Saturday, November 15, 2008

the Roc

The parking was directed by men orange light-wands. The nearby building was large, square, and plastered with grand graffiti, expertly airbrushed, which featured a thirty foot tall, very stylized Jesus with arms outstretched.

Inside the doors, past the rowdy crowds that had gathered outside before the service, music was throbbing, booming, and expanding as we neared the main gathering place where over 1500 souls were clapping, swaying, hollering, and waving their arms in punctuated rhythm.
Black women held babies and corralled toddlers. Elderly folks leaned on canes, chewing and smiling. Men sported tattoos, some were covered with them. Some of the women looked pretty rugged. Onstage the band pulsed and jammed.

This is not my kind of place I thought as I stifled the urge to cover my tender ears.
These are not my type of people
I averred when I spied a woman with a black T-shirt that screamed SATAN SUCKS.
This is definitely NOT my style of music I decided when the hard-core band was let loose during the offering.

My friend Caleb was sitting with me as I took it all in. The very cool pastor (Hispanic with dark sunglasses) started to read a stack of cards and got my attention.

"Here's how many came to Christ this week, Church! 346! The Women's Saturday Study: 18. The King James Club: 28. The Youth Group Street Outreach: 89. The Food Ministry: 12. The Discipleship Homes: 7." On and on it went, with wild applause after each announcement.

"Here is a card that says '1'." The pastor held it high over his head. "I say this is who Jesus died for. He came for the ONE. Isn't that right?"

The church rejoiced exceedingly. As for myself, I felt tears in my eyes.

Then there was testimony time: A young couple who want to open a discipleship home to unwed mothers. A young man who turned his life around, reunited with his family, and wants to be a pastor some day. A mom who chose life for her baby.

Then the message. (Pastor: "Okay everybody. Let's break out the Word. Turn off those cell phones. And NO text messaging. I don't wanna see it. And if you need to use the restroom---" He held out his hand, awaiting a response. 1500 voices replied in unison: JUST. HOLD. IT!!!)

What a message. Rich. Uncompromising. Rooted in the Bible. Organized, clear, and penetrating. I drank it in gratefully.

I turned to Caleb. "I love this church. These are MY kind of people." He grinned widely. His eyes sparkled, although he was tired from a long afternoon in inner-city Richmond with the kid's ministry. The Roc Church gathers them up in buses, plays games with them, tells gospel stories, hands out "bible-bucks" for prizes, and that day, gave each kid a frozen turkey to tote home.

My visit to The Roc Church was eye-opening and edifying. Next time I'm in Richmond, I'm going back. With a few less prejudices and a couple of ear plugs.


Blogger abbi said...

I LOVE how this pastor prefaced his sermon. He sounds like a crazy, passionate pastor for a crazy, passionate church. Thanks for sharing.

P.S. It's not too late to change your mind and join us for a crazy, passionate Thanksgiving. :-D

11:28 AM  

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