So, here is a quick and easy mind dump of our experience with Vince Anotuncci and Forefront at The White Horse Pub in VA Beach. (you will now see how poor a speller I am cause it's late and I'm not going to use spell check cause I do'nt care.
We had dinner with Vince at a deli. The salad was good. The conversation was better. Vince let us know that the article in that morning's paper was getting lots of comments, many from some very angry "Christians". He was a little apprehensive that they would have some people show up who would cause some issues, but that didn't happen. In fact, they had about 25 more people than they've had before, which I assume can be largely acreditted to the article.
Vince is a cool guy...reminds me a lot of my college roommate and best man (wedding, not australian), Juan (not hispanic/latin...long story). He is slightly husky, but that's cool with me. He willingly shared anything he could about their experience with the church in the bar. If I understood the story correctly, it basically began out of a need to video their sermons so that they could run two seperate campuses simultaneously on Sunday mornings...one would have a live sermon, and the other would have the same sermon shown via video. They wanted to tape in front of a live audience. They originally were looking at a local comedy club, but when that fell through, they began looking at local retaurant/bars. The owner of The White Horse was totally open, and that's basically that.
We arrived at the bar about 40 minutes before the beginning of the service. We sat in a booth with a good view of the stage and the rest of the bar. We ordered drinks (soda) and some wings (we weren't hungry, but we didn't want to mooch). We got to talk with Jason Bedell, Forefronts media/video/graphics (technically "creative arts pastor"). He's spent some time on the OBX, so that's cool. He uses ProPresenter as well, so that's extra cool. He's a Mac guy, which makes him the coolest.
By 7, the place was almost full. By the end, the only empty seats I saw were the 2-3 that didn't have a view of the stage. The only people that seemed at least semi-uninterested in the church stuff were the dozen people who were sitting at the actual bar. All of the other seats were free standing or at tables. They had about 120 people there...normally the bar only has about 15-20 people during that time on Tuesday nights...that means a 500% increase, which I'm sure the bar owner and staff enjoy.
The liturgy was very similar to what you would find at our church:
1 song (a new Foo Fighters song)
welcome (by the worship leader guy)
3 "worship" songs (all written in house)
explanation of communion
1 song during communion (another in house song)
video introduction of sermon ("Bench Warmers" movie trailer)
sermon (by the student ministries guy)
A few things that stood out to me that were notably different from a normal church/service:
> The crowd was mostly unchurched, so the engagement was not as evident. But, everyone except for the few at the bar seemed to be completely attentive the entire time.
> There was food and drinks (including alcohol) being served during, but again, everyone was paying attention to what was going on on the stage.
> The game - they asked for two volunteers who were then given baseball bats and told to place their heads on one end of the bat with the other end on the ground and spin around 12 times before running out of the bar and back inside. The person with the best time won a prize (don't remember what). Good times!
> Communion was served in little boxes (see below) that were placed on every table and passed around to the people sitting in chairs...they do this every week. Vince explained that they would not do communion in this environment except that about 20-30 of their regular Forefront people had committed to coming to the bar and not to their Sunday morning campuses, which would mean if they didn't do communion here, those people would never get to do it. I didn't pay attention to see how many did not participate (cause that's not cool in any situation), but Vince told us that a lot of the unchurched folks do not participate, and again, they did a good job of explaining the purpose of communion and asking people not to participate if they weren't believers in God.
> Vince and the others did a GREAT job of explaining things, including what Forefront is all about. The explained every aspect of the service very well, including the music and the offering.
> The entire service very much felt like a normal event at a local bar...like a concert or a comedy act. That's a good thing.
A few other thoughts:
> I was not crazy about most of the music they used (except for the Foo Fighters song and one of their own songs), but that's OK cause they're not trying to reach me...it's obvious that the music they're using is attracting the people who are coming, and that's a good thing.
> It was a little strange to be surrounded by people who were drinking and smoking and eating during a church service, but again, it felt just as much like a bar as it did a church. The message was definitely there, but the meathods were very tangably relevant.
> We're seriously considering doing Vintage like this next year (in a nuetral location). It's hard to do a successful seeker-driven event inside the walls of the church...it's much easier to go where they already are at.