I had an amazing time in which I was indeed proved wrong and thought the best way to report on it was to use the "Ship of Fools - Mystery Worshipper" format. That will help me waffle less:
Sovereign Grace Ministries - a "family" of churches.
Intriguingly an old telephone exchange - and the building looks like one too.
The M4 motorway.
Dave Taylor (the "Executive" pastor) who led worship and his band. Peter Greasley (the Senior Pastor).
There were 600 chairs laid out and I didn't see many empty chairs.
Yes. There were car park attendants to direct my family mobile and were stewards on the door who smiled and said "Hello" and gave me an update leaflet. Peter Greasley the senior pastor also grabbed me and said "hello - great to see you" (I should add this is probably cheating as we had previously agreed to speak to arrange a meeting!).
It was a grey plastic chair with minimal padding. Not the most comfortable - but also I have sat on far worse pews.
Lively, loud and excitable.
"Hello ... can anyone come and sit down and let's get started".
None. There was a projector which displayed the words of the songs.
A guitar, keyboards, drums.
They have an LED device up near the screen that flashes up a number allocated to parents, whose children are in creche or nursery. When we were singing songs I didn't know I found myself looking to see which parents were scuttling out.
Very lively and passionate with lots of hands raised. There were no spiritual gifts (prophecy, tongues etc) however that I saw. The theme that kept coming through to me was the "Unchanging Faithfulness" of God. The highlight for me was singing a re-vamped version of; "My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness".
40-45 minutes or so (but didn't feel like that at all).
I would say a 9.5 (only Terry Virgo, Rob Rufus or Ern Baxter get 10's). I've heard Greasley years ago and this was probably the best I've heard him preach.
Text: Romans 2. "A Matter of the Heart".
The theme of grace, grace, grace that came through the worship and the sermon.
Probably the walk up to the church - I hadn't been in Sovereign Grace Ministries churches for 5 plus years and I feared the worst.
Peter Greasley the senior pastor found me and chatted about said meeting. I also had a brilliant catch-up with a friend I used to know from previous days which was great - we exchanged phone numbers. He was very real and welcomingly un-religious!
I didn't have any - I hate after-service coffee but we were told that if we were visitors we could skip the queue.
The church = 8 (it is still SGM after all). The neighbourhood = less. I did toy with the idea of being a commuting church-goer during the worship!
Yes - very much so.
That it is stupid and naive to tar all churches with the same brush simply because they are in the same family of churches. And also to forget that God does amazing on-going works of grace in church pastors who are also human and can make mistakes and are as worthy of forgiveness as I have received said forgivness!