Music, marriage and a mosh pit

There was a lot going on in New Vision Ministry Center’s sanctuary.

Robotic lights pivoted on shiny metal trusses that hung over the stage. Huge woofers pumped out Gospel-infused rock while lyrics flashed on video screens.

But the Church Hoppers’ overwhelming first impression of the church was people. Folks were crammed into the modified gym up to the rafters, filling the room with expectation. It felt like a rock show. As the band played, the under-18 crowd surged forward to stand in front. Simple worship choruses flashed on the screen: I want to jump higher than before … I want to shout louder than before … I want to worship deeper than before … I wasn’t sure what jumping and shouting had to do with God, but it sure got the congregation energized as — yes — they actually bounced and screamed. In the midst of the passion and intensity, something happened to Zach. He tried to explain later: “I felt a Presence that I haven’t experienced in church since I was a kid,” he said. “It was actually kind of scary, like ‘I shouldn’t be enjoying it this much.’ I was clapping; I was feeling it … and yet I was really at peace with myself.” My skeptical side figures Zach’s experience was the product of music and emotions. But my Christian-idealist side hopes maybe he was sensing the presence of God.

The wedding in worship
I grew up in a conservative church where worship songs came from the hymnal and the preacher was in no danger of succumbing to excitement. So I’ve always been suspicious of Bible-thumping holy rollers. Yet I’m not completely cynical. Somewhere inside, I wish I could find as much faith in God’s power, as much passion for Jesus as they have at New Vision. There, it seems like anything could happen on a Sunday morning. Yes, I mean anything. Halfway through the service, Pastor David Boggs explained that a couple in the church wanted to get married, but they couldn’t afford the ceremony. So he conducted a wedding in the middle of worship, with a thousand cheering parishioners as wedding guests. “I sure didn’t see it coming!” said Zach later. “But hey, it’s celebration, and we’re all here anyway. It was really nice of the pastor to do it.” I actually choked up as I watched this couple exchange vows in the middle of a Sunday service. Boggs went on to preach from Romans 12:2, where the Apostle Paul instructs his readers to let God’s wisdom reshape their thinking. “Don’t look like the world; don’t act like the world — it’s messed up,” said Boggs. “We’ve got to learn to make decisions with the mind of Christ. There’s no addiction, there’s no boyfriend … there’s no job, there’s no financial problem, there’s no spiritual problem that Christ can’t conquer … I want this church to mature to the place where we all have the mind of God.” The pastor challenged his flock to renounce their sins, then move forward with the conviction that God would bring blessings as they followed him.

Blessings galore?
Unfortunately, it was that talk of blessings that made Zach and I a bit uncomfortable as we left New Vision. The church seemed to believe that material prosperity is the inevitable result of a Godly life. During worship, they repeated this mantra: “We believe the Lord for jobs and better jobs … explosive growth in mutual funds … all bills are paid, all debts are cancelled …” When I read the Bible, I see wisdom for enduring life’s struggles — not magic spells for eliminating them. “Jesus said that life isn’t going to be easy,” Zach pointed out, “and wealth is not the source of happiness.” Nonetheless, the Church Hoppers walked away with admiration for the heartfelt faith at New Vision Ministry Center.

God may not bring “explosive growth” to the members’ mutual funds, but perhaps that’s not the big idea. Their passionate convictions might still help them through hard times — even a recession. 

This month’s Church Hop

Name: New Vision Ministry Center
Location: 6901 Outer Loop Road, Louisville (near the corner of Fegenbush Lane)
Service Times: Sundays at 9 and 11 a.m.
Size: Megachurch — the congregation claims more than 2,000 regular attendees.
Denomination: Church of God; Cleveland, Tenn.
Senior Pastor: David Boggs
You Might Like This Church If: You enjoy passionate worship and preaching that emphasizes God’s blessings.
Source for church facts:

The Church Hoppers visited on Sept. 7, 2008.