By Mike & Ruth Evangelisti
What does Brunstad Christian Church preach? What do gatherings in BCC look like?
In this piece, Mike and Ruth walk readers through the events of a Sunday service with rich detail. Read on to attend a Sunday service in Urbana, Ohio through their eyes.
An inviting atmosphere
Just before 11:00 a.m. on Sunday morning, with a flawless blue sky overhead, cars fill the parking lot at “The Lands.” This elegant stone and wood building surrounded by manicured landscapes was designed collaboratively by BCC members. It’s nestled on the edge of the woods, in a beautiful location on the outskirts of Urbana, Ohio. This is the local church’s gathering place for numerous indoor and outdoor activities.
Today is the Sunday service, or “meeting,” as it is called by attendees. Inside the spacious foyer, smiling people chat warmly together. Some grab a steaming coffee from the contemporary coffee bar. Children run about, excited to see their friends. This vibrant group of Christians: 206 active members, represent different cultural and national backgrounds. A sense of connection between young and old permeates the atmosphere. As Bill, one of the seniors, expresses: “I always look forward to seeing my friends.”
Working with a clear goal in mind
The leader, Barry Couts, chuckles as he talks with another member sitting with him in the front row. It is natural for the congregation to look to Barry as their leader. He has gained their confidence by genuine care and wisdom, and his depth of personal Christian integrity. All Barry’s service to the church is voluntary. He is a working man with a growing business, but he takes the responsibility for shepherding the group seriously, in spite of the many other demands on his time.
“… that all may learn and all may be encouraged.“
The goal of each meeting is the fulfillment of the verse 1 Corinthians 14:31: “… that all may learn and all may be encouraged.” Barry works in collaboration with several other members to make sure that this goal is being met. Not all the members have the same responsibilities during the service, but everything flows harmoniously as each one finds their opportunity to serve.
Music, announcements and special events
In the music section at the front of the sanctuary, some committed musicians provide uplifting accompaniment for the congregational singing. Today the various instruments include a piano, guitars, a trumpet, and drums that add lively rhythm.
The song leader announces the first song from the BCC songbook called, “Ways of the Lord.” The lyrics are projected onto a large LED screen behind the podium, so everyone who’d like to can sing along.
After a couple of songs have been sung, Nick reads the announcements which are projected onto the LED screen. On the agenda are special events for different age groups. The children look forward to a chaperoned trip to the zoo in a nearby city. The youth anticipate a sports evening, with pizza and treats to follow. A ripple of interest goes through the audience when a board game evening with refreshments is announced for the seniors.
After the announcements, Barry says it’s time to pray. Everyone stands and a few people pray earnestly to God. An older man prays that God will bless the meeting. Another prays for our country and leaders so that we can live a quiet and peaceful life (1 Timothy 2:2). A young person prays for help from God to overcome the temptations of sin.
A hopeful message
After another song is sung, it’s time to hear a message from God’s Word. Often Barry speaks first, but sometimes another member opens with something from their heart to give to the assembly. Each one shares scriptures from the Bible that have been illuminated for them, and have been a personal help in their lives. The central focus is always the gospel that gives the hope of becoming like Jesus.
Barry goes up to the podium and opens by reading Colossians 3:1: “If you, then, be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above where Christ sits on the right hand of the throne of God.”
The central focus is always the gospel that gives the hope of becoming like Jesus.
“I have understood in my daily life if I seek the things that are above, and if I set my mind on the things above, then there’s a huge reward waiting for me!” Barry says. “We know that any time we get a word of God and there’s an ‘action,’ for example ‘set your mind on things above,’ then we know that the trials will come: life happens and the vision is not so clear anymore. But then I can pray, ‘Dear God, give me a heavenly vision so I can set my mind on things above.’ It’s a work, it’s not going to happen automatically.”
Barry’s message is simple and compelling. “For example, maybe you have a young family with children. There’s a lot going on, and maybe it’s noisy. Think then, to be able to set your mind on things above!” Barry speaks fervently, “To be able to think like this: I want to be good to my children, I want to serve my children. Maybe I sense my own irritation, but I resist that and pray, ‘God help me to be good to them.’ We need to be freed from what we are by human nature.” The words resonate in the hearts of the listeners, creating a desire to live this kind of a life.
After Barry concludes his message, the assembly’s voices blend together in a congregational song. This is followed by another gripping message from a second member, and the children are dismissed for Sunday school.
Eagerly, they scurry off to their respective Sunday school rooms for an interactive, fun time: singing, making crafts, eating a yummy snack, and participating in a short Bible lesson.
Back in the sanctuary, after another song, there are a few shorter messages that compliment the theme of the beginning speakers. Everything develops in a positive direction. During a slight pause in the meeting, Barry interjects that the meeting is now open for anyone who wishes to share something from their heart.
Each one shares scriptures from the Bible that have been illuminated for them, and have been a personal help in their lives.
A row of chairs facing the audience fills up with men and women of all ages. One by one they go up to the podium to express their sincere desire to practice God’s Word. Each contribution is unique. A young woman sings a solo, with accompaniment, as her testimony. An older woman shares how she wants to set her mind and heart on things that are above by nourishing herself with God’s word. She reads Romans 12:2: “And be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…”
“ I truly believe”, she says, “That my mind can be completely renewed and transformed, and I can be filled with joy.”
After a few more speakers, Barry asks the youth group to come up and sing. They flock to the front and sing together with enthusiasm. The last to speak, a man tells how early in his Christian life he endeavored to set his mind on heavenly things. It was hard and took so much effort. This brought him into great need, and then he realized he could pray, and ask for help before the throne of grace. “I can set myself in heavenly places,” he affirms, “by being there before the throne of grace. I can admit to everything that the Spirit shows me! I can draw down the kingdom of heaven!” His words are spoken with emphatic conviction.
A help for the ‘daily life’
Sarah, a young mom, shares how she experiences the Sunday meetings: “Every time I go to the meetings with an open heart, God meets me where I’m at. Each Sunday I hear something that strengthens my faith. Sometimes it’s a message, or a song, or a simple prayer. Sometimes it is a heartfelt testimony that inspires me to live a daily life that’s pleasing to God.”
“Each Sunday I hear something that strengthens my faith.”
Jim adds his sentiment, “The meetings keep me on course in my Christian walk.”
After the meeting — Coffee bar, visits, & sports
The meeting draws to a close. Everyone stands while several pray. The chorus of a song is sung to conclude the meeting. Children spill happily out of the Sunday school rooms, and the fragrant aroma of coffee drifts from the open coffee bar. The youth are raising money for their camps and other youth activities and today they are offering a delicious meal that families can purchase rather than leaving for lunch.
Warmer weather beckons people outdoors to eat at the picnic tables under the pavilion. Some choose to chat and relax on comfy leather couches in the indoor fellowship room.
Children play outside in the playground under the trees. Youth play soccer, basketball, or volleyball in the wide open spaces. It’s a carefree scene of people closely knit together by their Christian faith, and it’s clear to this writer that these are people who genuinely enjoy one another’s company.