Friday, January 4, 2008

Metro South Church - Trenton, Michigan

Church Field Trip # 23

For the benefit of my brother and a few of my friends who live in Southeastern Michigan, I've been digging on the web for a modern, relevant church in their area for the past few years. Metro South Church (MSC) was the one and only church that I could find online that seemed as if it might meet my criteria for "relevancy." Michigan is by no means a part of the Southern Bible Belt, but the religious culture is, for the most part, too traditional for my own personal tastes. This, all the more, makes Metro South stand out on my radar. For the record, I grew up in a church in Southgate, MI called Bethel Baptist, and during my latter teen years, I attended the First Baptist Church of Temperance, MI. (My little brother actually attended Metro South a couple years ago at my suggestion and he complained that it was too loud. I refrained from punching him in the face for such a blasphemous statement.)

I had a great time at this church despite the fact that it was freezing cold outside and I was sick to my stomach from eating White Castle Sliders at 1 am the night before. Metro South started only 7 years ago in the home of Pastor J - a moniker of his own choosing - (Jeremy Schossau) with 25 people. They've now grown to over 800 people each weekend in two services. In March of 2007, they moved into an old FoodTown at the corner of Van Horn and Fort St. and overhauled the space in 90 days, at a cost of $300,000 with the help of only volunteers from the church.

Aesthetically, this was the most comfortable, modern, and coolest use of church space that I've ever experienced. This church proves that it is not about how much money you have, but how you choose to creatively use that money. According to Pastor J, their financial giving averages $9 per person, compared to the national average of $25 per person - though, admittedly, these figures are probably only significant to the pastoral readers of this site. Want some more numbers? How about the fact that their fourth annual Trunk or Treat this past Halloween drew more than 4000 people in attendance. Or the fact that this church of 800 has more than 300 teenagers in its youth ministry.

Two weeks ago, MSC opened their new full-time cafe, Baxters. It is inspired by Panera Bread and Starbucks, and the church opened the cafe as an effort to build community. Let me be clear in explaining that this is not some coffee bar that the churched propped up in the corner. It is a full-functioning cafe that could indeed compete with the likes of Panera Bread. Part of the church's entry lobby is their store, Journey. I've never seen a church sell merchandise like this. They had at least 5 racks of clothing - hoodies, beanies, t-shirts, kids' clothes, even infant clothes - that were all emblazoned with graphics reminiscent of brands such as Affliction, Hollister, and NOTW. More importantly, almost none of the merchandise carried the actual name of the church, though a small number of them had the church website located near the bottom in small print. I like the fact that they are giving preference to creating merchandise that you might actually want to wear rather than a blatant form of advertising.

We weren't there long before we ran into Pastor Jeremy and he proceeded to give us a 15 minute tour of the place. This personal tour hosted by the pastor was great, but I did think it was a bit out of place. We soon found out that Pastor J had preached for the previous 51 weeks, and he had decided to hand the teaching duties over to someone else that day. He also informed us that the band would be stripped down and acoustic for the morning. As I said about the G12 church we attended a few weeks ago, when the second string preaching and worship are out of this world, it just makes you want to come back for the full experience - and this was the case with MSC.

The worship was great. Though stripped down and acoustic, it was still very loud and engaging, a good thing in my book, despite what my brother may think about it. I think they played almost 6 songs, including about 10 minutes of announcements by Jeremy (on his day off).

The guest teacher was Terry Flint - he's the assistant principal at Grosse Ile High School. (Interesting factoid: One of my mentors, Mr. Gregory Loselle, is a teacher at that very same school.) He concluded their current series: Metro at the Movies. He taught on The Miserable Life, using 4 separate 4 minute video clips from the movie Les Miserables. It was a great approach to teaching. As a matter of fact, we've only seen a preacher "chop up" his sermon with video in this fashion one other time - at with Craig Groeschel. Pastor Jeremy confirmed this, stating afterwards that he often uses this "" approach to teaching by breaking up his sermon with video clips of himself teaching certain points in different locales.

The four clips that Terry showed us from Les Miserables:

  1. Jean Valjean is shown hospitality by the priest and then proceeds to jack him up and rob him blind.

  2. The priest, in turn, ransoms Jean Valjean's soul for God by forgiving him of his sin and giving him a chance to "become a new man".

  3. Jean Valjean shows grace to a street prostitute, showing that he obviously learned his lesson from the priest. He tells the street prostitute that, in God's eyes, she is a beautiful woman.

  4. The nemesis of Jean Valjean, Javert, finally learns his own lesson: try as he might to uphold the law, he can never be perfect. The only thing that can overcome this dismal state is grace.

Flint clearly delivered the Gospel in a compelling manner, referencing such verses as:

Here are a couple notable excerpts from the sermon:

"The grace of God never makes any sense. It defies logic."

"Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future."

"Even in our redemption, our past seldom dies easily."

"You have to commit fully in order to get the benefit from having a relationship with God. You have to surrender your life completely to Him."

"Is life change really possible? Is it really possible to be like Jesus? What does it really take to change?"

After the service, we peeked around and found the indoor skate park that Jeremy had mentioned during his tour. Another church first, to be sure. They had a half pipe, a handful of rails, and also a handful of ramps as well as a bunch of helmets and extra skateboards laying around. I know that it sounds too good to be true; too suspicious - that we should write it off as an exception because this church was in another state and in another culture. But I am serious when I say that this church was awesome.

As a matter of fact, there may have only been one noticeable drawback, and even that would be debatable. We brought along a friend of ours who is not a regular church attender. She really enjoyed herself, but she did admit that she felt a little uncomfortable when the offering bucket passed by. I, myself, though not uncomfortable, was surprised to see that this "postmodern" church had not opted for "stationary offering boxes" that are less intrusive upon visitors. This isn't a criticism, just an observation.
Follow-up: We received a personally written email from Jeremy.


Chris Goeppner said...

hey, that "what would jesus buy" movie is in town (lake worth theater). im getting some peeps together to go see it, you in? here are the times:
Fri 1/4 2:00 PM; 6:00 PM
Sat 1/5 2:00 PM; 6:00 PM
Sun 1/6 2:00 PM; 6:00 PM
Mon 1/7 4:00 PM
Tue 1/8 4:00 PM
Wed 1/9 4:00 PM; 8:00 PM
Thu 1/10 2:00 PM; 6:00 PM

Mayoliv said...

I love that it has a Skate park inside. Very Cool! When are we going to that G12 church?

Anonymous said...

I'm a little older and I am looking for a new church. My mom (76) went to a function there with a friend of hers and she liked it. I have been hearing a lot of good things about this church. Thanks for coming all the way to Michigan to tour it for us. I think I will just have to check it out.

Anonymous said...

I have lived in a lot of different states and tried a ton of churches and never felt I could make any church my home until metro!

All you said above was great. Sorry you missed the full band experience because they ROCK and Chad has an awsome voice>

As for the offering I never saw a stationary offering in a church? BUT I will say that Metro makes no big deal of it and usually has the band playing during. And it kind of keeps the spot light off people. I give when I can but am gratefull for them not pushing the issue.

Pastor J said...

We considered the ‘box in the back’ method and then thought… ‘That is just ridiculous. Even total unchurched skeptics understand that money makes the world go round and it takes $ to pay the bills. We actually have determined that the seekers want an honest ‘taking of offering’ without being manipulated or made to feel guilty. We have taught over and over…we give because we love. That simple.

SBK said...

I did a google search looking for a church in my area, and found this site. This sounds like an interesting church. I will have to check it out. Thanks for the heads up.

Margie said...

Loved the review (which was great), actually took a look at your blog, laughed... you get used to no sun, eventually, I hope...

Muscle Mike said...

I loved your review. Thank you for the kind words about our ministry. I wish you could have seen our high school ministry "Alive". We left for an awesome retreat that afternoon. God is amazing!! Alive meets @ 7pm (doors open @ 6) on Sunday nights. Check it out @ Alive rocks!!
Peace, Love, & Grace to you all

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Please post reply.

revolution said...

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Obviously, you didn't bother to click the link, Mr. Anonymous.

Try clicking the link.

I'm not in the mood this morning, so I think I'll limit my comments to that.

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Anonymous said...

With the experience i have had with this church, as well as my family who has been going to this church for a couple years, we have discovered something. What you see is NOT what you get. This is a very "cliquey" place. The pastor who you see on stage is NOT who you get when you speak with him one on one. When a family member asked for help, because they were in financial crisis and asked if maybe they could get clothing or food donations, the were met with "no, and we will pray for you". to add to this, this person was highly active in volunteering for free at this place. This place is too big for their britches, just because the lessons are good does not mean the people are. Since my wife, children, and family members have gone else where. If you decide to go here, i suggest trying to get to know the "big wigs" of the church, and you will soon realize they tend to use people.

Anonymous said...

This church is nothing short of a cult. Be very aware of their brainwashing and the pastor is very childish. The leaders of this church will use God as leverage to suck out what they want from you. I knew Jeremy from another church he was involved in before he started metro. All I will say is be aware of false profits. The man is missing a few screws and doesn't know the Bible well enough to hold a intelligent conversation.

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