It is generally accepted that Apostolics lead exciting lives. Besides the occasional board game party nights and bowling outings, the more liberal of us like to sneak off to the movie theater, too. Life doesn’t get much better than this…except for when there’s a special service at a big church. These special services can take on many forms. There is that of the youth outing, which is basically a method of finding your future spouse while praising the Lord (double win!), that of the district conference, which consists of the most fashionable among us showing off our outfits, and then there is that of the special speaker coming to the town closest to you and everyone going to hear him or her. Occasionally, another form of a big church service can appear, too – for example, when a Bible college chorale tours in your city. That is also a major happening that promises to have lots of single girls with big hair in attendance! Never miss this one.
The Apostolic “special service” is something I have watched for many years. Although the attire of the people attending and the songs have changed since I was little, the method is still the same. The special evangelist/choir/function is announced about two months in advance. Everyone is thrown into a tizzy as all the girls try to find the perfect outfit that will find them the perfect husband, and the guys try to master the art of tying a bowtie. The after-service restaurant tour is planned. If you are a true expert at this, you figure out how late you’re going to be the night of the event so you can make the correct entrance. Finally, after all the preliminaries have occurred, the big night arrives. Everyone takes their seats, ostensibly to praise the Lord but in reality to also look around to see who is there, and the worship service begins. The overdressed praise team leaders begin to pelt out the latest worship song by the latest gospel artist and boom! there it goes. Lately, at least in Texas, there’s a call for everyone to come up to the altar during praise and worship and sing up there. I never do this because I feel awkward. Also, the lights are always extremely dim, thus making it hard to not hit someone when you raise your hands to worship.
Anyway. After this, the preacher preaches, the more bold or spiritual stand up and clap periodically, and then there’s an altar call. Now, for many (at least I hope), the altar call is a serious thing. People pray and some even repent! Many, however use this as an opportunity to go to the restroom and fix their hair and then loiter in the halls and text - very importantly! - on their phones.
After altar call is finally finished, there’s either a rush out the door so your group can arrive before the other masses get to the restaurant or there’s a massive met and greet in the sanctuary. It’s almost like speed dating, but with fancier clothes. Note to the newly converted young person: If you have never been to a Pentecostal youth service before, beware! Everyone already knows everyone else so you might stick out. If you’re a guy, there will be ten girls that will follow you and try and get your number. If you’re a girl, every other girl there will subtly give you the once over and then criticize your apparel. Don’t worry – it’s all part of the game. You will soon learn.
After everyone has gone through the rigamorole of meeting their future spouses, church will then be over. If you have not found your spouse yet, don’t worry! The best part of the whole evening is beginning! This is the part where everyone goes out to eat. Now, be careful. Where you go and who you eat with can say a lot about you. Always try and be seen with the “In People”! It will help increase your notoriety. Beware, however. The In People generally like to eat at expensive restaurants, so bring some money.
In addition to picking out the correct restaurant, careful attention must be given to where you sit at the table. Always try and sit in the middle – it will give you maximum advantage when trying to talk to one or more people. Never get stuck on the end. There’s never anyone to talk to down there, and you can’t make as much of an entrance when standing up to go to the restroom.
When explaining the restaurant scene, a careful note must be made. Because you are coming in right before closing time, presumably with a large group of people, the restaurant staff will hate you. Also, it will take forever to order your food and even longer for it to arrive. So be prepared to spend at least a couple of hours eating, maybe even longer. But this is okay! It gives you more time to walk around to different tables to meet more people (because in the end, everyone ends up going to the same restaurant) and therefore more attention will be paid to you! So it can be a win-win situation if you work it right.
Before long, however, the night will be over. And you will go back home and church on Sunday will seem very boring. But it’s okay! Because in three months, there will be another event and you can repeat the process all over again!