I am 22 years old year old who goes to Baptist University. I attended a service at first evangelical church of Glendale, 522 W Broadway, Glendale, CA 91204 on 31st October 2016. The church runs two services, one at 9 a.m. and the other at 11.00 a.m. I made a point of attending the latter because I had prior commitments to the service that morning. The church is a spacious modern structure that can seat about 1000 people. Upon my arrival, I was warmly welcomed by church ushers, most of whom appeared to be in their early 20s. They seemed to sense that I was a new congregant and therefore ushered me to the front pews of the church while assuring me that I would have a transformative experience at the church. I was terribly nervous I tend to be anxious around new and large crowds but the warmth and kindness from the ushers put me at ease.The inside was intricately done with glazed windows and a well-carpeted pulpit. The pews were mahogany and meticulously vanished. My impression of the interior of the church was that affluent people attended this church and that the church was also serious about its business. There was a reverent air about it. The pulpit was ultra-modern with large LED screens that the overall congregation could read from. It was also adorned with state-of-the-art lighting and sound system. What caught my attention the most was an expansive Yamaha piano that belted such sultry tunes. I noticed a band of musicians who were preparing to lead the congregation in the praise and worship service. The service officially began at 11.05 a.m. with songs of praise that were not characteristic of conservative churches. Majority of the congregation were women in their early 20s all the way to early 30s and hence they enthusiastically indulged in the upbeat and lush harmonies. I noticed that there were not too many elderly people except on the evangelical leadership team. Children had a dedicated service in a different location within the church so as not to distract the congregation.
The music centered on themes of adoration and obedience to God. Most congregants read the words to the songs on large screens as opposed to hymn books. I had never been to an evangelical church before and so when everybody raised their hands in the air as an impulse to the music, I was taken aback but participated so as not to look out of place. The music was very sentimental and on occasion, the praise and worship leader would encourage people who had prayer items to approach the pulpit. This session lasted for about half an hour and was concluded with prayers from three different individuals. The first round of thanksgiving began with people giving out their tithe envelopes to the church ushers who were carrying baskets. I came to learn that this was different from church offerings. The pastor then took to the pulpit and began his sermon. Most of his sermon was accompanied by music and decorated with thunderous affirmations of prosperity. His sermon lasted for one hour and touched on quite a number of things. First, he talked about the importance of believing in God and maintaining a steady faith despite the numerous challenges we face as human beings. As he delved further into his sermon, his message steered toward prosperity gospel. He emphatically expressed how important it was for Christians to believe that it was the will of God for them to be successful. He also encouraged the congregants to incessantly speak positive reaffirmations to themselves. He also touched on the importance of Christians giving donations to the church and for mission journeys in order for the flock of Christ to grow. He stressed on tithing and often quoted from the Bible to support his sentiments. Furthermore, he quipped that offering donations to the church would attract numerous blessings on its congregants. Towards the end of the sermon, he asked the believers to repeat some positive confessions such as, By believing in Christ, I am setting myself up for success. He also asked the congregants to declare spiritual warfare which I found rather absurd because I felt that having faith in God would suffice. His sermon was concluded with a Bible verse which was met with loud applause. His message, in my opinion, did not touch on quintessential Christian doctrines of selflessness and service to mankind and God. Instead, it focused on prosperity gospel that maintains focus on acquiring material possessions. He seemed to propagate the notion that one can only be useful to society if they are affluent. Despite the message of the minister, I learnt that Christianity is a religion of service as evidenced by the brochures given out at the beginning of the service. It contained a lot of community-based services like visits to the elderly and the sick. However, I had a few lingering questions about the service. For instance, I did not understand how God wants us to prosper yet there are millions of people who are suffering and starving in the world. I intend to attend another service and hopefully present my queries to the pastor for clarification. All in all, my experience was enlightening as much as it was uncomfortable because I did not understand many of the scriptural references that were made during the service.
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