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173: Millenium Mission, Sheffield Arena, England
Other reports | Comment on this report
Sheffield Arena
Mystery Worshipper: 70s Girl.
The church: Luis Palau Millenium Mission.
Denomination: Non-denominational event.
The building: Sheffield Arena.
The neighbourhood: Regenerated post industrial area with large scale developments (cinemas, shops, etc.), the sort of place you have to drive to.
The cast: Luis Palau, Latin American Evangelist, World Wide Message Tribe (well-known UK Christian pop band), the Christian chap from BBC tv's Blue Peter and someone called Baz.
What was the name of the service?
Millennium Mission Youth Night.

How full was the building?
2,000-3,000 people.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
No, except an usher telling ticketless us that we had to sit in the upper terraces, so unfortunately no dancing at the front.

Was your pew comfortable?
Cushioned seat for thin people with non-existent legs.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Quite buzzy, with people wandering around chatting (average age probably 14). Some trendy-looking young men breakdancing on the stage and loud house music playing, with video screens of the DJ.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Let everybody make a NOISE!" (in house rap shout style).

What books did the congregation use during the service?
None, apart from the freebies for the come-forwarders.

What musical instruments were played?
Mixing the discs, recorded backing for the World Wide Message Tribe and some gentle Gospel with soft drumming as a background while people were coming forward.

Did anything distract you?
General moving around and chatting by young people during the event, though distracting in a nice relaxed way, rather than in a "tut tut" way.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
World Wide Message Tribe do fairly upbeat dance pop stuff, which the party animals at the front joined. We upper terrace people were a bit more self-conscious about "GETTING FRANTIC".

Exactly how long was the sermon?
General talky slots were about 5 minutes or so scattered among the music items, but Luis Palau came in at a full 40 minutes from start to finish.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
3. Sincere but long-winded.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
God makes a difference, illustrated by a continual stream of sentimental stories of poor kids, lonely kids, kids that died young and, most importantly, kids who managed to resist sexual temptation. ("Say no to pre-marital sex" took up at least a quarter of the talk.) Surprisingly sparse on a straightforward gospel message, though we did eventually get to the cross. Finished with a commitment call.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The energy and commitment of the World Wide Message Tribe.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The ridiculous lengths to get as many people down to the front as possible. Five minutes after the initial call we were instructed to turn to our neighbour and say, "Why don't you go down to the front? I will come with you."

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Due to the swarms of young people, the next half hour or so was an amusing exercise in crowd control. "Can we have more counsellors to the front please?" "Does anyone in the auditorium speak Kosovan?" And, my favourite: "Please put your hand up if you need the Special Needs Counselor".

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Not available, though I could have really done with one.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
0. Not an option anyway.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Not personally. To be fair, it seemed to make an impact on the teenagers and children there. I guess one-third of them went forward.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Relief that I didnít invite my non Christian friends along.
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