Home > Church, Faith, God Project > Grace Churches Everywhere—No, Seriously, They’re Everywhere.

Grace Churches Everywhere—No, Seriously, They’re Everywhere.

I’m Sean, Drew’s younger brother. You might have heard of me before, in fact I know you have, because the only reason Drew’s new project is called “The Awesome God Project” is because of me. Also I was featured in a couple of the old Awesome Movie Project blogs (specifically Easy Virtue, where I saved us from an indian Teeny-Popper movie. Easily one of the shining moments in my career.) I’m filling in for Drew this week because;

a) Drew is lazy and starts these projects without really expecting to follow through with them, leaving him scrambling every week to find a guest blogger (Such as Deanna or myself) to cover for him.
b) Kidding.
c) Drew is headed to the Grand Rapids/Kalamazoo area for numerous drunken escapades involving hard drugs and loose women.
d) Just kidding.
e) Drew is headed to the Grand Rapids/Kalamazoo area to hang out with a friend and go see Thrice in concert.
f)True. So Drew. Frak you, I can’t attend the Thrice concert, and I’m bitter about it.
g) Drew is also just lazy enough to not go to Mars Hill and blog about that church.

So I’m left to do his work. The first thing you’ll notice is that I’m a lot more cynical and sarcastic than Drew is. Drew is very cold and calculating about it, I am not. Which would explain why I had some drunken oaf threatening to rip my nose ring out, ensuring I would only have one nostril.
Side note: To be fair, he was saying that Rear Window was amateur moviemaking and Touch of Evil was nothing more than mediocre, I think he deserved the cutting, sarcastic remarks I made.

However, I digress. Onto the actual Awesome part of this post.

I went to Grace Church in downtown Mount Pleasant, Michigan. Currently, and this will come back into play, the church meets at the Ward Theatre, ironically, I think, across from Blue in the Face II, a head shop. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to downtown Mount Pleasant, it really tries to channel quaint downtowns of bigger small towns. Hip bars and delicious restaurants, downstairs boutiques and the occasional eco-friendly store. The Ward Theatre is no exception. It’s easily recognized by the small lit up marquee and classic movie theatre look. As I walked in from the relatively warm night, with Main Street festively draped in white Christmas lights, past the greeter at the door (who did not say hello), the moody lighting prepared me for what I thought would be a smaller scale version of the Traverse City’s Star Theatre, or something in that vein.

I was disappointed.

In the actual theatre, the carpet had been ripped up, and instead of classy theatre chairs, they had typical “church chairs”–If you grew up in a church, you know what I’m talking about.

Attendance was probably somewhere in the 60’s or so. As per usual with churches, coffee was offered for people to mingle and converse by, and, as per usual, I immediately could pick out the groups or cliques. Sad state of affairs, I know.

To be honest, I could sum this up in a paragraph. Grace Church is just like any other small church. Down to what I felt was the over-produced, under-practiced, untalented worship set, complete with the over-zealous, this-is-my-chance-to-shine lead singer (who couldn’t really sing in the range he was trying), to the I-do-this-because-it-makes-me-feel-good-about-myself half a dozen backup singers (two of which doubled as keyboardists–because they needed two keyboardists), and of course the I-want-to-throw-in-a-lame-guitar-solo-because-I’m-frakking-cool guitarists, and yes, they had 2 guitarists and a bassist.

Okay, I lied, it’ll be more of a paragraph.

The entire worship set was accented by numerous videos played over the music. I’m not entirely sure why, to be honest. I found it more distracting than anything. Granted, I’m very visually driven, and I’ve been spoiled by the audio/video combination of Back To The River, Back To The Forest, a local band, of which I know a few members.

As the pastor, Barry Flanders, came up to speak, I could immediately pick up again on what kind of church Grace was, and I can’t say anything negative about it, a small church is made for a teaching pastor. Evangelical preachers work large crowds, but as a teaching pastor and a small community, you can delve deeper into scripture and relate to real life through this. That is exactly what Flanders did.

Here’s the story. Grace Church is moving to the old Ember’s Restaurant on Mission St., and they need help, they need money ($90,000 by the end of the year), they need volunteers. Through reading some of the book of Nehemiah, Flanders quickly made his points clear.

1) Anyone can help
2) True leaders lead
3) Community is messy
4) Faith begins at home

Or, as deciphered by a teaching pastor expert, me…”Help us, okay? Because we need it. We’re trying to take on a huge undertaking, but we…really…really…need your help.”

There. Deciphered. Need I say more?

Couple more things that stuck out to me. I got there 10 minutes early to see how the community would react to a new-comer. As I expected, the only person to talk to me, Mike, would be the only person to talk to me. Young fellow, dressed in the counter-culture style, complete with long dreads. He asked the typical questions; Who are you? Why are you here? What’s your background? Both in faith and school. Why are you barefoot? Why do you have a camera? That’s pretty much it. After Mike talked to me, the girl in front of me turned around. Her name was Kelly. The only thing she asked was;

“Do you work for the newspaper?”
“Are you doing a story on…”
“Oh, okay. Well, my name is Kelly.”

Why do I include this? Because I thought it was interesting. She only turned around after I mentioned I worked for a newspaper. It just goes to show our fascination with media.

Other than that, during the worship set, I noticed some of the same things I notice at other small churches. Typical audience participation, which would be minimal. And at one point, the lead worship singer said “Let’s just praise the Lord by saying Alleluia.”

I never knew it was that easy.

All in all, Grace Church is like any other Grace Church in a small town. There is no difference. It doesn’t stand out. To me, it just melts into the pot of small churches in small towns. They’re all the same, I swear to God.

  1. Neil
    November 23, 2009 at 1:30 am

    Hey Sean, I really dug this post because I can relate. I think you’re right, they are pretty much the same. I was in Africa once and I was shocked about how similar it was to my Evangelical-white-middle-class America church back home. The color of the people was different, and they danced, but it was still church you know? It had the good parts too, the testimonies were incredible, and the potluck afterwards was excellent, chicken and rice!

    This morning I went to Mt. Pleasant Community Church and the pastor gave a sermon without talking. It was pretty neat.

    Let’s get a beer (wait, is that allowed? coffee! i meant coffee!) and talk about what church should be like.


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