Friday, December 16, 2016

The Reformation Project: Visiting Watermark Church

DALLAS, Texas, February 23, 2014 -- Watermark Church had taken over and renovated an office complex on the south side of the Lyndon Baines Johnson freeway in North Dallas. At the time of my visit, significant construction had been ongoing, affecting both the freeway and the frontage road along which the church facility was located.  While that certainly could not have helped attendance, the church seemingly has flourished during this time of extended inconvenience.

Entering the building, one finds an enormous lobby that once functioned as the central lobby of the office complex. A large section to one side is filled with small tables at which people are seated chatting and drinking coffee. The coffee is free. Unlike many of the other churches visited, the café space in the center of the lobby is closed for Sunday. Around the café area, one can find brochures about various church activities and functions, including one describing a ministry called “re:generation.” This is a sort of recovery group. It was interesting to note that an important theological term was reappropriated for the purpose of branding that ministry.

From one side of the lobby, one can also see a children’s area that includes a jungle gym. Going through a door to that side, one finds a small pool such as is common at suburban office complexes. 
Going back inside and into the church auditorium, one finds himself in a large, semi-circular room that has a small feel due to the width of it. The room is crowded, as the passage ways between the seating sections are small. The large stage has faux wood paneling on either side, as well as two large video screens running a series of announcements about church ministries and events. At some point, a countdown clock begins displaying when the service will begin. The eight member band comes to the stage, and music promptly begins to play when the clock hits zero.

The service began with a set of five songs mingled with some talking by the worship leader and a prayer. The first song did contain some gospel content. At one point, the leader urged unbelievers to pay attention to the next song, as it would teach about who God is, but the song actually had little to say about God. The group of songs concluded with  “Cornerstone,” which consists of the lyrics to Toplady’s  “The Solid Rock” with a new tune and chorus that strings some thoughts together without any discernable purpose. Seemingly coincidentally, this song had now been sung at four of the nine churches visited to this point for the project.

In addition to the video screens, sections of the wall behind the stage changed colors frequently.
Following this singing, Pastor Todd Wagner came to center stage, using no pulpit as he spoke to the congregation while dressed in an untucked white shirt with light patterned stripes, jeans, and sneakers.

Wagner said that he would be talking about marriage today. He declared that if the church started getting this issue right that it would be the most earth shattering thing that the church could do. He claimed that marriages can’t be made right unless the gospel enters into the marriage. Citing statistics showing the impact of divorce on children, he quoted from Malachi the statement that “God hates divorce.”

Before launching into the body of his sermon, Pastor Wagner told a series of jokes about marriage, each concluding with the statement “…that’s when the fight started.  He then quoted and made brief comments about several scriptures related to marriage relationships, though he didn’t really expound any of them. Ultimately, he did use a variety of Bible passages to support his contention that there are five characteristics of individuals that have successful marriages:

  1. They resist the lies that push them into a bad relationship in the first place;
  2. They ruthlessly commit to their marriage;
  3. They regularly consider themselves to be the biggest problem;
  4. They radically depend on Christ; and
  5. They relentlessly live humbly in relationship with others.
While dwelling on the first point, Rev. Wagner made an extended and passionate argument for sexual purity prior to marriage. He closed the sermon with prayer. He mentioned that he had a video that he wanted to show, but they were out of time. Instead the service closed with a pictoral montage on the video screens of the pastor and his wife, as well as others, while the band played music.

In my next post I will provide some analysis of the service.

No comments: