>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!