zig-zag, in action

As I predicted in yesterday’s post, this weekend’s activity should prove the summer season of Exploring College Ministry is a whole new ballgame. (It’s sure proving that to me!)

In the last day and a half, I’ve explored 5 major, MAJOR churches – encountering their services, learning about their college ministries, or both. I’ve crossed three states today – starting the day north of Chicago and ending it in Western Michigan – as life gets nuttier and nuttier. And I keep learning, seeing, and experiencing unbelievable things.

What a stinkin’ blessing. Really. This is so much fun.

If you’re keeping score, Michigan is state #38 for the trip. As you know, there are only 50 out there.

And if you’re interested in the run-down, here you go! (Just don’t forget the Disclaimer – my exploration of a ministry doesn’t mean I agree with its theology or methodology!)

Here’s this weekend’s big itinerary!

1. Community Christian Church. Last night, I accomplished a goal I’ve had for a while – I saw 2 different campuses of the same church, with 2 different speakers delivering the same message! Confused? Hold tight; I’ll explain.

Community Christian Church of Naperville, IL, has multiple accolades from recent years: one of the Top Multiplying Churches last year, in the top 20 of most influential churches in ’06 and ’07, a Fastest-Growing church in ’04 and again (as #4 in the nation) in ’07, and one of America’s Most Innovative the last two years, as well. Not too shabby. (You can see all the listed churches – and links to the lists – at this cool site.)

But CCC also has the unique “teaching team” model that I’ve seen in a few churches this year. While the Teaching Pastor plans the original form of the messages, the 4-member Teaching Team molds the message further. Then, each of the teachers further personalizes the message as he sees fit, before delivering it at one of the 9 campuses.

Last night, I got to see fundamentally the same message preached by 2 different members of the Team, back-to-back at 2 different campuses. Pretty cool comparison. Pretty interesting model!

After the 2nd service (this one at the main campus they affectionately call “The Yellow Box”), I got some great info about how college students fit in to Community’s ministry, as well. And they filled me in on some of the elements that make CCC so influential. Good conversation.

2. Willow Creek. This morning, I got a bright-and-early interview with Jon Peacock, the young adults guy at Willow Creek Community Church. (In case you’re wondering, Willow is on 10 of those lists since 2005.)

So I got the ins-and-outs of Axis, Willow Creek’s evolving ministry to 20-somethings! Earlier this weekend, on Friday, I got to attend Axis – something I hadn’t had the chance to do in my early exploration of the Chicago area at the beginning of the trip.

Hooray for catching up on past hopes, and hooray for getting the low-down on college ministry at one of the world’s best-known, most cutting-edge churches!

3. First Baptist Church, Hammond, Indiana. Another multi-lister (5 lists in the last 2 years), FBC Hammond is a flagship Fundamental Independent Baptist church. They’re also famous as the former pastorate of Jack Hyles, and their expansive Sunday busing ministry is widely known.

Though it’s on the Indiana side, Hammond is definitely in Metro Chicago.

I also got to drop in on the college Sunday school to see that in action. (Sadly, I was rather underdressed… And I even dressed up for this one!)

4. Family Christian Center, Munster, Indiana. Also located in Metro Chicago, I first encountered Family Christian Center at their downtown Chicago campus the very first weekend of the trip! (It was the church with the glass-walking illustration! Click here if you don’t remember – it’s the last church in that post.)

Family Christian, a “prosperity” church, has uniquely energetic worship and preaching and a very multi-ethnic congregation. FCC is also on 3 of those lists – one of the Fastest Growing last year, and one of the Largest the past two!

5. Mars Hill Bible Church, Grandville, Michigan. In case you get ’em mixed up like all of us do, this is the Mars Hill Bible Church pastored by Rob Bell, not the Mars Hill Church in Seattle pastored by Mark Driscoll. (I’ve already been there.)

After those Chicago-area churches, I trucked it on up to the Grand Rapids area to catch MHBC in action. Yes, it’s on those lists – 8 of them since 2004. And Mars Hill Bible is a very interesting place, with probably the biggest crowd of the Emerging services I’ve been to.

MHBC was a great way to cap off this crazy, crazy weekend. Bell wasn’t preachin’ tonight, but the guest speaker was quality. And my hope in all church visits is to see “a typical service,” regardless of who does the talkin’.

So that’s my past 30-something hours. The zig-zagging has begun.

Written from Grand Rapids, Michigan

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