A church for those who never liked church? It all sounds an oxymoron. It smells emergent. It feels dubious. Inver Grove Heights wants an alternative to church and indeed they have regurgitated a laid back social club that meets on Sundays:
Creating an experience...
The pastor preaches in designer jeans and skateboarding shoes. He tweets links to his blog and chats with churchgoers on Facebook.
As members walk into the movie theater or auditorium for services, the pastor and his wife are in the front row, singing along and pumping their fists to loud pop music, played by a live band featuring electric guitars.
Suburban megachurches, move over. There’s a hipper game in town.
“We know a lot of people have left their mainline churches because it’s boring,” said Tory Farina, 31, lead pastor at High Point Church in Inver Grove Heights. “They felt they were forced to go. We want them to love it….Our Sunday services feel like a concert.”
The couple, aged 30 and 29 respectively, are stationed in front of three tall, tastefully designed screens that read “Find Your Place,” “Develop Your Faith,” and “Live Your Potential.”
Farina, the pastor, mills around the doughnut-munching, Caribou coffee-sipping crowd, outfitted with a slim, white microphone that fits behind his ear. Dressed in an untucked cowboy shirt with pearly buttons, carefully faded jeans and slick leather shoes, Farina is relaxed, making small-talk and mingling like he’s at a house party.
His wife, Elizabeth Farina, a petite brunette, wears skinny jeans, brown knee-high boots, a teal cowl-neck top and gold medallion earrings. She, too, bustles from group to group, flashing a toothy smile. A few minutes after the appointed start time of the service, the pair enters the auditorium filled with members standing, dancing and crooning along with the band…
After a comedic video introduction, Tory Farina takes the stage and launches into a talk about toxic thoughts. He uses the popular book, “Eat This, Not That,” to make his point, imploring his flock to “think this, not that.”
About 125 audience members chuckle along, rapt with attention. He keeps it short, about 20 minutes, then encourages guests to pray with pastors stationed in the aisles. A few do.
Tearful members return to their seats, the band plays another song and that’s it. The service is over.
The search for a more authentic and exhilarating experience goes on. The list of alternatives is endless. It is as though some body handed a blue print to a bunch of
hitch hikers pastors holding tooth picks and told them, “upon this sand build my Sunday club”.