we went to church at Austin City Life yesterday. About 80-100 of us crowded into the Hideout Theater. Turns out it was the last Sunday in that venue and next week the church will meet at the Parish on 6th Street.

Jonathan Dodson is the founder/pastor of the church. He blogs here and here and he contributes sometimes to the Resurgence blog as well.

The experience was sort of surreal. I live in Austin and I have worked downtown in the city for 13 years. I know and love downtown Austin, but it was weird to be circling virtually empty streets on a Sunday morning with my family to find a parking place. It was weird walking the streets that I am very used to walking, but this time with my Bible in hand and my family in tow.

When we arrived at 10:00 (the scheduled start time) the coffee shop in front of the theater was hopping with folks. We made our way through the crowd and into a very small, very dark theater with very old and closely spaced theater seats. No bulletins, no “hello nice to see you today”, no visitor card, no nothing. Very much unlike any church we have visited this past year. Keep in mind that there are five of us and we are all grown people. We are not inconspicuous.

We sat down and waited. around 10:15 or so the service got underway and every single seat was taken, plus the band on stage (six more folks) plus people standing up lining the entry hall area. The music was very good. The songs were a mixture of the familiar Chris Tomlin and Hillsong and the unfamiliar (I wondered if some of them were original compositions). All of them were extraordinarily doctrinally sound.

At the end of the music, the children and some adults left without any explanation. Their empty seats were filled by the folks standing and Jonathan began to speak.

His text was Colossians 4:2-6. He spoke about the church’s move to a sixth street venue and the need to apply Paul’s teaching to themselves as they move to such a famous address. The message was great. I will have more to say about these verses and others in connection with the recent dust up over Mark Driscoll as exemplified here in this post and the comments thereto.

Jonathan’s message was very good.

As we left, Julie spoke with the parents of one of the 2 year olds she used to care for in preschool. Those conversations with the mother and father were the only two we had with anybody there. No one said hi. No one gave us a card to fill out. No one said glad you came. No one said, hope to see you again next week. No one asked how we happened to show up. It was weird. Not at all churchy. Kind of refreshing in a way. Exactly what you would expect from a downtown church in a larger city filled with mostly very young adults who aren’t really comfortable in their own skin. Exactly what you would expect at a young church where nobody really knows who belongs there and who is visiting.

Anyway, as we were leaving, all three teenagers said they liked it. Julie really enjoyed the music. I really enjoyed the content of the message.

I must confess that I teared up during the message thinking about where I was and the fact that God was doing this work with this message in this location. God is indeed an awesome God. He does what He wants where He wants and how He wants.


4 Responses

  1. Thanks for sharing your experience at Austin City Life, Keith. I’m very sorry I didn’t get to meet you or your friends, but am glad to hear that you were blessed by the visit. I appreciate your perspective, especially given your tenure downtown.

    We definitely are a no cards, no bulletin kind of church by design; however, we do make the announcement that the is a sign up area in the coffee shop for those interested.

    Unfortunately, two of our three hospitality folks were late to the Hideout yesterday. I’m surprised you weren’t greeted by anyone at all. Our people are typically pretty engaging of others but it was a really unique Sunday and folks were probably caught up in the excitement. Nevertheless, I’ glad you shared your experience online and we’ll definitely learn from your reflections.

    FYI: several of the songs are originals. Our musicians are currently working on an EP.

  2. Hey Jonathan,

    Thanks for stopping by. I want to say how much we enjoyed the service. We weren’t offended by the lack of greeting. It was just remarkably different. We aren’t in this deal for effusive welcomes.

    As you know, Julie and I are helping with a church plant of our own and it was very interesting to see what a remarkable thing God is doing with you guys.

    I knew the music would be good and it was. after all God is not your girlfriend, right?


  3. Cheers, Keith! Perhaps we can connect some time to talk about your planting efforts.

    You made me laugh out loud! 🙂 God is so not my girlfriend and he has given us some remarkable talent, but moreso, God-centered musicians.

    With you in Jesus,


  4. I was struck by the last two sentences in your commentary. Very true. Very scary sometimes.

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