Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Bridge - Fresno

As perhaps you've noticed, we've come up with categories for each month of our California church visits. January we went to furthest North, South, East and West Churches, February we did English is a second language churches, and this month (March), we're visiting former youth group students. In a future month this year, Mindy and I are planning to take a month for attending churches we've attended in the past. We were puzzling a bit on how to fit those churches into one month but things became easier this week.

Heather was in our youth group when I was a youth pastor at Concord Bible Church. We asked if we could go church with her and her family. She told us she attended The Bridge in Fresno, a name which wasn't familiar to us. It wasn't until we looked up the address of the church when we were getting directions that it began to dawn on us that the Bridge was the Fresno Evangelical Free Church that Mindy and I attended when I was between church positions back in '89/'90. So we were pleased to find this church visit was a Categorical Twofer - Former Youth Group Student and Our Former Church.

The outside of the Bridge looks quite different than it did back in the day. There is colorful signage, and we were very impressed with the decoration in the children's ministry area. It reminded us of being in line for a Disney ride. We noticed a building with a sign reading "El Puente", the Spanish language ministry(Heather later told us that the Spanish language congregation has grown to the point where they need the main sanctuary instead of the smaller space).
We met Heather and her husband, Matt, in the courtyard in front of the buildings. Heather asked whether we'd rather worship in the main sanctuary or the Cafe. In the Cafe, people can sit in rows of  chairs or enjoy their coffee, latte or espresso around one of the tables or on a couch in an area off to one side. There is a large screen the Cafe and the sermon preached in the man sanctuary is projected on that screen. The Cafe has its own live worship band, but announcements and prayer are shared, via the screen, with those worshiping "live" in the main room.

We decided to worship in the main sanctuary, though Matt and Heather told us they had often worshiped in the Cafe when their kids were younger. The room was reasonably full, especially when one considers it was the beginning of Daylight Savings Time. In years past, a lot of people would be late for church at the beginning of DST, forgetting to set their clocks and watches. I think that's less of a problem for people these days as phones will automatically change times. But there are still plenty of people that stay up later DST eve and have a hard time getting up the next morning. Heather said if she hadn't been meeting us, sleeping late might have been a temptation, and Mindy noticed one person arriving about an hour into the service.

The worship team consisted of four guitars (two acoustic and two electric), a keyboards and drums, all the players singing. Mindy thought they struck a nice balance between the worship teams that are primarily performers and those that just hit the notes for the audiences to sing.
The sermon was prefaced by a five minute update on the progress of the search committee for a senior pastor. The gentleman speaking was one of four staff members rotating the preaching in the interim period. Apparently they're working through a series on John as they approach Good Friday and Easter. The sermon was a solid, expositional piece of work.

I really appreciated one illustration in particular. The preacher talked about the dark days of our youth when the only phones were landlines. In order to talk on the phone, one was committed to a certain place with a walking ratio of a few feet.  And now we are in a new era where the phone goes wherever we go. Jesus told the disciples He'd be leaving them, but the Holy Spirit would come into their lives. Jesus would no longer be confined to working in one physical place but could be in many places through His Spirit in the lives of His disciples (John 14:12). It was an image that really worked for me. Sometimes, one truth, one good illustration of truth is all you really need to take from a sermon.

Sometimes, it's really nice to not only be able to go home again; but then to see that home has been doing pretty well without you.   

Service Length: 1 hour 12 minutes
Sermon Length:  39 minutes
Visitor Treatment: Greeting time during service ("Greet someone you don't know"), "Connection card"
Our Rough Count:  265 in main sanctuary (including balcony) plus about 100 in the Cafe
Probable Ushers' Count: 400
Snacks: Cafe had various treats; several coffee/tea kiosks in courtyard area. Kids had snacks in their area with "Party with a Pastor" signs
Songs: Always
            We Believe
            Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing
           Christ Alone
Miles to place:  338
Total California Miles:  5,416

-- Dean