Sr. Pastor Adam Hamilton's Trips
Periodically Adam will lead trips intended to spearhead innovation and new ventures. Below are reports and photos from those trips. Click on a trip name to see the information.
Adam and Pastor Katya Zoubkova
UMC of Salvation in Tyumen, Russia
Working on the steeple
Dreaming of the many who will know Jesus in these rooms.
Pastor Katya in what will be the first United Methodist Church in Western Siberia.
South Korean soldier straddling the line that divids North and South Korea. The right half of the table is in North Korea, the left half is in South Korea. This room is used for meetings between the two sides.
Lecturing on Leadership at Methodist Theological Seminary. Professor Chun is my interpreter. Dr. Chun, who is interpreting for me, teaches systematic theology at Saint Paul School of Theology and is a part of our congregation.
Upon visiting the Korean Folk Village our hosts insisted we wear the dress of Korean royalty and pose for a picture. This took me back to the days when Becca was a little girl and we'd do this in wild west gear. Quickly a crowd of Koreans began snapping photos.
At our last supper together, at the airport, Pastor Han wanted me to watch me try, one last time, to use my chopsticks! The Koreans got a good laugh at my expense, but were always kind to order me a fork! I tried at each meal and would have momentary success before my food fell on my lap!
Groundbreaking for the church in Winter of 2004.
This is the tree where the United Methodist Church in Ciudad Espana used to gather for worship and children's programs.
These are a few of the children who were present three years ago. At groundbreaking there were 300 children present.
This is the church building we have built at Ciudad Espana. Note the rooster in the lower left of the photo.
During the dedication service our team presented altar furnishings as a gift from our church to theirs. These included altar candles, offering plates, communion ware and a cross that was built by our members.
Children love to have their pictures taken - particularly when they can see themselves on the back of the digital camera. Most don't have photographs of themselves nor mirrors in their homes. These children are a part of Ciudad Espana church.
Some of the members of Ciudad Espana church.
More children from the church.
This photo was taken from the front steps of the church overlooking the village of Ciudad Espana. This is Pastor Felix, his wife and son and Rebecca and me.
This is our team, along with the pastors of a United Methodist Church in a rural area of Honduras. Their "building" consists of a roof, one wall, and benches. But somehow this was one of the most beautiful of places. More than 100 people participate in this church from the village of 200. Homes in this community are constructed of mud bricks.
Children are helping with the work on their new church building at El Paraiso United Methodist Church.
Interior of Saddleback Church
Bel Air Exterior
Bel Air Interior
Mariners Church with special set
Our team at Mariners Church
Mariners Church typical set
Pastor Hamilton’s report from the worship team’s visit to three Houston-area churches.
There are two opposite tendencies pastors have when visiting other churches: the first is to be overly critical and to pick-apart the other church, noting all of the things one doesn’t like in the other church. The other tendency is to uncritically embrace everything one sees in other churches. I’ve tried to avoid both of these tendencies in the following summary of the worship team’s experience visiting three large churches in Houston last weekend. There were positive things we learned and experienced in each of the churches, and a few things we would not embrace. I’ve tried to avoid offering any critical comments here and simply focused on describing a few elements of each church.
The Fellowship at the Woodlands Church3. Busses are used to pick up people from the far reaches of the parking lot. We’ve talked about acquiring some kind of shuttles for our farthest parking lots as our church continues to grow.
We visited this church on Saturday, June 10. This church started in 1993 and now has an average attendance of 13,000 per weekend.
The Fellowship at the Woodlands has made its name, in part, by using very unusual and creative illustrations for its sermons – a kind of an over-the-top children’s message that leaves people wondering what will happen each week. An example – last weekend on their weekly broadcast the sermon had something to do with our sins being buried at the bottom of the sea. During the sermon the backdrop behind the pastor was a screen with an image of fish swimming on it. But the really unusual part occurred when under sea divers were lowered down by wire from the ceiling of the sanctuary in full scuba gear as though the Sanctuary were the sea, and they began to swim over the congregation, taking photos of the people as though the people were fish. One week the church built moto-cross jumps in the Sanctuary and had moto-cross bikers do flips in the air on the Chancel to illustrate some point of a sermon. My sense is that this kind of dramatic illustration is a part of each weekend’s worship service.
I enjoy using creative illustrations in worship, but our illustrations tend to be a bit more subdued than what I saw at The Fellowship of the Woodlands. From time to time, it is fun to do something quite unexpected in a message. The key, for me, is that the illustrations not overpower the sermon, nor be such that the entire sermon seems only to serve the illustration. All of which is to say, don’t expect moto-cross bikes doing flips in our Sanctuary any time soon, though you might see at least one idea this August that was partly inspired by our time at the Fellowship of the Woodlands.
Second Baptist Church of Houston
The Second Baptist Church has five campuses across the Houston area with a combined attendance of over 20,000 per weekend. The main Sanctuary boasts two of the largest stained glass windows in the world. This service was much more traditional than the other churches we visited. Choir and orchestra sang and played. The sermon was focused on sharing the exciting things that had happened at youth camp the previous week where over 2,000 teenagers had attended camp at seaside resorts, pursuing their relationship with God. The video and testimonials made our group wish we were 16 again! The experience left us thinking about ways we might set aside a weekend to share with you all of the amazing things that happen in our student ministries each summer.
The Lakewood Church
This church meets in the former Compaq Center where the Houston Rockets once played. It seats 16,000 people and worships between 20,000 and 40,000 people per weekend. The service we attended looked to have about 12,000 people. They have three primary services per weekend. I admit to being skeptical when arriving at this church – on several fronts. First, I was curious how a converted arena would feel as a sanctuary, and second, the message from the church seems heavily focused on positive thinking – not a bad thing – but only a small part of the gospel. Here’s what we experienced:
- We were amazed at how well the lighting and the seating design made the floor and the first level of seating feel much more intimate than I imagined. I am guessing that the upper section of seats probably feels pretty far away, but it was less than half full. The lower sections were surprisingly comfortable (though the seats are a bit too close).
- The music was excellent – high-energy choir and orchestra that combined several musical styles. We stood and sang for 30 minutes – and the music, and the worship leadership, was designed to elicit excitement and joy – to tee up the positive, possibility-thinking message Joel would present.
- There was a prayer time in the middle of the service where prayer team members stood at the base of each section and prayed for anyone in that section that desired prayer. I found this a nice touch – we’ve done that here a time or two – though I think I prefer offering prayer and anointing following worship in our Firestone Chapel as we do it each week – this is a bit more confidential for folks wanting prayer and does not require that the rest of our congregation wait and sing until all are prayed for.
- The message was about 35 minutes in length, focused on one brief scripture (the scripture was read but not really referred to again) and the message, which could be captured by the Bobby McFerrin song, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” We were encouraged that, no matter how tough life might get, we should make the decision to be happy – it reminded me of a coach’s comments at half-time designed to encourage the team. The experience of being there reminded me that people need and want encouragement and hope that tomorrow will be better than today, and they find this kind of coaching helpful. Again, I’ll refrain from any criticism and let you decide for yourself what you think. I saw both positive things at Lakewood and a few things that I could not embrace, but I did not doubt that God was working there among the people of the church.
Danielle in Fuerzes Unidas
A few members of Ciudad Espana
A Row of homes - people earn $1 per day
Children coming to church at Telanga UMC
Two girls from Telanga UMC
Pastor Felix at groundbreaking of Ciudad Espana
The Children of Ciudad Espana
Laying our stones in the Sanctuary floor
Worship in Saint Peter's Basilica, the Vatican.
The chains that are said to have bound Peter before his death in Rome, A.D. 65.
Inside the Roman Coliseum, built atop the grounds of Nero's gardens where early Christians were tied to posts and burned to provide entertainment and light for one of his parties. The wood floor is no longer present - you are looking down into the lower levels where the wild animals and gladiators would have been prepared for battle.
The Arch of Titus in the Roman Forum showing a relief of the Roman soldiers carrying the menorah and other worship materials from the Holy Place in Herod's temple in Jerusalem just after the destroyed it in A.D. 70 - an event Jesus' had prophesied would happen.
The Mamertine Prison cell where Peter, and according to some traditions, Paul, were lowered down through a whole in the ceiling into this damp dungeon where they spent their last hours before being executed. Note the upside down cross on the altar - Peter' was said to have been crucified upside down. Paul was beheaded - both died under Nero's persecutions.