I attended the Northwest Fellowship service this morning. The congregation meets at 10:30 AM each Sunday at 13427 Pond Springs Rd, Austin, TX 78729. Upon arrival, it was clear which door to go in because there is only one door. It was a bit drizzily outside and a man was at the door greeting everyone and opening the door. He gave me a warm greeting and invited me to come in and get out of the rain. As I walked in and was wiping off my feet, I looked around. To my right was a welcome center desk with some information and to my left was water and juice and some cookies. I helped myself to some water then went to the visitor station. No one was manning the desk, so I made my way into the sanctuary. The gentleman who gave me a bulletin smiled and said "good morning" when I was approached by a woman named Tina. She recognized me from the service at REACH Church that we had both just attended. She said she has been attending Northwest Fellowship for about 7 years and over the past couple of years has been attending both churches since they are so close - mentioning that she likes different things about each one. I found my seat in the center. A couple sat to the left of me and 2 ladies sat to the right of me. The place was very full and it didn't take me very long to realize why.
As I sat waiting for the service to begin, I read over the church's mission statement on the bulletin "Our mission is to see God raise up people to know Christ passionately and make Him known globally! To see the Greater Austin area and the world transformed through prayer and outreach!"
The service began with a live band leading worship. The worship at Northwest Fellowship is very much designed to encourage active participation from the congregation. They successfully accomplish this through repetitive lyrics and tunes. For example, a song we sang was:
"Our God reigns. Our God reigns. Forever your kingdom reigns"
We sang this about 20 times. The lyrics did not change, but the tempo did slightly. The worship style of this church allows for plenty of active participation from the congregation - between each song, the church audibly praises God. We sang 2 songs with all the lights on and the last 2 leaving only the stage lighting on. During the last song, the preacher encouraged anyone who is struggling or facing hardship to leave their seat in the congregation and stand in the front to worship in front of the stage. I would say about a quarter of the congregation took him up on that offer and made their way to the front. During this worship time 2 members from the congregation felt led to come up to the stage and give impromptu testimonials. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the church offers this as an outlet to share their experience and am delighted in the sense of community felt within this church congregation. When the worship time was done, the pastor encouraged everyone to pray for the victims in the Florida high school shooting. Everyone began to pray their individual prayers all at once, which reminded me how GREAT our God is that he can hear all of those words at once and heal the broken hearts that were caused by this tragedy. Then the preacher encouraged the congregation to reach over to our neighbor and say a prayer for them. The woman on my left stepped over and touched my shoulder and prayer over me and then the woman on my right reached over and prayed for me. It is such a humbling feeling to have someone you have never met pray over you and bid you well.
As the preacher began his sermon that he titled "Four Soils", which was Part 4 of a series they have been doing, he introduced the sermon by stating that the devil masquerades himself to be light and pointed out that we as believers do the same thing. We go to church and someone asks us how we are and instead of saying "I'm broken" or "I"m going through a hard time" we simply say "Alright". He stated that when we bring our masquerades into the light, answers come. He said that as believers, we plateau and become unfruitful. Scripture for this sermon was Mark 4:1-9, 14-20. On the back of the bulletin the verses are printed as well as 4 follow-along fill in the blank notes which are to be filled out during the sermon.
The fill-in-the blank spaces were to answer the question "Which soil are you" and the preacher spoke about each one. He stated we as believers are one of the following:
- Soil on the Path: They hear, but Satan steals the word -- the preacher pointed out that every believer should know what God is saying to you and if you do not know, then you are allowing Satan to steal the word
- Rocky Soil: They Hear & Receive with Joy, but the lack of root and tribulation/persecution causes them to fall away -- The preacher mentioned that we need to put a stake in the ground and declare & confess that He is Lord
- Thorny Soil: Those that hear but the cares of the world, the love of money & the love of other things choke out the word -- the preacher said these are the ones who are missing the gift of God due to the cares of the world. He stated that we often justify ourselves into mediocrity and that is preventing us from bearing fruit
- Good Soil: Those that hear, accept the word and bear fruit -- He states these are the believers who welcome, embrace, accept and allow the word to take root in them so that nothing else influences the word He has given them
While speaking about #3, I realized just how passionate this preacher is. He was saying that the love of money & worldly possessions often lead people into believing that they don't need miracles. He reminded us that our Father loves to demonstrate miracles and declared "We need a miracle". While describing this, at one point he literally threw his Bible into the air and then caught it again.
He ended his sermon by stating that we read the word for one of two reasons: 1) to encounter Him 2). Obedience
With the eclectic style of this church, I think this church breaks down any wall that states there is a "wrong way" to worship. If you are looking for a church that encourages active participation and a church where you don't just walk through the motions, then I would recommend this church. I certainly left this church with a sense of an uplifting and encouraged spirit. This was an excellent start to my week.
To learn more about this church go to https://www.northwestfellowship.com/ or just stop in to visit the church one Sunday at 10:30 AM. I think there is much to be gained by visiting this church and am thankful I decided to attend.