Saturday, December 03, 2016

Reformation Project: Analyzing my Visit to Lake Pointe Church

This post will provide some additional analysis based on the description of my visit to the church found here. Because this post elaborates on the earlier one, readers are urged to look at it before proceeding with this one.

With a reported average attendance of over 11,000 at multiple campuses across the east side of the Dallas area, Lake Pointe Church is the fifth largest congregation in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, according to the Hartford Institute for Religion Research. Like the previously described Prestonwood Baptist Church, Lake Pointe has a long history as a large congregation. However, it has made more changes in response to recent trends than has Prestonwood, the most obvious being the dropping of "Baptist" from the church's name. Both of these churches are affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.

Most of my visit descriptions to this point have been light on analysis, but my earlier post describing my visit to Lake Pointe provides an exception to that, and I won't repeat that analysis here. I was particularly harsh regarding the pastor's sermon, suggesting that he spent far too  little attention on Christ in a sermon designed to get church members to become fully devoted followers of Christ. One reader made the observation to me that this was perhaps unfair given that it was based on a visit to a single church service. I thought that was an important point to which I would respond as follows:

My research approach for this study involved single visits to the 10 largest churches in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. While that allows the researcher to pull together material from multiple congregations within a reasonable time frame, it also means that the researcher must be aware that observations are relatively brief and cannot take in all that a church teaches or does. Nonetheless, if things are missing that might be expected, or if patterns are found across the churches that arguably represent a trend, then those findings can be reported.

As such, this researcher finds it surprising that so much talk can be given to what Christians should do in order to become fully devoted followers of Christ with very little attention being given to what Christ has done or to the role of the Holy Spirit in uniting us to Christ. While not everything can go into a single sermon, one might suggest that teaching covered in previous weeks or elsewhere in the church might be summarized in order to give context to the present day's teaching. After all, this blogger was likely not the only visitor on that day.

Gospel centered preaching has been out of vogue in many ecclesiastical contexts for so long that many Christians no longer know what it means. For many, "Gospel preaching" means an evangelistic appeal telling people how to "get saved." Under that view, a sermon on Christian living might be expected to be lacking in Gospel content. However, a cursory reading of the New Testament reveals the extent to which the Gospel stands at the center of every aspect of the Christian life. Rightly preaching law and Gospel is basic to the minister's task, and proclamation of the Gospel of grace stands as the church's message to meet the needs of Christians and non Christians alike.

The other issue of note I found in worshiping with this church was the lack of congregational participation. I have noted in other churches that the music was hard to sing, the method of delivery was performance oriented, and congregational participation was mixed. That seemed even more true with this church. This tendency will be the focus of discussion in a later post when I synthesize various findings from the churches. If music is a central factor in appealing to modern "seekers," why is it that so few tend to participate in the congregational singing?

In my next post, I will talk about my visit to Covenant Church. Hold on to your seats folks: this one was interesting.

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