It's such a novel idea, I've known for months that I had to try it, and today I finally had my chance: going to church at the Mall of America.
Their website said the music started at 9:55, so I timed my morning around that. As I entered the Mall, River Church volunteers held the door open for me and others, and that's when it occurred to me that most stores in the Mall don't open until 11:00 on Sunday, so all of these people around me were more than likely going the same place I was.
True to their online word, there were signs guiding the way from the west entrance all the way into Camp Snoopy to the Great Lakes Ballroom where the service is held. Smiling faces gave me a bulletin at the door and I made my way in, taking a seat in the back row (typical me).
A contemporary setting, waiting for the music to start was pecularly similar to the concerts I've been to at the Xcel Center with a timer counting down on the projection screen and Third Day playing quietly in the background. The counter reached 0, the drums started, the guitars joined, and singing commenced. I loved it, and not only because the performance was an excellent example of what could be strived for technically at Minnehaha (both sound wise and with regard to their much-better-than-PowerPoint multimedia presentations), but because here we were, a group of between 50 and 100 believers, gathered in a public Mall on a Sunday morning, coming together to sing praise to and worship God.
The music ended, the offering was taken, and the pastor introduced the guest speaker for the day, there to talk about something he called "The Jesus Manifesto". He talked. And he talked. And he talked some more. An hour and some minutes later, he finally wrapped up - a might bit longer sermon than I'm accustomed to, and also longer than I would have preferred, given the scattered and non-linear thought pattern he followed. In all fairness, though, he was a guest speaker, and perhaps no one told him that the service was only supposed to last "a little over an hour" (quoting from the FAQ on their site). To clarify, it's not that I have a dislike for long sermons (as long as they are coherent), but I just need to know ahead of time to expect it.
And then the service was over. The guest speaker sat down, the pastor said a few sentences, and we left.
The verdict: Overall I enjoyed myself, and I hope to go back again when they do not have a guest preacher in order to get a better feel for what the church is like. And thus I conclude, maybe there is something to this 'Church in the Mall' idea. What better way could there be to reach out into the world?