Local churches: Encounter

Photo+by+Mimi+Mutesa

Photo by Mimi Mutesa

Haven’t been to church in a while? Encounter Church might be the perfect fit. Located just 10 minutes away from Calvin’s campus on Kalamazoo St., Encounter is intentional about making everyone, especially those unfamiliar with church culture, feel welcome.

Luke White, a sophomore at Calvin, has been attending Encounter for just under a year. He described many ways that Encounter is particularly welcoming to college students; one way is by offering rides to church on Sunday mornings. Another way is by establishing a welcoming environment through friendly greeters and warm beverages.

Encounter also welcomes students through an engaging college ministry program. White described the ministry as a place “where a lot of personal faith growth occurs.” The college ministry gives students opportunities for intimate discussion in a Bible-study-like setting. “College is a time when you are trying to figure yourself out,” said White, “and Encounter provides their staff and other college students to help you along the way.”

There are many Calvin students who regularly attend Encounter, and one reason is because of the engaging, contemporary worship. “The church environment is very modern,” White said. “There is a stage with a screen behind. The worship band plays with guitars, drums, electric piano, sometimes more instruments depending on the song. The music is decently loud.”

Students also like to attend Encounter because of the sermons; White was particularly enthusiastic about the sermons, which are energetic and grounded in Scripture. “Pastor Dirk comes every week extremely prepared and excited to help others understand the word of God. I can always count on Pastor Dirk for giving me something throughout the sermon that makes me think deeply and have a change of heart,” White said.

Although Encounter does not belong to a particular denomination, the messages and teachings follow the beliefs established in the Apostle’s Creed. Encounter does not openly associate with a particular denomination in part because it is appealing to Christians from a wide variety of backgrounds. “Encounter focuses on individuals who have not been to church in a while,” White said. “It is awesome to see individuals be changed by God through the actions of the Church.”

Encounter’s emphasis on establishing a welcoming environment has proved successful; the congregation is a thriving body of believers, mostly consisting of a mix of younger families, college students and young adults. White reported that one of his favorite things about Encounter is how quickly it has grown. “Last year, Encounter had one service, and it outgrew itself. So it moved to two services this year,” said White. “It’s awesome to see the church move in such a positive way and bring more individuals to Christ.”

White recommended Encounter to his fellow Calvin students because its emphasis on community and evangelism effectively prepares him to live out his calling: “With such a fast changing world, it is great to be at a place that prepares for your upcoming week so that you can be a more effective follower of Christ.”