, and His word, and obeying Him as being judgmental and legalistic.

Do you mean to belittle those who might oppose your view? Any question or admonishment is dismissed, and quickly! And you are so quick to call anyone judgmental who opposes your view. I don’t blame you; legalism and judgmental people are hurtful, and there’s no doubt that’s happened to you more than once.

Now, sincerely I just want you guys to look at what you are saying and thinking and really see if it matches up with Jesus. Not because I said so, but because HE did: 2 Timothy 3:16. And just be careful what kind of “new” thing you are embracing. Don’t just shut your mind down here…almost EVERY book of the New Testament talks about false teachers/prophets. Please be careful. We are not supposed to entice people to come into the church, we are to go to church to get edified and grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus and get strengthened in order to GO OUT and make disciples of all the nations (then, they’ll come into church and do the same thing…look again at Acts 2:42). Some of this stuff you are saying seems so wrong. Please PRAY, PRAY, PRAY and then pray some more. John 6:26-27 “Jesus answered them and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.”

You know, don’t think I have all the answers, but I just want to plead with you to really seek the Lord and ask if you are laboring for the food which perishes ($1,000 giveaways, sitting in a certain seat, top staff talent, really cool bulletins and video presentations, and promos, cool tech teams, cultural architects, loving & seeking after worldly things, fill in the blank_______________ here); and also to seek if you’ve ever been healed from your legalistic background and have really surrendered your life completely to Jesus, not just a new religion that’s cool and relevant.

Anonymous said...

Use any means possible, including music, advertising, and above all the Fruits of the Spirit - to bring in SOULS. Nothing else matters. I don't care how it's done, for the most part, as long as there is a harvest of souls then we have done our job.

Anonymous said...

I understand that we are not suppose to be gullible to lies and deceit, but come on, you who sit here for good valuable minutes bashing people who are leading people to know God. Does it matter? Are you aware of our economic crisis? I'm glad that there is a blog on the Journey Church in New York. I am apart of the Journey Church in a small town in Arkansas. But as far as you"skeptics" get off your high horse and get off the internet and dig into something yourself. Quit being sooooo judgmental and HELP the cause... don't knock it. PEACE!!

Pastor Jason Carter said...

I do not attend Journey (though I have visited), nor do I even live in NYC, but I've known Nelson Searcy and Jason Hatley for over 10 years - since Nelson was the director of Evangelism for the North Carolina Southern Baptist Convention and Jason was a college student at App State. I can testify that both of these men are straight up, to the core evangelical, bible believing, God-fearing men. Jason, Nelson, and their planning teams work weeks out to diligently plan every single little element of their services to best communicate the central truth of that particular worship service. Every aspect is bathed in prayer and expertly executed for the glory of God.

So to all of you who draw negative conclusions about their mission, ministry, church or integrity based upon this bloggers' brief description of his visit to Journey - shame on you.