Mystery Worshipper: Jackson Bleu
Church: Valley View Bible Church
Location: Paradise Valley, Arizona, USA
Date of visit: Sunday, 22 April 2018, 10:30am
An attractive red brick structure with red tile roofing. The main sanctuary has several large stained glass windows visible from the road. Overall, the exterior and interior have a coordinated rustic look that is unique but fitting for the desert surroundings.
Valley View offers a variety of standard church ministries for students, young adults, children, men and women. There are also small groups. In addition, they offer Impact, which supports a number of activities both locally and worldwide. There is also something called Unite Phoenix, which meets once a month for "doughnuts, worship and assignment." They also support a missionary family in Slovakia and in Asia. There is one service each Sunday, with classes meeting before the service.
Valley View meets in the town of Paradise Valley, an affluent enclave town nestled between Phoenix and Scottsdale. The church is located along the busy Lincoln Road thoroughfare, which is home to a large variety of Christian churches.
Chris Franklin, associate pastor.
What was the name of the service?Worship Service
How full was the building?
The sanctuary could probably hold 200 people. It was about one quarter to half way full before the service began, but during the opening songs people trickled in until it was almost three quarters full.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
A woman at the door said, "Always good to see you" as she handed me a bulletin. Another usher said, "Welcome." Then during the meet-and-greet in the middle of the service, the gentlemen next to and behind me introduced themselves.
Was your pew comfortable?
Yes, it was nicely cushioned.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
There was some quiet chatting, which really wasn't too bad, but it continued throughout the entire first half of the service.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Well, good morning to Valley View Church."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
None. There were Bibles in the back of the pews, but they went unused. There was a bulletin, but it just provided announcements. A projector (with rather small text) provided the words for the songs.
What musical instruments were played?
Guitar, bass (I believe) and drums.
Did anything distract you?
There was an awful amount of talking throughout the first half of the service. The projector screen, despite being fairly large, had the text shrunken in the middle, too small for me to sing along. Also two of the chandeliers overhead had a light out in the same exact place.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Causal-contemporary. Everyone stood and sang modern Christian rock songs. I thought both the band and the participation of the congregation were a bit lukewarm, although there was a song or two toward the end where they both livened up a bit.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
35 minutes, divided into a 6½ minute segment and a 28½ minute segment (I'll explain below).
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
6 – Pastor Chris had a tendency to keep one hand in his pocket. He preached without notes, and he spoke nicely, but he would jump from point to point and I was unable to understand what his overall sermon was about. If he had an overarching theme, I would have preferred that he made it clearer, and one of his little points/stories was particularly disturbing to me (see below).
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Pastor Chris started by saying that what we sing has meaning, Easter has meaning, and being in church has meaning. Then he said, "Now let's read Joshua" and I thought the sermon was over and we were moving on to some other part of the service (hence my timing of 6½ minutes). But after a prayer he just continued on for 28½ minutes more. He made a series of unconnected points (at least I couldn't see the connection) about different things in the story of Joshua 3 (the Jordan stops flowing so that the Israelites may cross with the Ark of the Covenant).
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Behind the altar was a very large, beautiful stained glass window with sunlight illuminating from the outside. I really enjoyed looking at it during the service. In addition, I was sitting around a variety of couples of various ages who would hold hands, sway together, hold one another, etc. It was very sweet. I also heard a woman behind me whisper to her husband, "You're wonderful."
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
While Pastor Chris was jumping from point to point, he told a rather odd story. A woman was called by God (he said) to enter into a McDonald's in the middle of the night. After she had been there a short time, a bedraggled youth entered. The youth told the woman that he had run out of money and would not have any until Friday, which was his payday, and that he slept in the McDonald's at night. The boy told her he didn't want any money, just some company. So the woman gave the boy her Bible and left. Pastor Chris said that the woman was being faithful to God by entering the McDonald's when God told her to. But I was shocked that all the woman did was hand over a Bible to the young man. It seemed to me that McDonald's, a faceless company, was being more Christian than the woman was by allowing the boy to sleep there at night. He wanted company, and she gave him her Bible. Kind of reminds me of a modern Good Samaritan story.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I wandered in the lobby, but no one said anything to me other than a few hellos. Other people were talking together. There was a pew card for visitors that could be turned in for a drink voucher at the visitor desk. I found a desk with a man behind it and a sign saying, "Ask us about our Visitors Guide." I asked, and he handed me one and made a joke, but didn't offer any information about where I might redeem a drink voucher. After that I left.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
I saw people entering with coffee, and I could turn in my visitor's card for a drink voucher. But I couldn't find where the coffee came from, or where to turn in the voucher, nor did anyone there offer to point me in the correct direction.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
5 – Well, it's a very beautiful church, but I don't care for the worship style. Their visitors ministry could use some work too. The visitor packet had an entire book about the windows, but nothing about the church's ministries.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes. Even when I got a bit bored, I could just look at the windows, or the couple, and think about God.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
The beautiful stained glass.