george hancock stefanWhen people from our congregation are going away, I encourage them to visit another church. Moreover, I ask them to bring the church’s bulletin so that we can learn from another church. When I go away, I also try to visit another church in order to learn. At the end of the service, I usually introduce myself to the pastor and say something positive about the visit. On my latest church visit, I was accompanied by my two nieces who are musicians and members of another church on the West Coast.

This church we visited had two services—one at 9:00 a.m. and one at 11:00 a.m. We attended the earlier worship service. We quickly saw that this was a mighty friendly church when we were greeted by four people between the parking lot and our seat in the sanctuary. They gave us their names and wanted to find out our names and where we were from. Even though we did not take them up on their offer to stop by their coffee shop, we felt very welcome. We were raised not to bring our drinks into the church but this congregation encouraged people to enjoy their coffee during worship.

The church has a contemporary style of music and I did not know any of the four songs that they sang. The songs were led by a praise and worship team made up of six people. I love creative music and thus I am very enamored by contemporary music. However, I feel that contemporary music does three negative things – 1) it has copied secular music in volume, so that most people in the church cannot even hear the person next to them singing, 2) it discourages the congregation from singing and praising the Lord, and 3) we are spectators instead of participants in the worship service.

Nevertheless we were there to worship, not criticize. The pastor preached a sermon that was close to 45 minutes. I am used to long sermons so I was attentive the whole time. He preached in a narrative, or story-telling, style. I felt connected to most of the points that he sought to make. If I had been the one preaching, I would have made a stronger connection with the events that had happened that week in Minneapolis and Dallas and connected it better to the Lord’s Table towards the end of the service.

The announcements were made towards the end, right before the benediction. We were told that we could place our offerings and our visitor cards in the baskets by the door. It was apparent that this is a church that is very active in the surrounding community, with a good number of activities during the week.


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I asked my nieces if they would return to this church, if they were looking for a new one. Their answer was negative, in view of the fact that they enjoy mixed contemporary/traditional music and an expository style of preaching. I replied that it seems that this church is doing well in the style they have chosen. As long as the church worships and praises the Lord and brings new people into God’s Kingdom, they are doing what God wants them to do.


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Rev. Dr. George Hancock-Stefan

George Hancock-Stefan

Pastor George Hancock-Stefan completed 30 years as the pastor of the great congregation at Central Baptist Church in Atlantic Highlands in 2020. Those 30 years have been a blessed time for him, his wife...