Thursday, December 08, 2016

The Reformation Project: Analyzing my Visit to Covenant Church

I wrote a description of my visit to Covenant Church here. This post provides further analysis of what I described. Because that post is foundational to what I am analyzing here, I would suggest that the reader look back to the previous post if he has not already read it.

Covenant Church, with a reported average attendance of 11,000, is the sixth largest church in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, according to information gleaned from the Hartford Institute for Religion Research. It is located in the suburbs to the north of Dallas, and physically it is not far from Prestonwood Baptist Church, which has already been studied as the fourth largest church in the region.

Because charismatic churches focus on the ongoing availability of miraculous divine power to Christians in the present day for healing and to meet other needs, a common assumption would be that they honor God's supernatural power and authority. No doubt, in many cases there would be truth to that assumption, but in the case of Covenant Church, it would be mistaken. Consider, from the service previously described, things that were stated about God and the issue of power:

  • A unified body (church) creates a demand for God to remove a mountain.
  • "Humility, confession summons grace."
  • "Your strong vows summon God's grace."
What is clear in these statements, two of them by the senior pastor and one by the associate, is that God is the pawn waiting to be commanded what to do. Two readers of my earlier post compared this type of language unfavorably to what happens in witchcraft and pagan worship. Certainly, this does not represent a Christian view of God, as the view presented at the church pictures a God ready to be yanked out of the closet if his people decide that they are willing.

Thus, it is not surprising that they divorce the ministry of the Spirit from the ministry of the Word. Indeed, in ministering the Word, the pastor took Scripture that meant that David would not have an impressive appearance like Saul, and instead he related it to David's confrontation with Goliath. This brazenly inaccurate use of the text was accompanied by the gnostic explanation that the Spirit had given him a new interpretation, ignoring the fact that the Spirit inspired Scripture in specific historical contexts. Indeed, Scripture -- and scriptural history -- were further dishonored by essentially reducing the biblical characters (Jacob and David) to fables for our moral instruction. The view that Goliath was actually a malformed weakling was an interesting take, but I could not find any biblical scholar that spoke favorably of the article that originated that view.

The Spirit was also blamed by the primary music leader for his odd behavior -- he said that the Spirit's movement of the praise team at a retreat might cause him to behave in a way he would have to apologize for, but there is not scriptural foundation for such a claim. Indeed, the Spirit, according to John's Gospel, is here to glorify Christ, and the music leader's conduct detracted from that goal by creating distractions that overwhelmed even a song that actually contained gospel content. In addition to his constant bouncing and occasional odd statements, the individual in question took musical leadership as an occasion for exchanging frequent flirty eye contact with another member of the praise team. I am not suggesting anything morally inappropriate -- she may have been his wife for all I know -- but it was strange behavior for one leading worship, and one should not blame the Spirit for it.

For readers just discovering this study, I want to point out that I began it on October 30, and I would encourage you to read through the earlier posts to note my intentions, as well as where this is going. To help readers finding this in midstream, I hope to create and begin referencing a table of contents soon.

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