When I have first heard about this assignment, I admit I was nervous when I found out that I must attend a church service. It is because I have not been in a church in five years, so it has been a long time. So, for the most part, I did not know what to expect. The service I attended was at the Life Compass Church in Kankakee on Sunday, April 29, at 5:00 pm, and I went with my stepfather. I have to say, it was quite the experience and it was very pleasant. There were at least 75-100 people attending, and it was truly astonishing that there were this many that wanted to hear the good word of God.Order now
The age distribution of the church service I attended was a very diverse group. However, there seemed to be more people that were aged 10 to 20 than everyone else, and there were several upon several people that looked like between the ages of 20 and 40, and I would say this age group was the second largest. Then the older adults that were 40 years of age or older was the third largest because I had seen fewer seniors than middle-aged adults. Lastly, there was only a few that was under 10 years old (the smallest group), which included a couple toddlers and infants. Then when it came to the sex composition of the people attending, it was very apparent that there were quite a bit more females than males, probably because more men work on Sundays than ever before, due to employers making them work longer hours. For instance, my stepfather works 75 hours or more a week by working two jobs, so it was truly a miracle that he had that Sunday off to come with me to the service. When I first pulled into the parking lot of the church, there were many vehicles, but the parking lot was smaller than I had imagined. Among these vehicles, I have seen more cheap and average vehicles than expensive, nice vehicles. The most of these cheaper, average vehicles were vans and sedans, and only a few SUVs (including my own). I have seen 2 beaters in the parking lot that looked to be at least 20 years old, and the shape of these two cars was just awful. Now, among the expensive cars, I have seen 2 Lincolns and a Cadillac, which were sedans and an SUV, respectively.
When going to church that evening, I assumed that everyone was going to dress nice. So, I wore a black polo t-shirt with blue jeans. When I entered the church, I was half-right, half-wrong. Everyone who attended was dressed either casually or formally. Some people were wearing clothes such as nice dress shirts with a tie, while others were wearing normal everyday clothes, such as t-shirts and shorts, especially with kids, which I did not expect at all for a church service. When I entered the church, I was truly surprised at how modern it looked. The first item in the room I went in immediately caught my eye, which was a very large flat-screen projector in the back of the room. It dominated a great portion of the wall. Above that flat-screen looked like a narrow cross that looked to be carved into the wall. Then the ceiling, which pointed up, had dimmable lights, especially in the front where the stage was. On the stage, there were instruments everywhere, with people talking and practicing. On the right, there was an electric guitar with a man holding it, and on the left, as well as the front center, there was a microphone. In the back center, there was a drum set. Lastly, the seats were decent and comfortable.
As I said earlier, the church is modern, probably due to keeping up with the times and to look more appealing to the younger crowd. The service started a couple minutes after 5:00 pm. The lights in the room dimmed, and then the stage lit up. After the stage lit up, a band came up on to the stage and started performing. They started out with the song “Your Grace is Enough” by Chris Tomlin, which was a mellow Christian rock song. The lyrics were on the flat-screen projector and everyone was standing up and singing along, and I must admit, the lyrics of that song were very powerful. Immediately after they were finished performing that song, they went to the next song, which was “Forever (We Sing Hallelujah)”, by Kari Jobe. This song was even more beautiful and powerful since it was about was about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Some of the lyrics of this song included: “Forever he is glorified; forever he is lifted high; forever he is risen; he is alive, he is alive”. Then after that song ended, the lead singer of the band urged us to meet everyone else and shake their hand. I have shaken hands with 5 people. Afterward, we all sat down, and the preacher came up and welcomed all of us and introduced the message of the sermon, and then he turned it over to the video sermon that came up on the flat-screen.
The video sermon was done b y a pastor named Craig Groeschel of LifeChurch.tv. The message of the sermon on that Sunday was hope, grace, and forgiveness, as well as love. The goal of this sermon is to help broken families and relationships become strong again through love and forgiveness. The pastor quoted 1 Corinthians 13: “Love never fails”. Groeschel went on by describing that through love and forgiveness, it will help ease the pain of hurt, sorrow, and even hate. The pastor said, in basic terms, that if someone wronged you in the past in some way, you should not hold grudges against these people for the rest of your life. The best thing to do is to make peace, and learn to forgive, because it will truly start the process of closure and healing. To further illustrate this, the pastor quoted from famous historical figures such as Ben Franklin and Mark Twain as well as describing the life of Leroy “Satchel” Paige, who was one of the first African-American pitchers. According to the pastor, he endured racial slurs from the stands, but kept going and did not let it bother him. He was one of the best pitchers in history. This truly shows the message of the sermon, and it truly ties in with the quote from 1 Corinthians 13: “Love never fails”.
The rest of the video sermon was just the pastor giving more analogies and promoting forgiveness and love. Then when it ended, they repeated the same two songs that were at the beginning of the service, and everyone was standing and singing along, again. After the songs were done, the preacher came back up and gave a small recap of the message of the sermon. Then he encouraged us to stay after the service and to pray for themselves or loved ones that are going through a difficult time and are in pain, while the rest of us were dismissed. My stepfather and I left the room and went downstairs where they were serving snacks and desserts, such as brownies and cookies. After we have eaten and talked with a couple of people, we have left.
The people responded to my presence very positively. As my stepfather and I were about to enter the church before the service started, the preacher welcomed us with open arms and hoped that we would enjoy the service (which we did). During and after the service, people came up to us, shook our hands, and talked to us, hoping that we would come back. Also, after the service, all newcomers had the option to sign up and get free merchandise. I signed up and got a free water bottle, two pens, and a Life Compass Church bag. It seemed like everyone wanted me to come back. I think they acted this way because at this church they treated everyone like family, even the newcomers like my stepfather and myself. Furthermore, I feel that they are doing this not only because we would come back and hear more about the good word of God, but also, we could integrate it more into our society and culture.
Overall, I did enjoy this church service. The people and atmosphere very welcoming, and the message of the sermon that Sunday evening really puts a new perspective and outlook on my life. I might come back to this church in the future because of those reasons, so I could hear more about the good word of God, so I can try to integrate it into my life.
When attending this church service, I have learned that there are more advantages than disadvantages to participant observation with my experience. The advantages are that I met new people, have seen what a service at a modern Christian church looked like, and explored my options when it comes to churches and religion. The one disadvantage that I feared was getting caught, but fortunately, that did not happen. The last thing I wanted was to be in an uncomfortable, awkward position at a church service.
Fortunately for me, barely any problems arose for me while doing this assignment. The only thing close to a problem was finding a service that worked perfectly for my stepfather since I mentioned earlier that he works two jobs. When it came to my technique of participant observation, I felt the way that I have done it was the best option to not look inconspicuous. When I pulled into the parking lot, I recorded the types of vehicles on a clipboard. Then, when the time came, I left the clipboard in my SUV and went inside the church. When the service started, I have used a voice recorder app on my smartphone to record it for later use and reference. Furthermore, I have visualized my surroundings, by remembering what the church looked like, the people, the stage, etc. After the service, I came back to my SUV and immediately recorded the results that I have remembered. One way I could have improved my technique was to improve my focus on the important aspects of the sermon, but since I recorded the audio, it was not a large issue. Another way was to attend more church services, so I could have improved the accuracy of my results.