Monday, October 14, 2013

Fellowship Church Grapevine and the Bible

Fellowship Church, based in Grapevine and having satellite congregations in 3 states, has an orthodox evangelical belief in Scripture.  According to the church's website:

"The Bible is God's Word to all men. It was written by human authors under the supernatural guidance of the Holy Spirit. It is the supreme source of truth for Christian beliefs and living. Because it is inspired by God, it is truth without any mixture of error."

Yet, the way that the lead minister of the church handles the Bible is anything but orthodox. Typically, a minister will seek to expound thoughts found in one or more texts, illustrate those thoughts, and apply them to the lives of the listeners.  Illustrations are for clarification with regard to the meaning of the text and its application.  Understanding and applying the text is the main thing.

The minister at Fellowship takes a different approach.  The illustration and application are the main thing.  The Scripture provides window dressing -- or, perhaps it is just considered mandatory in an evangelical church, even one as self-consciously non-traditional as Fellowship.

Thus, in yesterday's sermon, Pastor Ed Young appeared on stage with a blender and some containers of various fruit and vegetables. His subject of the day was going to be blended families, and instead of beginning by reading a text that he planned to use to address that subject (an admittedly difficult task), he instead began by disclosing that he had a hobby:  making smoothies.  The roughly 35 minute sermon was built around his making a smoothie, with various applications as to how God can make blended families "delicious and nutritious," just like the smoothie.

Rev. Young actually spent as much time hawking a book he had written on dating as reading the Bible, but Scripture was referenced.  The Bible played a secondary role, used like Bartlett's Book of Familiar Quotations to provide some quotes that would lend support to his illustration.  A smoothie must have good ingredients, and so a person looking for a mate should seek out someone who shows forth the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22).  The ingredients must be washed, and blended families are messy, but I Corinthians 6:11 tells us that we have been washed.  For smoothies to be made and blended families to work, power is required, so Acts 1:8 was read to show that the power of the Holy Spirit is there.

Of course, none of these passages have anything to do with what the minister said. The fruit of the Spirit in Galatians are listed in the context of telling people what the Spirit is producing in those who walk in Him, rather than fulfilling the lusts of the flesh.  I Corinthians 6 provides Paul's response to believers who previously had lived in sinful ways, encouraging them to now live differently in light of Christ's redeeming power and love. Acts 1:8 is the power of the Spirit to use the apostles to spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth, not the power to help blended families be successful.

The failure to teach Scripture in context in a serious one, as it teaches congregants to mishandle Scripture in this way, and it fails to model the proper way to understand Scripture. When I was teaching a Sunday School class recently, a woman in the class correctly noted that the failure to teach the Bible and to instruct confessionally left members, especially children, vulnerable to cults and other bizarre religious teaching.  Encouraging spiritual sentiment without defining it biblically often will lead people off the rails. To change metaphors, this is preaching that leaves sheep having no shepherd.

The way that Pastor Young is doing it is increasingly popular.  Many people don't have patience to actually grapple with a text before looking for the real world applications, and they are more interested in real world applications, narrowly defined, than in everlasting life.  The role of a minister is to resist the trends and preach the Word.  That mandate comes from God, who rules over those having itchy ears for the latest teaching fads -- and over the ministers who commend themselves to them.

No comments: