Church name/type: New Horizons Christian Church, a full gospel pentecostal church
Pastor: David Traynham
Style of worship: Praise first, talking (prayer and sermon) after
Overall Impression: I’m very torn. The people all seemed warm and friendly. The message from the sermon was a little off the deep end.
I liked the music. The taking-your-seat music is just prerecorded game-show-sounding worship music. But the actual praise music was much better. One rather talented praise leader played keyboard and sang. At the same time he directed the congregation what lines to sing before they came up. The music was also displayed on screens at the front of the room. I used to hate those screens, but they are definitely an improvement over nothing, which is what I’ve been getting from churches lately.
Everyone who said hello to me before service, after, and in between was very friendly and huggy. No one seemed clingy and a few people even asked about my project; the usual lead-in of course was ‘How did you find us?’ I gave out several website cards. Pastor David also noticed I was new and said hello.
When it was time for the sermon things began to take an odd turn. The title was: There’s a War Going On. Well ok. Based on the title this could be about several things: actual war, war in ourselves to do right, war to find the resources to help those in need… But no, this was a sermon mostly about the end times. The end times are happening now! Or so I was told by Pastor David. We are aware that the end times are in progress because of all the floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, and the danger from the Olympics. And the shootings at schools, on the streets, in churches, and in malls. And all the laws being passed that are anti-God. I gotta admit I am sooo not with pastor on this. Natural disasters happen all the time. Shootings happen pretty often as well, except in places like Australia where gun restrictions are tighter. I guess I really have no idea what anti-God laws are being referenced here so I cannot speak to this one. My biggest problem with all the descriptive world ending talk is that it felt more like fear-mongering than anything else. Some of the descriptions of people killing and maiming others were pretty graphic. I came to church unafraid, was made to understand I should be afraid, and then was told I did not need to be afraid. But for someone listening and believing it all, how would they not be afraid? We heard that the end times are already happening, that everyone will be marked with a number in order to buy and sell. Good Christians who refuse would then starve. And if they did manage to not starve they would face beheading by a gillotine or some type of laser. I don’t have to make this up, it was all in the sermon.
In addition to thematic scariness, there were a number of stand alone statements that I found dubious. I’ll list them out and respond.
1) The anti-Christ will come from the office of the Roman Catholic Pope. The current Pope is just so liberal after all.
(I strongly disagree that the new Pope is problematic. He reaches out to the marginalized, making headlines doing so. That actually seems very pro-Christ.)
2) Religion has sent more people to hell than heroin or prostitutes.
(This statement was in a message about backsliders. Does this mean atheists have the advantage over churchgoers because they can’t slide back to anything?)
3) The world argues with the bible not by good arguments but by loudness of voice.
(This sounds like a stab at either biblical scholarship or non-Christians pointing out the bible’s contradictory nature. Guess what? The bible is contradictory.)
4) I don’t agree with them, but I have no problem with Hitler or Saddam Hussein. God has an end time plan.
(Just because God has a plan doesn’t mean we can forget about anything happening on earth. We still have to live here.)
5) People say – ‘Jesus has been coming back for years and isn’t back yet? Let’s live it up!’
(Does anyone really say this? I am skeptical that this is the way it works inside anyone’s mind. This also feels like a very weird statement to make given the fact that Pastor David’s advice to his grandson regarding death was not to worry and just enjoy life.)
And finally there were some dichotomies that I felt needed to be presented as much grayer. Pastor David contends that all was chaos for the Israelites before Moses came down from the mountain with the ten commandments. Similarly, all is supposedly chaos within us before we are saved. I see that as too simplistic. It does not account for any kind of conscience until a person is introduced to Jesus (or Moses?). I know people who are and were capable of knowing right from wrong before being told about Jesus. We also heard from Pastor David about people who hurt others- killers and shooters. Pastor says they are selfish and suggests selfishness as the primary and perhaps only motivation for these events. This ignores many other factors including: depression, desperation, and mental illness -just to name a few. We heard how the current generation is the “un-generation” because of all the things they are not. Listed in 2nd Timothy 3:2-7 are these descriptors: selfish, proud, boastful, disobedient to parents, unthankful and unholy. This paints youngsters with pretty broad strokes. Should I assume those in church (like the pastor’s grandson) are exempt from these descriptors? We also heard that ‘flesh’ would love to blow someone’s brains out or sleep with someone’s wife. I have never thought either of these things. I am sure there are people who have never thought these things. We are not barely restrained animals keeping from murdering others because of Jesus. There is no reason to frame our impulses this way, even for those who deal with strong impulses. It seems like simply more scare tactics. To me that is a horrible way of bringing people to Jesus.
Any good stuff?: There was a portion of the message that reminded us that we are not here to judge others. We were told to remember that others belong to God and they have a purpose. Just because we do not know their purpose, we don’t get to treat them badly. So I guess that’s. Something.