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2450: Christian Challenge, Glendale Community College, Glendale, Arizona, USA
Christian Challenge, Glendale, AZ
Mystery Worshipper: Amanda B. Reckondwythe.
The church: Christian Challenge, Glendale Community College, Glendale, Arizona, USA.
Denomination: They are affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, although they encourage all Christians and non-Christians alike to take part in their activities.
The building: Like many government campuses, Glendale Community College is a collection of functional but drab buildings. Christian Challenge meets in Room 107 of the Language Arts building, a windowless brick and concrete bunker similar in appearance to most of the other buildings on campus.
The church: Christian Challenge is an evangelical college ministry that conducts outreaches on many campuses throughout Arizona. According to their mission statement, they exist to offer fellowship to Christian students and faculty and to stimulate interest in Jesus Christ among non-Christians. To that end, they hold devotional meetings, Bible study, and a variety of social events. They also sponsor a twelve-week discipleship course and evangelism training.
The neighborhood: Glendale is the first suburb you come to as you cross the Phoenix city line in a northwesterly direction. The college campus is located at 59th Avenue and Olive Avenue, an area dominated by strip malls and working-class apartment complexes. Despite its unremarkable architecture, the campus itself is pleasant, with lots of green shady areas outfitted with benches and tables for relaxation and study. As of July 1, 2012, the college has declared itself to be tobacco-free, and it is really quite a joy to sit outdoors without having to worry about cigarette smoke or discarded butts. Students seem to adhere to the ban voluntarily for the most part, although campus security does from time to time have to deal with the occasional scofflaw.
The cast: Michael Holtfrerich, M.S., chairman of the mathematics department at GCC and faculty advisor to Christian Challenge, was present at the service but did not take part in it. Kyle Hall, regional director of Christian Challenge, West Region, led the opening prayer. A young man named Stephen (no last name given) led the service and preached.
The date & time: Friday, October 5, 2012, 1.00pm.

What was the name of the service?
Worship and Bible Study.

How full was the building?
There were 29 people at the service. The room was a typical classroom that can hold about 35, so it was pretty full. There were slightly more young men than young women present, which surprised me somewhat.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Kyle Hall and Stephen both shook my hand and said hello and welcome. A few others shook my hand and chatted a bit as well.

Was your pew comfortable?
Yes. The chairs were typical plastic schoolroom chairs with plastic desks attached. The whole apparatus was mounted on a circular platter with casters, giving the chairs the appearance of a sideshow fun ride.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
People visited with each other. Stephen asked me how I had learned about Christian Challenge, and if I considered myself a Christian and born again, and why. I told him I was at peace with God and that my understanding of religion in general had changed as I matured, but that I was probably not "born again" in the evangelical sense of the term. He replied that he hoped I would consider myself so before the end of the service.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"I have a couple of announcements before we start." This by Kyle Hall, who went on to announce an upcoming volleyball game and a Halloween costume party.

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Many, but not all, had their own Bibles in various versions with them. Words to the songs and scriptural references from Stephen’s sermon were projected via PowerPoint.

What musical instruments were played?
Acoustic guitar, played by a young man who was introduced as Andrew.

Did anything distract you?
I spotted someone from my Spanish class. We chatted briefly. Several people arrived late, and I had to keep changing the body count in my notes.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Borderline happy clappy, I’d say. There was an opening prayer, an extended singalong session, a sermon and a closing prayer. The songs were quietly folksy in the "Jesus is my boyfriend" tradition. Most people sang along in various degrees of off-key. There was some swaying and hand lifting, but not much. The service ended with a moment of silent prayer during which we might pray to become a Christian, or for others so to become. Many formed small prayer groups, others went down on their knees, others remained seated.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
36 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 – Stephen’s talk was well organized and he spoke quietly and conversationally, with good eye contact.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
What does it mean when we say that Christ is our Lord? We know he is our Savior, but sometimes we think we don’t have to obey him all the time, that we’ll be forgiven. Wrong! Jesus owns us. He bought us with his blood. To call him Lord is to submit to his divine authority and to acknowledge our dependence on God. We should want totally to live for God. It is good to be surrounded by Christian beliefs, but we must make those beliefs our own. Run toward God! The more we’ve sinned, the more grateful we will be for forgiveness.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
It was good to witness the faith of a group of college students on a public college campus all assembling on a Friday afternoon to worship.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Stephen ended his sermon with an account of how he had been born again. To make a long story short, his epiphany revolved around his having rejected the amorous advances of a classmate, the resulting alienation from his friends, and the subsequent counseling he received. Stephen broke down in tears as he recounted the incident. Call me callous, but his talk would have ended on stronger ground without that, I think.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
The end-of-service prayer session gradually segued into a social hour. Kyle Hall asked me what I had thought of the service, and he said he hoped I’d come again. No one else spoke to me, though. There had been no collection, so I slipped my Mystery Worship calling card into Kyle’s Bible when he wasn’t looking.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was none.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
4 – As I explained to Kyle Hall, I am more used to and more comfortable in a liturgical setting. I am not usually on campus Friday afternoons, but I might return again out of curiosity.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
The service did not particularly move me one way or another. Somehow I got the feeling that their definition of Christian is not the same as mine.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The experience of attending a worship meeting on a public college campus.
 
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