This review will, in essence, be a two part article. It started out as one “post”, but in writing it, I found that because what is preached at a church is the most important thing, that I will need to go over the definitions of some words and expand on why the Skyview Church preaches a lot of truths, but at the same time, is not what they think they are. I don’t mean that in a bad way at all and all I can say, is that you will have to read the next part of the article to understand why I said that and why it is not meant in a derogatory manner.
Anyway, on with the first part! :-)
I think that it is important to review various churches, because they’re where people go for a spiritual uplifting and to share their Christian faith with others, including those who are just interested in learning more about the Christian faith. And for believers, our church is supposed to be our Christian community. But of course, we can normally only do these things with those churches that are local to us. And so this time, I am choosing a church that I have attended and that I have a personal feel for. That church is the “SkyView Church of Christ” and it is located in Pinellas Park, FL.
SkyView Church is a smaller church, which I for one, appreciate. It gives the church a more personal feel. A greater feeling of community. And while I’m sure that SkyView could use some more growth (like any smaller church), I for one, have to admit that for the sake of the members there, my hope is that no matter how big it gets, that it never outgrows that smaller feel that it currently has! Too many churches lose that and that means that the community is lost! It all becomes about the preacher and that should never be!
But Skyview is not that kind of church. Of course like any church, Skyview has its pluses and minuses. And of course, those pluses and minuses are a matter of opinion and please keep in mind that this is only mine. But in my opinion, I have found the SkyView Church of Christ to be a place of community and fellowship! And I personally think that SkyView is a good church, that seeks to preach Biblical truths and nothing more. And that is the most important thing for any church!
As for my experiences there (meaning about each component of how the services, etc. are run), there were things that I liked and things that I was not necessarily all that thrilled with. For example. Music. I am a firm believer in music and music beyond the old style hymns that anyone 40 and over remembers being sung in church when they were kids. Especially in the Catholic churches (I’m not comparing the two churches). It’s not the centerpiece of a church experience for me, but a bit of music is a good thing in my view. Music is a gift from God and it gets the spirit moving. But this is where the elders of Skyview and I completely disagree.
Their stance is that they do not see music being brought into the New Testament churches within the pages of the New Testament itself. However, there are multiple instances in the NT that have them singing hymns when there were believers together. But to the elders at Skyview, this does not mean that music in a church setting is okay. I think this is being way too technical and history bears out the fact that there was music in the early churches. But they held firm to their stance, regardless of my endless charm.
Now, is this something to fault them for? No, of course not. They have their belief and I have mine. Of course I’m right, but that’s beside the point. :-)
I just think they’re missing out and I think the members might even feel (maybe not) as if this is a missing component in their church. But it is certainly not a matter of salvation and the up side is, it leaves more time for the preaching of the Gospel, which is never a bad thing, amen?
Speaking of preaching, I also believe that the preaching could be a bit less, uh, well, to put it as nicely as possible, “monotone”? I am not talking about trying to make it a big show. Instead, I am just talking about making it a bit more lively. I.e., preaching, not “reading”. A few more laughs even. In other words, keep ’em awake and attentive, guys! :-)
But again, this is not something to fault them for. Everybody has their own style. I prefer a pulse (just kidding, guys!). But you see, I know for a fact that the elders at Skyview are sincerely interested in making their members want to be there and in caring for their flock. Of this, I have no doubt. And so, if any of them happens to read this, my hope is that they see where this review is coming from, which is simply a desire to honestly state my view of my experiences there and what I think, in my humble opinion, could be improved upon. Not to be critical, but rather, helpful. And just wanting to let others know what to expect. And their opinions may differ from mine. And I also wish to talk about what is good there and what is blessed and there is much there that is!
And with that being said, the most important thing in any church, is what’s being preached! And I’d much rather hear monotone truth, than flamboyant falsehoods. And in this case, what is preached there is something that is close to my own personal beliefs, which are Preterist in nature. I say “close”, because they hold what many would label as a “Partial Preterist” view (which is actually a Futurist view and I will go over what all of this is in the next part of this two part article). And what I found at Skyview, is that they are not only ready to teach and capable of doing so, but also open to listening, which is something that you do not find (both) in churches today!
Having been a preacher and also a teacher for so many years, maybe I just notice these types of things, but I have found that churches almost always seem to have pastors who, I hate to say it, kind of have their noses in the air when it comes to hearing what anyone else has to say about something. They have their official “education” and their “system” and so, they know more than you do and they’ll make you feel as if you’re out of line for daring to try to pass on some information to them that you are aware of and that is just plain sad.
Let me tell you a story to illustrate what I mean. But first, a bit of history about myself, so that the story makes more sense to you.
Aside from sometimes visiting churches as a guest preacher, or a guest lecturer on various subjects (Creation/Evolution, End Times, Salvation, how the people of those times thought and spoke and ate and lived, etc. and how important it is to know these things as far as the Scriptures are concerned), I was also actively pastoring my own church. But when I was at these other churches, at first they were run by people I knew. But I guess word gets around and so I started ending up at churches run by people I didn’t know, some by people that I got to know while I was there (since they were local, spending time at these places was no problem) and it came to be, that while I was at these places, they asked me about helping out with some various things there that involved issues that they were having within. And over time, I had gained a reputation amongst other churches as someone who was willing to help out and as someone who could fix problems in churches and get people revitalized about the Gospel and find ways to increase repeated attendance and even the church’s membership. And also for correcting bad structures as a consultant, whether they be financial, or the employee structure (including pastorship). And I did this in a number of churches (not because I am great, but because God is great and He had me there for His purpose: glory be to Him!). And I found the people at these churches, for the most part, be receptive. Of course, they called me, so I guess they would be. :-)
And that’s the point I’m making. Not about my abilities that folks may feel that I do, or do not have. But that they were receptive to learning how to improve and had a great desire to do so and did not have a problem with humbling themselves enough to ask for this help.
And the reason it is important to bring this up, is because there was also the other side, which you see more clearly now, after reading the above and which consists of capable folks wanting to reach out and help in good will, but instead of this help being accepted, whatever it involved, whether helping to organize something, or just shuttling some people to events, this help would be rejected, in the form of the formal protocol being required and making sure that you felt lower than them in the chain of things.
And so now the story…..
A friend of mine “Donald”, who was a member of a church not too far from me (and very close to Skyview), called me one night and told me that he was starting up an outreach for the homeless, to go beyond what they already offered them, which was rooms that they gave to homeless people so they’d have a place to sleep and to clean up, some clothing and help finding work, getting them there, etc.. It was a very nice thing to do to help these people! So anyway, my friend Donald wished to begin with a weekly meeting that all homeless people from anywhere were welcome to come to. And this new project was “pastor approved” by the senior pastor of his church. He asked me if I would be willing to donate some time to help him get it started, as he had absolutely zero experience in running one of these things. “Yes! Of course! Absolutely!”, was my response.
And so I went and we had a great session! The men were sharing and opening up and my friend Donald was doing a wonderful job, needing very little guidance and I knew that this thing was being blessed by the Lord, that it was His work and that it was going to take off and Donald was going to do fine! I figured in about a month or two, I would bow out and let Donald further the program, with me helping out whenever he needed me to, whether helping to run a meeting, or just to set up chairs and pick people up.
But then a few days later, I got another call from my friend Donald, who asked me if I could stop by the church, because one of the pastors wanted to talk to me. “Sure”, I said. But when I got there, my friend brought me into the church and then left. After a few minutes, one of the pastors (not the senior pastor) walked over and sat down and began to tell me how I was not “sanctioned” (whatever that meant) to work at that church. That what I needed to do, was to start attending and after a while, I could apply for membership. Then, if I was a “good member”, then maybe after 2 years, they would consider me for some small tasks, helping out around the church, setting up chairs, etc.. Then maybe it could build from there.
Now just think about that and let that just sink in for a minute. Here I was, a pastor with my own church to attend to and this guy was treating me like what I did wasn’t “real Christianity” or something. This is not a matter of my pride, folks. This is a matter of his pride. Or maybe “ego” is a better word for it. But not his alone. Rather, their “system” there (see further down).
Anyway, my point is, that this was the “other side” of things. And unfortunately, this is the way it is in most churches. Their formal education in their “approved by them” schools means more to them than the community and it has to be in one of a very few selected schools that hold their end times beliefs (and I mean even which Futurist beliefs you hold) and you have to “earn” your way to being able to do even the least of things and this was done only through what modern churches consider the “official” way to do it. And holding their place in everyone’s eyes is something they have been taught to believe is “owed” to them at all times and what they say, IS the Gospel to them!
This is the opposite of what the Bible teaches. And unfortunately for me, it was the only type of church structure that I ever experienced in my entire life. And it is the same I think for most people. They just never realize it, because they’re there once a week and never require any help from their church. In these churches there was a lot of talk about Christian love and helping others, but whenever I needed help (I wanted to learn, or needed food, or whatever), it was never there! The “community” consisted of a clique of people “at the top”, who “obeyed” and that was it. And so, however many years later when I finally did become an ordained pastor, it was the opposite of how I always operated. And it is the opposite of how they operate at Skyview Church!
The bottom line is, that what we need in churches is a true community! One that is open to discussion and which is there when you need them and where you can be needed too! And this is the type of feeling that I got from Skyview and that is what matters in a church! Not just hearing the Gospel, but being a community of believers.
The elders there truly want to educate their flock. But they’re also open to discussion and of helping people when they can. In fact, I was the recipient of that help one time when it was needed and the help was given without hesitation! The elders keep repeating all of these words about community to people. But when you’re living something, you don’t need to say it all the time.
In other words, theirs was contrary to the kind of attitude that so many pastors today display! Everyone at Skyview has a voice. Not to the point of confusion. Not to the point of everyone being a teacher. But to the point of the elders teaching, while at the same time being receptive. And so, while of course during a Sunday church service, folks do need to listen to the message being preached, during the Bible Study meetings for example, it felt more like an atmosphere of open discussion and it was very nice and very relaxed! There was guidance there and a lesson plan. But at the same time, the feeling was that anyone could share a thought about what was being preached and the elder would try to give them a real answer that mattered and welcomed and considered any thoughts that others may have on the subject. And so the feeling was warm and open and inviting and friendly and this made it very enjoyable! I felt very welcome there and it was easy to tell that everyone there was eager to learn what they could and it was a very refreshing thing to see how they ran their Bible studies!
The point I’m making, is that no man is an island and we all have something left to learn and sometimes, no matter what our position, somebody else may have a better idea, or know something that we do not know and may be able to correct some misconceptions that we don’t realize we currently have. And we all, every one of us, need to be open to this! And this is the feeling that I got from Skyview Church. That they know this.
So here is my final word in the first part of the Skyview Church review: I think it is a highly valuable church in our community! What is being preached there is a necessary voice in our community and every other community that does not yet have a Preterist minded, open community style voice in it! Letting people know that Christ did keep His Promise and that He did exactly what He said He would do and that everyone counts, is of the utmost importance in every community and right now, at least in our area, it seems like Skyview is all alone in this and that is a very sad thing!
Skyview has a lot to offer everyone who is Christ minded, or is even just looking to find out about the Christian faith. And I would be glad to offer anything I can to the mix! And I want people to know, that if they get the chance, that whatever their end times views, Skyview is one church that they ought to visit! Not just for the Preterist viewpoint, but for the whole picture! The community of people there are warm and friendly and helpful and the elders are very approachable and welcoming and have a lot to offer the student wanting to learn the Scriptures! I believe that you’ll hear some messages that will increase your knowledge in Christ and that you will very much enjoy the Bible Studies!
Do yourself a favor and stop in there and meet some people and get to know the church and its members. It is something that you will be glad that you did! I know I am! :-) In fact, even though I have not been able to visit a church in years, let alone prepare sermons and stand at a pulpit every week anymore due to my permanent injury, I am working toward trying to be able to do more things. And popping my head inside Skyview is one of my goals, because I still consider Skyview to be my “home church”! I hope you will too.
In my next message, I will go into exactly what Skyview’s message is and why it is so needed and valuable in our community! And we will talk about what it is that in my opinion needs to be changed in their message. See ya then! :-)