Took a very early flight from Madison to Memphis last Sunday morning. I was in my rental car by 8:45 a.m., so had adequate time to drive around and consider which church I might attend.
I never have Sundays like this. Either I am preaching and presiding at church, or I am with family somewhere and already know where to attend worship. It is extremely rare for me to be so free that I have to choose, and so disconnected from locale that I don't know how to start the choosing.
So I decided to experience things from the flip side. What if you just woke up in southern Memphis and decided to go to church, but didn't know anyone. What would you discover?
Well, first of all, most of the churches are some kind of Baptist. I am not familiar enough with baptist tradition to explain exactly how they differ one from the other, but there are many of them.
Second, it is kind of intimidating driving into the parking lot of an unknown church and especially an unknown denomination. And to do so alone. I'll admit: I bailed more than once on churches I thought of going into.
Then, I decided to pull into my hotel (Olive Branch, Mississippi), just to make sure I knew where I needed to be later. The hotel hosts TWO churches. That is, a congregation meets in a convention room at the hotel, and another congregation meets at an outbuilding across from the hotel. They both have adult bible studies meeting in rooms around the hotel at 9 a.m., worship at 10:15.
I sat in on one service. Nothing surprising to support. Frontier worship of the contemporary variety.
What did completely surprise me was that the hotel had two mission start congregations. So, I asked the front-desk clerk about it.
"Oh, that's nothing. We used to have five!"
"Yes, but three of them now have their own buildings, so we're down to just the two."
Plus a group of Pastor-Theologians, none of whom are Baptist.