Wednesday, April 12, 2017

We Go to Church to Find Young Adults

The Well Community Church, Fresno
“If you can, come with your family next Saturday night. We need extra space on Sunday morning for the ‘Chreasters,’ the people that only come to church on Christmas and Easter.” The congregation was encouraged to volunteer with child care and other needs on Easter Sunday.

We attended an evening service on the North Campus of the Well Community Church on Palm Sunday (there are two other campuses, the original at Fig Garden and also the Southeast Campus on the opposite side of Fresno), but there was no acknowledgement of Palm Sunday in the service. The focus was on a different event in the week, Passover, which would begin Monday evening.

Usually Passover and Easter are close together. Passover is celebrated the seventh month of the Jewish calendar, the 14th day of Nisan at the time of the full moon, while Easter is celebrated the first Sunday following the full moon that comes on or after the vernal equinox (March 21). So Easter can be as early as March 22 but no later than April 25. Usually the full moon falls on the 14th day of Nisan, so most years Easter falls following Passover, like this year (and like the first Easter). I had to look this all up again, because it never stays straight in my head. I never know when Hanukkah will fall either, but I do know that Christmas is December 25. I know that.

The Well will be celebrating a Seder at the North Campus on Thursday. The website says that “during this free 2-hour event, Brad Bell will teach through each of the elements of the multi-course dinner.” Bell is the founding pastor of The Well, though his title at the website is “Directional Leader.”

The night we were there, Bell was continuing a series through the Book of Exodus. He summarized the first five chapters as a message to the enslaved Israelites in Egypt, “Be patient, God will deliver you.” The sermon, though, was primarily about the first of the nine plagues on Egypt as described in Exodus chapters 7 - 10. Bell talked about how the first plagues, such as the water to blood, were imitated by the magicians of Egypt “like David Copperfield or whatever magician you’re into” (Penn and Teller for me), but the later plagues could not be reproduced by Pharaoh's magicians. They had to admit that God was at work.

Bell was not actually in the room with us as he preached -- the sermon was presented via video. During the announcement time, we were told that he was spending the evening with the church’s high schoolers in downtown Fresno. In previous years, the youth have often gone on mission trips in other places, but this year, they’re doing service projects in Fresno. Bell went to be with them for the first night of their service week. Youth have always been at the heart of Bell’s mission.

When Bell founded the church fifteen years ago, he was a recent graduate of Fresno State (and a defensive lineman for the Bulldogs). He earned his Masters in Biblical Studies from Dallas Theological Seminary and came back to the area to start a ministry focused primarily on college students. As the ministry grew, young professionals were a focus, and now the church includes young families and with that, children’s and youth ministries.

That emphasis on youth was one of the reasons we visited The Well. Our son, Bret, recently moved to Fresno, and friends from The Bridge had suggested that The Well might be a good place to visit, since many others in their mid-twenties attend the church. We went to the 7:00 pm  service, figuring if there wasn’t childcare, more of the people attending would belong to a demographic that doesn’t yet need childcare.

During the announcements we heard of some exciting things the planning to do soon, such establishing their first capital fund to build a facility for youth and a church plant in downtown  Fresno. We also heard how the previous week, they did without worship services and over 1000 people of the Well did service projects with Fresno CityFest. (There was an apology to anyone who might have found the building empty when they came for worship the previous weekend.)

It is a young church, with young people seeking God’s direction. The last Saturday of this month there will be a meeting to discuss the plans for the congregational sites and how people can play a part in those plans. This seems to be a place that God has used and where God still is at work.

Service Length: 1 hour 12 minutes
Sermon Length: 36 minutes
Visitor Treatment: Lots of people were standing around the doors, and they greeted everybody who came in. You can’t miss the information booth, and the people there answered our various questions, directed us to the auditorium, and suggested that we might want to meet the site pastor. During the announcement time, the pastor suggested that people fill out the cards on the seat backs, but didn’t say what to do with them. Mindy put ours in the offering box at the back of the room.
Followup by Wednesday Morning: Two different emails addressed to Dean (instead of listing ourselves on two lines, as self and spouse, Mindy had written both our names on one line. This seems to have confused the mailing program.) hit our inbox around 9:00 am Tuesday morning, inviting us to various events and activities to help us get to know the church and its people better. Both acknowledge the possibility that we’d already found another church home.
Our Rough Count: 185
Probable Ushers’ Count: 225
Snacks: coffee, decaf, probably hot water for tea
Musicians: Vocals (2 women)
Keyboards (man)
Drums (man)
Electric bass (man)
Electric guitars (2 men)
Acoustic guitar (man)
Songs: “Nothing but the Blood”
“Grace on top of Grace”
“In Your Presence”
“Christ Alone (Cornerstone)”
Distance to Church: 4 miles
Open WiFi: no
Tie/Suit Count: 1