I asked approximately 400 high school-age kids, from suburban and urban settings: "If you could close down all the churches and start your own church, what would it look like?" This is the composite sketch of that church, in their own words.
The "sanctuary" is round, with orange shag carpet and cathedral-like beams, stone, and stained-glass windows. The walls are painted with brightly colored Bible scenes, and there is a milky wash splashed over them-Tide [the laundry detergent]. (This makes the wails glow in the dark during the evening service when the black lights are on.)
People from every social background and ethnic group attend-no exceptions. Folding chairs circle the pulpit. People can sit there or on the floor. The service starts at exactly 10:30. A new band plays every week; one week it would be Jars of Clay or Sixpence, another week the Georgia Mass choir or the coolest rap star and teen rappers.
The awesome praise team takes the mikes and leads the congregation in singing, while the band-bongos, a keyboard synthesizer, a bass guitar-blends classical hymns, alternative rock, upbeat choruses (like "Shine, Jesus, Shine"), rap, and the psalms (which are sung at the end-with no bongos).
The congregation rocks for half an hour. Then a funny, yet knowledgeable preacher of about 30 opens his Bible to speak whatever the Lord tells him [only one teen raised the possibility of the preacher being a woman]. The sermon is to the point and only 15 minutes long, with no droning on and on and on with boring, complex theological stuff that ordinary people find hard to remember. (Though he encourages people to drop their ideas in the "sermon suggestion box" after the service, in the back of the church by the in-house Burger King, next to the counseling room where teens can come for free counseling anytime, day or night.) He solicits and receives comments from the listeners, but the sermon ends- no matter what-15 minutes later. The congregation breaks into groups and prays for each other.
Communion is bread and wine-none of that grape juice and crackers stuff. But before partaking, a chapter from the Bible about Jesus' crucifixion is read out loud so the people understand what they are really doing when taking Communion. Then Christians only partake, going up to the altar, since that makes them feel closer to God.
The service is dismissed at 11:30. The outreach leader reminds everyone that next Sunday, in lieu of the worship service, the congregation is distributing food and clothes to the homeless.
The service closes with a few teenagers standing before the congregation telling people what is on their minds: "If only adults would realize our worth in the church and our love for God and desire to praise him. If only they could train us to be stronger in the faith-soldiers for God. We could be the generation to turn this world to God."
Christianity Today: February 3, 1997 p. 20
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