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589: Southport Church of Christ, Queensland, Australia
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Southport Church of Christ
Mystery Worshipper: Boronia.
The church: Southport Church of Christ, Queensland, Australia.
Denomination: Church of Christ.
The building: The main building is typical of most Australian churches – more of a modern auditorium than a traditional English church. The whole building has plenty of light and space, being tastefully painted in shades of green with lovely palm trees instead of vases of flowers. They also have another place of worship – one of the most unusual buildings I have ever seen for a church – called "church on the water". This is a small, wooden, floating chapel which seats about 70 people and is moored on the Broadwater at Southport. It is used for special outreach functions.
The church: Apart from the auditorium, there seemed to be areas for all sorts of activities. It is situated over the road from the Gold Coast campus of Griffith University and they run a coffee shop for students, a childcare centre and lots more. The church is very active in the community and there is something for everyone, with over 100 small groups within the church, as evident from their website.
The neighbourhood: The church is only a few kilometres. from the tourist/surf hot spots of Southport and Surfers Paradise Beaches (as you can see in the aerial photo above). Being inland a few kilometres and hence away from the tourist strip, it has plenty of well-heeled homes around the neighbourhood.
The cast: Alan Cann, the associate pastor, led the worship and William Thorburn, the senior pastor, gave the message.
What was the name of the service?
9.00 am Sunday morning service.

How full was the building?
The church was full with 754 adults and 223 children. They are well organised, and have an official counter, which is just as well as I kept losing count!

Did anyone welcome you personally?
We were welcomed by the friendly, official hand shaker outside the front door and then given the church bulletin inside the foyer by another gentleman.

Was your pew comfortable?
The seating was padded benches, tastefully covered in dark blue material. They were comfortable enough to stop backache but not so comfortable that you would doze off

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Here I have to confess that I was late; not much though as they had only just burst into song as we walked in.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
After the first song the worship leader said "Turn around and welcome each other". We obeyed.

What books did the congregation use during the service?
The words to the hymns and songs were projected onto the wall, and you were encouraged to follow readings from your own bible.

What musical instruments were played?
Piano, keyboard, guitars and drums

Did anything distract you?
At communion they had about a dozen men passing out the elements. The women are obviously held in high esteem and given a rest on Sunday from serving food.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The service could be described as modern/contemporary with mostly modern music. I was surprised that no one clapped or raised their arms, but they did sing with all their might to the Lord. An oldie but goodie, the battle hymn of the republic (Glory, Glory, Halleluiah), was enjoyed by all. We were treated to five women singing "Hold me now", and a young bloke belting out "Thank you oh our Father", all sung in a very professional and uplifting manner. The audio people are to be commended for getting the right balance of sound to back the singers and not drown them out, which is a feat not many churches accomplish.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
35 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
10 – He was good. He knew his stuff, using just the right amount of humour and emotion. It was a slick presentation, but somehow, amongst all the professionalism, he came across as honest and loving. I took a point off him because I didn't like his dark gangster shirt and tie but gave it back again as he managed to give a message without the usual three points, repeated three times: well done Bill!

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The message "Empowered by the spirit" was the third in a series titled "Dynamic Christianity". Acts 13:5-12 was the passage preached on. The preacher explored several different themes in his message, including: we are not to be a distraction to others hearing God's word; the impact of the word of God to change lives; balance of the word and the Holy Spirit at work; and communion of saints. He then gave a gospel message for any whom may not have become Christians: see yourself in God's eyes; realise that He loves you; turn back to God; and receive His solution to the problem – Jesus.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Being with such a lot of like minded people, well represented by all the different age groups, just enjoying God and worshipping together.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The perfumes and aftershaves were overwhelming – to me anyway.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
As soon as the service was finished, you were carried away by the tide of people to the coffee/tea, which made it easy to find. I stood by myself in one court yard and no one spoke to me, so I went back to the tea room and tried to look lost and lonely, and still no one spoke to me. I then went to another courtyard where they were cooking hotdogs, which made me feel hungry. The hungry look was a winner, as after about four minutes, a lovely lady stopped and asked if I was by myself. We had a lovely chat and I met her daughter and grandkids too.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
It was home brand coffee or tea, served in polystyrene cups.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 – I am not used to such a large church, but I was impressed that they are trying very hard to make everyone feel important and wanted, not lost in the crowd. They seem to be meeting the needs of a diverse crowd.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, to be with so many genuine people praising God, praying, singing, and listening together was wonderful.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
I am impressed by the dedication of so many people to make such a large church run so well. I admire their generosity to give willingly to help within the church, and to reach out to the community.
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