10:15am – Event Cinema 7, St. Luke’s Shopping Mall
Yep, it was church with a difference all right. On Sunday I was invited to speak at a new church plant here in Auckland started by a friend of mine – Rowan Hilsden. Renting facilities is really expensive for this kind of work so they meet in a movie theatre at the Mall. I must admit, it did feel a little weird at first. I kept expecting some movie trailer to come on at any moment. The acoustics however, were great and needless to say, so were the overheads (use of the ¾ million dollar projector is part and parcel of the rental).
We prayed, we sung and we heard the Word being read and preached (by me). Rowan doesn’t preach using a pulpit and the musicians don’t use music stands so I found myself a little caught out and having to adapt very quickly on the hop. Fortunately my bible holds well in the hand – both open and closed and my notes are A5 size so they fit well in your hand or on top of the bible. This, added to the totally different environment and in the glare of bright spots was a real test for me. My wife said she could tell I felt a little awkward at first (they are able to pick up on these things), but I soon relaxed and settled in to my usual preaching mode.
By the time we left the Sunday shoppers were starting to pour in and the place was a hive of noise and activity you would expect at such a place. It suddenly hit me that this was the market place, and here we were, worshiping God with God’s people in the midst of the market square. This was a totally different experience to walking out of the four walls of your nice, little purpose-built church. Here we were amidst people of the world in their environment. You can’t help but think hard about mission and reaching the lost.
Talking about it with Francelle on the way home we only came up with a couple of downsides to this set-up:
- Cinema seating isn’t all that conducive to fellowship. It isn’t all that easy turning to talk to the person in front or behind you.
- Following the service, we had to walk out of the theatre and across the food court to get to “Moa’s Nest” – the café they hire for fellowship. Once I found it was fine, and the coffee was great! But I could easily imagine some new-comer getting lost.
6:15pm – Shadows Bar, Auckland University
Sunday evening and it was off to the university campus for ‘Uni Church’ at the Shadows Bar. This has only been running a couple of months now and already they have up to 80 students, mostly who live on or near campus and many of whom are not yet Christians. Rowan preaches the same sermon but adapts it for the different setting. And different it was!
Yet after the morning’s experience, I was more prepared. In fact, I even chose to preach without a stand even though there was one available. In a strange kind of way, I was much more comfortable in the bar than the movie theatre. Maybe it was just that giant screen behind me, or people arrayed out in front of me in plush armchair-like seats. The bar was a lot cosier and I was closer to the people. I experienced a fresh-filling of God’s spirit and enjoyed preaching. It was a wonderful experience and a terrific opportunity. I went home full of joy and thanksgiving.
There’s one last thing I want to share: sitting on a bar stool while worshiping God in song, it suddenly hit me. This was the same bar I used to go to party at when I was a student at Auckland Uni many years back. I was only 18 years old and without Christ and without hope. Now here I was, nearly 30 later, completely transformed – with a new heart and a new empowering, preaching the gospel of hope to a lost world. God works in mysterious and wonderful ways.
My text was Psalm 77:13,
“Your Way, O God, is holy
What god is great like our God?”
Indeed – I can think of none.