Falls Creek, Florida - Over the past five years The First Baptist Church of Falls Creek has been looking for new and creative ways to "beef up" their worship services and to attract new faces to their church. So they adopted a policy of "whatever works" into their collective vision. What resulted was a church that borrowed heavily from pop culture.
The church's first adjustment came in 2003 when the congregation replaced the existing praise ensemble with a five member teenage male heartthrob group known as The Golden Street Boys. Soon thereafter, the church did away with general deacon elections and began holding an annual competition called Survivor, Fall's Creek in which those nominated for the office of deacon competed over a period of 40 days. The last person standing was automatically named head deacon and was then able to pick five more people to serve with him. And just last year the church installed an Olympic-sized swimming pool under the floor of their sanctuary and held their first ever swimming service in which all of the members of the congregation swam during the worship time.
"We are lively, upbeat and always down with the latest trend" said Pastor Larry Hillenburg. "We look around us and when we see something that works, we just Christianize it and plug it into our church."
All seemed to be going well for the church and its "do what works" philosophy, that is, until recently when the church started a new program they called "Throwed Communion."
The idea was conceived by Hillenburg and several of the deacons during a recent trip to St. Louis. During the trip the group passed through the small Missouri town of Sikeston and ate at the famous Lambert's Cafe, known for their "throwed rolls."
"We were sitting there eating at Lambert's just enjoying ourselves" said Deacon Marty Mitchell. "It's such a hoot when they come through with those hot rolls. You just hold up your hand and they'll throw them at you. We had the best time, and just laughed and laughed about it. Then we all started thinking about how good this would be if we could somehow incorporate it into our own church."
So the group put their heads together and came up with an idea that they were certain would be popular.
"We had been looking for a way to really spice up the Lord's Supper time" said Hillenburg. "We do it once a month, and I'll tell you, it can really get dull. It's the same thing. We pass out the bread and grape juice while the boy band sings something slow and soothing."
The group came to the conclusion that they would try the idea of "throwed communion" during their next Lord's Supper. But unfortunately, the idea did not work out as well as the group would have hoped.
"Their were a couple of things which we didn't think through too well" noted Hillenburg. "Namely, we never discussed what to do about the little cups of grape juice or what to do if people dropped the bread, how they were supposed to get another piece."
The service began with Hillenburg and the deacons literally throwing the bread to the congregation. Unfortunately, though, a large number of the bread pieces were not caught and ended up all over the worship center floor. Furthermore, in an effort to catch the flying pieces ten boys from the youth group were injured making tackles. In addition, members complained of finding pieces of bread in their hair several hours after the service had ended.
As if the flying bread chaos was not enough, the situation only degraded further when it came time to pass out the "wine."
"I could tell things were not going well" stated Hillenburg, "and all I wanted to do was get this thing over with. But before I could say anything the deacons picked up the little cups of grape juice and started throwing them at people too."
The members of the congregation soon discovered that flying cups of grape juice, whether the cups are caught or not, ultimately result in spilled juice going everywhere. And everywhere is where it went. When the service was over no pew was left untouched by grape stains, the beige carpet was ruined and ever member of the congregation had purple on their clothes somewhere. In all the church will have to spend $50,000 for new carpet, $50,000 to have all of the pews reupholstered with dry cleaning receipts still being turned in by members of the congregation, and another $2000 for the ant extermination.
"We made a mess with this one" said Mitchell, looking back on the event. "I think if this situation taught us anything, it's that not every good idea will translate from one situation to the next. In light of this we've decided to scrap the "Church Versus Nature" campaign we were going to do this fall in which we would have dropped the whole congregation off in the Everglades to see if they could find their way home. I've got a feeling that one wouldn't turn out so well too."