I was getting ready to go to a church on Saturday to do a book table and realized at the last moment that I was not sure where it was. Gloria, our store manager, said I couldn’t miss it because it was the church next to Burger King. This seemed pretty convenient to me, especially for “someone” that might get a burger craving at this event. What a great location.
As I drove up to the church, I realized that the Burger King was not the only landmark on that stretch of Rt. 9 that stuck out. The sign for church, New Covenant Community Church was nearly as big and certainly would have been hard to miss. I turned down the road, pulled into the parking lot for the church and began to unpack my stuff for the book table.
Right away, I realized that this was not your “normal” church, though I am not sure what a normal church is these days anyway. The sign on the building and the building itself were not super impressive or designed for shock and awe like some of the cathedrals that I have attended in the past. A sign on the door advertised the Safe Haven Cafe and mentioned that coffee was available inside – things were looking up already and I had just gotten there.
As I had arrived on my own (my colleague would arrive a little later), I stood there for a moment looking like a deer in headlights with boxes in my hands when someone noticed me. They quickly determined that I was the book table guy and showed me the table that I was going to use. I was at this church to provide a book table in support of the national simulcast of Focus on Marriage (Sponsored by Focus on the Family). This church was the local host site and seemed pretty well prepared from the number of flat screen TVs that I observed and the multi-media auditorium equipped with three huge screens for your viewing pleasure.
With that inauspicious start, I was in for a day of blessing at the church next to Burger King. Though I really enjoyed the presenters that Focus on the Family had arranged to speak including Gary Thomas and Francis Chan, my greatest blessing was getting to know the people of this church and see how they did church in 2010.
The pastor and his wife, Steve and Linda Evans, were servants first and pastors/ leaders second. I was there for nearly an hour before I realized that Steve was the senior pastor and founder of the church. He introduced himself initially as just Steve and asked me if I needed any help with the table. His wife Linda was kind enough to get me a second table and again simply introduced herself as Linda. With some of my past church experiences of dealing with pastors and their entourages, this was a breath of fresh air for me. Steve and Linda genuinely cared for the people coming to this event and mentioned how amazing it was that one couple that had signed up via the website were already in divorce proceedings and came anyway. They then asked me to pray for them.
As the day wore on, I wandered into the Safe Haven Cafe and discovered a first rate coffee shop that had live Christian entertainment every Saturday evening. More important to me at that moment was the free wireless access and the huge fireplace. I immediately noticed a dad and child who were attending the simulcast that were a lot more comfortable in the cafe than in the auditorium. Because they had another HUGE flat screen TV in the cafe, he was able to enjoy the event, listen to the speakers and take care of his child all at the same time. From observation, he was a lot better at multi tasking than I am.
We helped a lot of people select books that may play a part in reshaping their marriages for the better. This part of my job is something that I really love – interacting with people, recommending great books and authors and praying that God will use these resources to draw people to Himself and transform their lives. As I was sitting in the lobby waiting for the next break, I watched a couple who clearly needed this simulcast nearly “go postal” on each other right in front of the book table. The guy didn’t care that he was in public and took ample opportunity to embarrass his wife while expressing his frustration at something that had just happened between them. As they rushed out the door, I realized how powerful and necessary these types of events and outreaches are at this time in the life of the church. It seems that more marriages are under pressure than ever before and Satan is having his way far too often in people’s lives.
As the day drew to a close, I was struck by how different this church experience had been for me. The church was building itself was in a former Gold’s Gym. The main sanctuary was built where the pool used to be and it seemed like technology was in the very fiber of the church itself. They advertised a Beth Moore simulcast in April and encouraged people to sign up on line at the computer in the lobby. On one hand, the interpersonal interactions that I observed all day were very low tech and personal – an incredible staff of volunteers helping Steve and Linda to implement the vision that God has given them. On the other hand, they were using all the tools of our modern world, TV, Internet, coffee, etc. to reach people as they actually live and communicate. What a great combination.
I will never again drive down Rt. 9 past Burger King without remembering this corner of God’s Kingdom and how Steve and Linda and the people of New Covenant Community church are shining the light of God’s truth into dark places one marriage and one life at a time.