I've been itching to visit Jacob's Well church in Kansas City since I first heard about it a couple of years ago. It's often linked with the "emerging church" movement, and according to this article the pastor and founder is considered one of the "founding members" of this movement. It's connection to it is one of the reasons I wanted to go - the chance to see a church that defines itself as one in action. But I also heard the words "lovely and creative worship" from someone or somewhere (I can't recall). And I'm always looking for something inspiring and creative to incorporate into our worship time.
I got something cool: a surprise.
It's a funny thing to visit a church when you are so used to being at your own. When you're a staff member of a church it's hard to get away on weekends, so when the opportunity arises to get away I try to visit a church I can learn and be inspired by. I usually walk away with good and bad things in my head, and I rarely have the desire to go back, partially because I know I can't, but also because it was nothing special.
This was not the case with Jacob's Well.
I felt completely at home at Jacob's Well. I felt comfortable without feeling complacent. I felt inspired missionally without feeling guilty. I worshiped without noticing everything else around me.
After reading the articled I linked to above, I was shocked to find out they have 1,000 members. We attended the 9am service and the sanctuary was nearly full, but I would guess with less than 200 people. Everything about the feel and mood of the service was modern, but it never felt like they were shunning the past. This is partially due to the building where they meet - built in 1930 it still has several beautiful stained glass windows, a vaulted ceiling, wood pews, and the like. On the surface, a cynical Christian (ahem... like me.) might walk into this church and worry (read: judge) the pretentiousness of an "I'm too cool for an evangelical church" appearance. But that is not what I felt at Jacob's Well at all. As a church attender since birth - with lots of crazy and wild church experiences in college - I've seen a lot of interesting stuff happen at church services. So it's takes a lot to surprise me. But Jacob's Well did that.
Can I even put my finger on it? Not really. I think that's why I'm so surprised... and having a hard time writing this post.
The light were dimmed and the cloudiness of the day added to the dark feel in the sanctuary. Candles covered the alter, which remained in the center of the platform up front. The band was spread out to the side and around the alter. A carving into wood of the Lord's Prayer just behind the alter was highlighted with a small light .
Large projections screen were on either side of the sanctuary, the worship music was loud (maybe a little too) with a light-grunge style (is that a style?), but truly authentic and not "concert-like". The first song was in completely in the wrong key because, not to brag, but if I can't sing it a normal person couldn't either. And that is just not the way worship should be led. But the rest of the worship music was good and sound theological stuff (no "Jesus is my best friend or lover" sugar-coated crap that I can't swallow) and in the right key. The song Psalm 145 - which I'm guessing was written just for the sermon - was spot-on and really powerful.
The preaching was sound, engaging, interactive, enjoyable and all-around awesome stuff. The service ended with communion, more music and a benediction where we crossed the isle, all held hands and prayed a blessing song over the community. (Which I really dug.) 95% of the people there were my age and younger. It's in mid-town KC, away from suburbia, with people of many culturally-diverse backgrounds. Suzie, my friend who came with me, told me she could absolutely see herself going there while she lives in Kansas City. I could also see myself calling Jacob's Well my home church... if I lived in there. Maybe when I make my trips home to Nebraska after my move to St. Louis in the fall I will have the chance to go back. It will certainly be worth the detour.