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2196: Evangelical Church of Bangkok, Thailand
Evangelical Bangkok (Exterior) Photo: i_mongan
Mystery Worshipper: Freshopus.
The church: Evangelical Church of Bangkok, Thailand.
Denomination: Christian and Missionary Alliance, Thailand field office.
The building: The four-storey building is in a back lane of central Bangkok. The outside of the building features the church logo, along with a big cross, on the façade. The lobby takes up the ground floor; the auditorium is on the next level; and classrooms for children's church and Bible study classes fill the two top floors. There is a wooden cross in the auditorium above the choir stand. The building was not hard to find as it was right at the end of the alley, and shuttle buses provide a complimentary service.
The church: The Evangelical Church of Bangkok (ECB) is a church for expatriates, and has a thousand-strong multicultural congregation from more than 40 nations. They support a full schedule of ministries, classes and groups all described on their website.
The neighbourhood: The building is located in the city centre of Bangkok between two mass transit stations, a ten minute walk down a soi (alley) from Sukkhumvit, the main road. There are many hotels and restaurants, both Thai and international, as the area is a popular place for tourists. Many tuk tuks (taxis) transport people through the alleys to their destinations. Around the area are sizable communities of Arabs, Japanese and Koreans. Although Thailand is considered a Buddhist country, Christianity counts for three per cent of the population. However, ECB is an expatriate church where the number of foreigners outnumbers Thais.
The cast: Kinue Onishi led the worship, Kevin Moua hosted the service, and Jeff Dieselberg was the speaker. Lead pastors David and Ty King were away on holiday.
The date & time: 19 June 2011, 11.15am.

What was the name of the service?
Worship Service.

How full was the building?
The 500-seat auditorium was packed, although there were a few empty seats around.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
An usher shook my hand and handed me the bulletin. We were also asked to greet the people next to us during a part of the service.

Was your pew comfortable?
No pews, but blue, padded chairs. And yes, they were comfortable.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
The pre-service atmosphere was quiet, although there were some people chatting in their seats.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning, ECB! Today is a special day, because Jesus is here!"

What books did the congregation use during the service?
There was a Bible in front of us, but the verses were projected on a screen, along with song lyrics.

What musical instruments were played?
There was a full band consisting of a keyboardist, two guitarists, bassist, and an electric drum kit (which sounded like the real thing!), along with a 12-member choir and two backup singers.

Did anything distract you?
The sermon dragged on for so long that I had to take a toilet break in the midst of it.

Bangkok Evangelical (Interior)
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
We sang contemporary songs. Most people clapped during the upbeat songs, and a few people raised hands. It was pleasantly peaceful.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
It was around 45 minutes, including a testimony that was simultaneously translated from Thai into English.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 – Jeff was a very enthusiastic and charismatic speaker and delivered some strong points and ideas, but the sermon meandered on for too long.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The sermon, entitled "Not ashamed to be a fool", elaborated on how God has already forgiven and forgotten our mistakes. The main text was from 1 Corinthians 1:18, 21-25 (Christ crucified is God's power and wisdom). The reading came, unusually, at the closing of the sermon. We do not need to condemn ourselves for our mistakes, as God has a sovereign plan in spite of these circumstances. The point was that in our Christian walk, some people may think that we are foolish, but we should not be ashamed of our beliefs.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The song during the offering, entitled "Before the throne of God above", delivered a reassuring message about God's redemptive and forgiving purpose. During the benediction, Jeff made us hold our palms downwards, and prayed that we would have the strength to let go of regret and condemnation.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The meandering sermon, and missing a part of it because of going to the toilet. Also, some people ignored me when I offered a handshake during the greeting time!

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
The first thing I noticed was that everybody was scrambling for the doors. Most of them seemed interested either in going home or spending time with those they knew.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was free punch in the lobby, along with coffee and tea, served in a polystyrene cup. I have tasted better.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 – ECB is a strongly biblical church, which suits my personality. But I would definitely have to consider joining one of their life groups so that I can get to know more people.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Definitely! I love worshipping with so many people of different nationalities.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Putting my palms face down during the benediction.
 
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