I’ve been in church for the better part of my life. Over two decades if I were to be honest. In this time, I’ve been a member of approximately four different churches. Yep, I’ve been around. Each one of them brought something to the table, and each one of them took something from it (LOL!). It also doesn’t help that I’ve been in active ministry during this time as well. In short, I know a little something about church. Yesterday was the first time that I’ve visited a church that is at the forefront of “this new move” in church culture: Elevation Church. I love Elevation: their branding is on point, Pastor Steven is ‘hella relatable and Elevation Worship gets my spirit lifted on a daily basis. However, I’d never actually attended one of their services. That was until yesterday when I found myself visiting Elevation Toronto for the first time.
Pastor Steven and Elevation Worship are visiting Toronto on Tuesday, October 3, 2017, and I need to be there. I missed the opportunity to see Hillsong, Jesus Culture AND Bethel last year, and I’m not going to be making that mistake again. Besides, I know all the songs off of the new There is a Cloud Album. In short, “it’s gonna be lit!” However, the only way to get advance tickets to this event is if you attended one of their services on Sunday, September 24, 2017. So, there was I and half of the D’Vine Worshippers, leaving church early to go pick up said tickets.
Act One: Entering the Compound
Guys, I kid you not: it looks EXACTLY like how it is on the website. Visiting Elevation Toronto is an experience to say the least. You know how food commericals are all fake, with frozen burgers and hair dryers etc.? No, what’s on the website, is what I was looking at, in the flesh. From the orange and black tents, to the beautiful, bright orange Elevation sign, it was all there. I was giddy. Walking in the building was electric: everything was chrome, orange, shiny and friendly. I got a bunch of pens, a VIP pamphlet and a CD with Elevation tracks on it. Heaven.
Act Two: Getting Ready to Worship
Stepping into the sanctuary/auditorium, the audio and visual team went hard: music wasn’t blasting, but was at a comfortably loud level. They had trailers, announcements and other videos playing as the place filled up with the most diverse crowd of congregants I had ever seen. Soon, the musicians were assembling as the countdown timer descended closer to zero. Then, *BOOM*, as soon as the counter hit zero, Mr. Drum Man got started, keys came through and the service began. Right. On. Time. The praise and worship segment was about 10 minutes, about two songs: one fast one, and one slow one. This was quite underwhelming for me. My hopes were that we would get at least 20 minutes worth of music. Instead, we received two video presentations from various Elevation branches which was disappointing. Don’t get me wrong, the presentations were BEAUTIFUL, I just didn’t want to see them.
Next, it was time for offering. The branch pastor said a few words, and then the main event (in my opinion) happened. We were now “patched in” to the live service happening at Elevation HQ and they sang, my favorite Elevation song to date, Yours. It was beautiful. The combination of the live music, the lighting, plus the sheer awesomeness of Elevation Worship was amazing. But, it felt like I was part of one great big production. That bothered me a little bit.
Act Three: The Sermon
Full disclosure: Pastor Steven didn’t share the Word when I was visiting Elevation Toronto, so this part may be different when he regularly preaches. There was a guest speaker who gave a message that was quite good… in a motivational Les Brown meets Tony Robbins way. In truth, I don’t think there was anything wrong with the message that was given. For me, it was a timely message that I needed to hear. Again though, something was a tad bit off. I came with just my phone and keys and didn’t have to check the Bible app once… however, my Facebook and Instagram stories received much love. There was no use of the Bible from my part as a congregant at all; the pastor alluded to one scripture passage through the entire message. I wasn’t feeling that at all.
Act Four: The Ride Back Home
Here’s my honest opinion after visiting Elevation Toronto. This may be a gross generalization, but I experienced enough to know that I may like my church a tad bit on the traditional side. If you aggressively highlight your Bible and could possibly name a couple of the High Holy Days on the Jewish calendar, I think Elevation may not be the church for you. If you believe in Jesus, but hit church once in a blue moon and prefer shorter church services, I think Elevation Church is right up your alley. Harsh? A gross generalization? I think if you’re honest with yourself, you’ll understand where I’m coming from. In the same way that there are different types of people at different types of fitness levels, there are different types of people who would find Elevation Church best suited for them… and that’s ok. I would highly recommend you check them out though. It is such a different way to church that you may like! No matter what your current, church status is, I think that finding a church that you personally feel comfortable with is highly important in your personal walk. But for ME…
Alas, it’s currently almost 11pm on Monday, September 25, and my etickets are yet to hit my email. Maybe Elevation sensed I was going to write this scathing piece and decided not to send me my tickets, but either way, my butt will be at the International Center, arms outstretched, belting out “Yours” like everyone else. Do you think I’m going to let some petty grievances in doctrine, stage presence and video presentations prevent me from worshipping my Maker? Never.