Relevant Reprised: Return to relevant (sic) Church, Part I – Visited on 3/18/12

Since the early weeks of Churchspotting one article in particular has attracted long-term, continuous interest.  At least once a week someone arrives at the blog looking for information on relevant Church, a group visited in Churchspotting’s fourth ever article (available here).  Our last encounter with relevant was all the way back in August of 2011.  This week, more than six months later, we return to see what’s changed.

When Churchspotting first visited relevant Church, the group hadn’t yet been an independent congregation for a full month.    Its senior pastor, Matt McGarity, had only recently separated his operation from River Hills Community Church (visited here).  Mcgarity, still relatively fresh from seminary, worked at the RHCC as a youth pastor and outreach minister; relevant began as an auxiliary program to the RHCC, a deliberately ‘contemporary’ service intended to draw in worshippers turned off by more traditional religious services.

It’s been over six months since McGarity replanted his program as an independent church, renting space each week at Oakridge Middle School.  During our first visit relevant held a single worship service at 10:30 AM each Sunday–the same time slot as its former host, the RHCC.  Now relevant has two services, an early one at 9:15 and a late one at 10:45.  In August the church had between 150 and 200 active congregants; between the roughly 100 attendees at the early service and the 190 at the later service, the church now seems to host between 250 and 300 worshippers—about the same number Rev. McGarity claimed the program drew each week as an auxiliary of the far older RHCC.

The relevant Church volunteer staff seems less prominent six months on.  Gone are the neon ‘event staff’ t-shirts; now they wear black tees emblazoned with the church’s logo across the chest, or simply their street clothes with blue ‘event sticker’ nametags on cords about their necks.

At relevant there are no strict rules of dress; some worshippers arrived today in shorts and sandals, some in collared shirts and khakis.  Its primary attendees still appear to be middle class families from the Lake Wylie area, though some new arrivals did come from the other direction, where lies far less affluent Clover.

The church’s tradition of live, contemporary music remains strong.  The house band’s equipment filled the stage that lines one end of the Oakridge Middle School’s combination cafeteria-auditorium, and its musicians played three sets over the course of the day’s second worship service.  A projector screen hung above and behind them, displaying lyrics to their songs during performances.

For other sections of the worship service the screen served to display biblical quotations, graphics to accompany the sermon, and advertisements for church programs—early in the service it displayed a brief film clip promoting a relevant Church association called ‘life groups.’

Another visual presentation preceded Rev. McGarity’s sermon, the latest in a series called ‘Simple.’  McGarity, called Pastor Matt by the congregation, read the opening verses of the second chapter of the New Testament book of James, in which the author warned early Christians against privileging wealthy members of their churches over the poor and needy.  It rebuked them for showing deference to the wealthy, saying

 1 My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. 2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. 3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

5 Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?”

McGarity’s sermon focused on the first half of this passage.  As was the case in August he delivered his sermon as a series of anecdotes combined with biblical references.  In particular he told stories of times he’d judged others on the basis of clothing, hairstyle or piercings, and warned his flock against the error and danger in doing the same.

Though its congregation’s size has grown over the last six months, the general program at relevant appears unchanged. The church still specializes in creating a nontraditional atmosphere, supported by contemporary music and an informal, casual approach to religious worship.  Later this week Churchspotting will sit down again with Mr. McGarity, to interview him on less immediately visible changes at relevant since our last visit.

    • themanytherapiesofmylife
    • March 20th, 2012

    Reblogged this on My Therapy Yesterday Was… and commented:
    It has been almost a month since I posted, and I am up to my elbows in paperwork while starting my Counseling business so I thought I would share this. My husband is the Student Ministries Director for this church, our church. Enjoy!

    • john
    • March 21st, 2012

    This is proof we still have a long way to go. Thank you for your feedback. We are the non traditional church

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