Friday, October 14, 2016

Bonus Post! We Go to a Surprisingly Multicultural Church (also in Iowa)

Alive Church, Des Moines
For those who are concerned about truth in labeling, I have good news: “Alive Church” is, in fact, alive. It’s only about 8 months old, but it is already going through the growing pains of getting too big for its space. That’s certainly that is a problem, but it is a very good problem to have.

Alive Church is a young congregation, but they already have big goals. Their five year plan has three parts: 1) Build a church building, 2) Plant a church in the United States, 3) Plant a church in Liberia (Pastor Stephen is from Liberia). The church does seem to like things in threes. Their bulletin and signs read, “Stay Alive. Save a Life. Serve a Life.”

We heard about this church from a doctor friend of ours, David, who had a Liberian patient in his clinic. The patient was quite excited to learn that David would be going on a mission trip to Liberia, and he told David about his church with a Liberian pastor. David visited the church  and told us about it shortly afterward.

Before we visited, we'd referred to it as a Liberian church, but it isn’t. Alive Church describes itself online and its literature as a “multi-denominational” and “multicultural.” The church reaches out not just to Liberians but to immigrants from a number of different countries, including Sudan and Somalia as well as Liberia and other African nations.

Like a lot of other Americans, Mindy and I tend to lump all of Africa into one category in my mind. Other people share this problem, which is why Americans will refer to a saying like “It takes a village” as an “African saying” when we would never talk about something being a “European saying.” The church serves a variety of African cultures, which I’m sure is a blessing and a challenge. For example, during the worship service, a woman in the congregation, Mary, sang a song in Sudanese. Pastor Stephen thanked her and said, “I didn’t understand the language, but I saw a lot of joy.”

Of course, being “multi-denominational” means there is another kind of cultural variation in the church. As Pastor Stephen said, “We have Baptists that don’t clap and we Pentecostals who know how to shake their bodies.” We found the worship in the service definitely tended toward liveliness. There was vibrant singing and people danced forward to drop their offering in a big basket.

The prayer time was certainly of a more Pentecostal flavor, with needs being presented by the pastor and the congregation bringing those needs before God with many voices at the same time. Pastor Stephen raised a request for prayer for the upcoming election. He expressed thanks for the United States (“Many of us prayed for a long time that we could come here.”) But he also expressed concern about the candidates for the Presidency. He expressed concern that one party seemed to have plans to curtail our religious freedom (“liberals that make things harder for the church”), while the other party had a candidate who, if elected, “would make me consider going back to Africa.”  But he prayed for both major candidates, “God, choose for us. Let us pray for Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton and perhaps for someone else you would put in that office… Bless this nation and return it to God.”’

The people of the church greeted us with graciousness and kindness before, after, and during the worship service. We trust that God will keep this body of believers alive and use them to bring many to new life in Jesus Christ.
Church Website:

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