|770: Seattle Baptist, Edmonds, Washington, USA|
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Mystery Worshipper: Terry Alford.
The church: Seattle Baptist, Edmonds, Washington, USA.
The building: The building was originally intended as a commercial exercise/work-out club in the 1980s. Everything is brand new and modern. The church has either recently acquired the strip of storefronts next door or they are finally getting around to remodelling them. Whatever the case, there is construction debris and equipment all over the site.
The church: This is a very diverse congregation. Although the majority is white, there are many african-americans and asians. This speaks well for this church when so many of the churches in this area are almost exclusively white.
The neighbourhood: Located two blocks from Lake Ballinger in a residential neighborhood in a suburb 15 miles north of Seattle, this church looks great from the street and is an asset to the area.
The cast: Dr David R. Cox, Pastor, and Doug Willand, who sang and read scripture.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
The sanctuary was three-quarters full, but the hallways were jammed after the service. I estimated approximately 200 in attendance.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
There were two greeters at the door to shake my hand and welcome me. Several people said hello in the foyer and the hallways, but nobody attempted to engage me in conversation.
Was your pew comfortable?
They use the fabric upholstered chairs, as many churches do these days. Comfortable, portable and nice looking.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
This church was very busy with people coming and going, children and grown-ups milling around, chatting and laughing.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good to see you at this time! It's good to have our visitors with us this morning. Amen?" (this was followed by a chorus of "amen"s from the congregation).
What books did the congregation use during the service?
The King James Version of the Bible – and everybody seemed to have theirs with them. We sang out of a standard looking hymnal.
What musical instruments were played?
There was a beautiful baby grand piano at the front of the stage to the left of the audience. It was played very enthusiastically (and competently) by a blonde woman in her late 20s.
Did anything distract you?
While there are often some times during any sermon when a well-placed "amen" is (in my humble opinion) appropriate, I find it distracting when there is a chorus (usually men) who think it is their duty to encourage the preacher every so often with a loud comment. Now maybe this practice is encouraged from the pulpit, I don't know. But at Seattle Baptist, there were several men shouting "Amen!" or "Preach it, brother!" or "Glory!" It didn't seem to distract anybody else, or at least they were better at disguising their annoyance than I am.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The hymns and choruses were definitely of a southern gospel flavor (including a stirring rendition of Just As I Am). The singing was sporadic and not consistently enthusiastic, but it wasn't dull either.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
At 28 minutes into the sermon, the piano began to play softly as Pastor Cox made his final appeal to come forward.
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 David Cox is a preacher in the classic Southern Baptist style! He started in a conversational tone but soon his voice rose until he was almost shouting. Then he would go back down again. His voice was always either rising or falling in intensity. Sometimes he would pound his fist on the pulpit. Sometimes he would sing the words of hymns to make his point. He asked convicting questions: "What about you, Christian...?" He quoted scripture. He waved his arms around. He was definitely entertaining and not boring. Nobody sleeps when he's preaching, I can guarantee you that! I gave him a 7 just for his enthusiasm. However, while grounded in scripture, I didn't find his message all that inspiring.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Do you really love Jesus? When someone asks you what you love, what comes to mind? If your love for Jesus is not the first thing you think of, you should re-examine your priorities.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
I was surprised and pleased by the ethnic variety of the congregation. There were many different races and ages represented. There was also accommodation made for the disabled.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
I get tired of people telling me how happy they are to see me and then proceeding to ignore me!
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Many people smiled and said hello, but nobody stopped to talk. Dr Cox found me in the foyer and welcomed me. However, when I told him I was just visiting, he quickly disappeared.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was no coffee. No cookies. Nothing.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
2 As strongly as these people obviously feel about their faith, it is quite clear that if you want to enjoy the benefits of their love, you must first join their church. Visitors are outsiders to be bribed with gift certificates and tolerated until they ask to be assimilated.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, very much. But if I wasn't already a Christian when I walked in, I would have been very uncomfortable with the message.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Definitely David Cox and his preaching style!