Mystery Worshipper: Kaji
Church: Crossroad Baptist
Location: Pensacola, Florida, USA
Date of visit: Sunday, 15 July 2007, 10:00am
The building and grounds were very nice and well taken care of. The main chapel appears to be new and sits beside and older but well kept chapel that has been turned into a meeting and youth group center. The entirety of the grounds were quite large and the structures themselves simply too big to capture in a single photograph. Inside the chapel, the auditorium is modern and very spacious and features a stage area with choir seating to the rear and a lectern in the middle, flanked by plants. There are three projection screens, one for the pulpit and two for the congregation. I did not get a chance to view the other areas of the building, but everything appeared pleasing to the eye.
Crossroad Baptist was founded in 1985 by Dr Charles O. (Chuck) Baldwin, who has been pastor ever since. Pastor Baldwin hosts a radio talk show and is very politically outspoken, having been active in the Moral Majority movement. It would not be an overstatement to say that Pastor Baldwin is the heart and soul of his church. Some of America's more conservative religious and political figures, including Pat Buchanan and the late Jerry Falwell, have spoken from Crossroad's pulpit. I did notice a political leaning toward helping oppressed Christians around the world.
Pensacola is a small city sitting on the Gulf of Mexico in the westernmost part of Florida's panhandle. Founded by the Spanish in 1559, it claims to be the first European settlement in the continental United States. However, that first settlement was wiped out by a hurricane and was not reestablished until 1696. At various times throughout its history, Spanish, French, British, American and Confederate flags have flown over Pensacola. Today's Pensacola is decidedly conservative, both politically and religiously. Its subtropical climate and white sandy beaches make it a favorite tourist destination. Crossroads Baptist Church is set in an urban area that features some newer subdivisions but all in all has a nice "country" feel to it.
Pastor Baldwin led the service.
What was the name of the service?Sunday Morning Service.
How full was the building?
The pews seemed about three-quarters full. There was plenty of room but most people sat in small groups around the auditorium.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
To their credit, everyone I encountered was friendly and seemed genuinely glad that I came. Several people took time to introduce themselves and chat for a minute before proceeding to their seat. A few of the staff approached and asked non-intrusive questions about family and place of residence and so forth.
Was your pew comfortable?
The pews were quite comfortable though there was little leg room. They seemed to be in new condition with good padding.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Full of people chatting and fellowshipping. The noise level was intense but easily bearable. Again, I was greeted so many times that I scarcely had a chance to look around. I thoroughly enjoyed the effort everyone put into making me feel welcome.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good Morning. Good to see you on this mid July morning."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
The hymns were displayed on the projection screens, and even without my glasses I could easily read them from my vantage point. The pastor asked us several times to turn to certain passages in our Bibles, but I had not brought mine with me and the verses were not projected. I believe his quotes and all the scriptural readings were from the New King James version.
What musical instruments were played?
There were two pianos and an organ, but the majority of the music came from the audio system.
Did anything distract you?
Despite pre-service messages for parents to consider using the nursery or the cry room, there were several disruptive children. The temperature in the room seemed a bit cool for me even wearing a tie. The sound booth could have done a better job moderating the vocals – at many times the singers would overdrive their microphones, causing them to ring with feedback. The music was quite a bit louder than it needed to be.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
A very down-to-earth, conservative, fundamentalist, Bible-based service. Quite a few scriptural readings and prayers. No one was moved to speak in tongues or to stand up to give testimony, nor (it being the middle of the month) was there a communion service. There was a wide variety of singing, some of which seemed out of place for the subject matter of the sermon. The best singing was done by a male quartet, sort of barber-shop style. The rest of the music leaned toward the traditional, with one vocalist leading the congregation. There was also a fairly pleasing rendition of the contemporary praise song "I can only imagine." The pastor made some remarks that I found a bit surprising and shocking, such as: "I wouldn’t want to preach at a church where no one returned for the Sunday night service."
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – He prefaced his sermon with a talk about tithing – I think he may have spent a little too much time on that topic. A visitor might feel pressured into giving rather than doing so out of unselfish generosity. Once he got down to the sermon proper, though, he was very illustrative with stories to drive home his points.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
What will we not find in heaven? Sickness, disease, aches, pains, sin and doubt. No more questions, no more mysteries. That's what we won't find in heaven. What will unbelievers find in, erm, the other place? You guessed it!
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Pastor Baldwin did a wonderful job of reeling me in. He really made heaven sound wonderful!
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The sound booth needs some training.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Nothing. Most people just walked by with an obligatory good-bye, or have a nice day, or see you tonight. There was sort of a mad rush to the parking lot.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
I was not able to find any refreshments after the service, if any were available.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 – I have recommended this church to a friend who is looking for a home church in his area.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes! Resoundingly so. The people were genuinely friendly, and of course the part in the sermon about "the other place" made me glad I am a follower of Christ. I left with answers, but also with some questions, and I will return another time to see if some of those get answered.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
No more questions, no more mysteries, in heaven. I can't wait to get there. And I'll remember that for a lot longer than just seven days.