Do you ever wonder what your church looks like to an outsider? Some churches we know, in order to get a good visitor’s perspective, have recruited outsiders (non-believers, non-church-goers) to attend a service and then write a review, which can be quite instructive to church staff and leadership.
Recently we came across a church-review website which carried a review of a visit to one of our Grace Brethren Churches in Long Beach, California (pictured). The reviewer gave a “four-star rating (recommended)” on a five-star scale. HINT: Grace Brethren came off more positively than Saddleback and Fullerton First Free Church!
If you would like to read more (including feedback comments and discussion from one of the church’s pastoral staff), click here: <http://www.occhurches.org/2005-03/17/all-orange-county-churches-reviewed/>
Here’s the review:
Grace Brethren Church
December 3rd, 2004
Scriptural View: 5/5
Worship: Choruses and Hymns
Service times: 9:30 am
Site Usability: 3/5
Site Design: 3/5
Site Content: 2/5
Review: I attended a service in July of 2004. Their website states that they are “a multi-congregational and multi-generational church” which is a fairly accurate description. There was quite a wide range of different types of people there from dressed up older men, to college age men dressed in holy jeans and other rags, to Asian girls dressed in hip Japanese fashion, to Mexican moms with their kids huddled around them.
The church was founded in Long Beach 1913 and meets in a fairly large church building. It has a very artsy feel inside. Seventies style lights hang from the high ceiling. Pews fill both the main floor and the balcony. And older carpet covers the platform.
I sat in the balcony and looked down at the band which led everyone in singing a couple hymns and a couple choruses. The words were projected on a large screen while a young man led everyone in singing them while he played his guitar. Most the time he simply stood there with his eyes closed and his head looking upward while he sang.
After the time of song the senior pastor, Lou Huesmans,[sic] preached a sermon out of the book of Proverbs. He spent a significant time explaining the historical and cultural backgrounds that need to be understood in order to interpret Proverbs correctly. He illustrated how wisdom was seen during that time period and how Proverbs was a book of wisdom.
Pastor Huesmans defined wisdom as “the right application of truth in one’s life.” He also spoke about the background of the author of Proverbs, Solomon and the various events of his life. After this he went through a few verses of the passage of Proverbs he was preaching from, dealing with each of the words and sentences and how the instruct us to live a life that is pleasing unto God and not foolish.
He concluded with a time of response wherein all the Christians present, and all those who desired to put faith in Christ as their savior for the first time, were invited to read a confession of faith out loud that was printed in the bulletin. As we finished, he prayed a prayer a concluding prayer and everyone was dismissed.
When I walked outside there were a number of people just hanging out in the courtyard area in front of the building. There were a number of canopy covered tables some with information about different outreach ministries, some with information about different Bible studies and one with free coffee and doughnuts.
One fellow with long brown hair, a beard, and a heavy metal t-shirt came up and introduced himself to me. We talked for awhile and he told me about an “Labrys,” art gallery they have there on campus. He took me over to another building where a good sized room was filled with art pieces on the walls a couple small tables , some chairs and a counter where they have coffee available. Apparently, he explained that on some nights they have film screenings and theological discussion about them afterward.
I would definitely recommend this church as a good place to grow in one’s faith and in their knowledge of the Word of God. They seem to have a good grasp on missionally reaching out to their urban community and culture. It is unclear about their stance regarding the some of the major tenants of the reformation.
Deeper involvement in this church would ultimately demonstrate their convictions regarding them. I would encourage you to read the comments from a Pastor of the church. They will be helpful in your determining to visit this church.