I got to worship this past Sunday at Scottsdale Bible Church. The first thing I noticed is that though they are huge, they try really hard, and successfully, to not be a monstrosity. The church is 6000 strong so they have divided into a couple of campuses. I attended just the south campus 8:15 worship. When you pull into the front parking lot there is maybe enough room for two rows of cars. It does not look that big. I actually thought I might have a parking problem. Just go to the rear of the property and there is what seems to be hundreds of rows of parking. It is all tucked away so that no one feels that they have some sort of zoning issues with the church. With that, the campus was broken in to a small town feel instead of a large building feel. There was various buildings. It sort of gave the feel that I was in the old west, yeah I know I was in the west but you know, the old west. One of the most unusual aspects of that was a building with the movie marquee. By the way, that was not the sanctuary at all. There were no signs on the front sides of the building for the highway travelers to look at. The signs were on the back side where all that parking was.
When I walked into the church the choir and orchestra were just fantastic. The choir is sang with gusto and spirit. Everyone moved somewhat with the music, seeming to suggest they had been coached by their director to do so. It was an impressive site. The orchestra performed flawlessly. The choir and orchestra led the congregation in singing Christmas carols. Often in churches I attend we sing all the verses of the carols so we only have time for three or four carols. There they sang a medley of carols, hitting just the first verse and moved on. This gave the congregation the ability to sing a lot of carols in a short time.
There sermon was short but solid. It seems to me that since the 80's a 40 or 50 minute sermon was the mark a church being truly dedicated to the Word of God. The problem of course with a sermon that long is that most people don't really focus that long. I did not time it, but I think their sermon was closer to 30 minutes. It was a solid sermon. The projection screens projected the pastor and not his points until he transitioned between the points. It was effective.
Being there on one Sunday morning and not being plugged into their other activities, I did not meet people. This experience was closer to going to a concert or seminar than church that I normally experience. I'm sure if I was to go to Sunday School or their other small group activity that I would meet people rather than be a part of the crowd. Some people like that feel so it is not a criticism. So in a church this size you have to work a little to find friends. Some of the people I noticed seemed very close. Sitting near me was a group of older, presumably single women who all seemed to be great pals.
The book store, just outside the sanctuary begged the question about Jesus being less than pleased with the money changers in the house of prayer. I'm not sure I feel comfortable with that. They had a stand a few yards from the sanctuary building which sold Starbucks coffee and other refreshments. In that same court yard was a place to find out about various ministry opportunities. I think I would have rather had the bookstore a little further away from the sanctuary. But this whole question of selling books in church is somewhat problematic to me. If you depend upon the local bookstore to stock what your church would like, you may not get the desired outcome.