One of the great mysteries we still wonder about is just how much Pastor Smith realizes and understands about the stuff that goes on at Living Word Church (once again, our usual disclaimer: “Pastor Smith” and “Living Word Church” are both pseudonyms, as are all other names used on this site).
Awhile back, we posted an entry about whether or not what we experienced at Living Word was actually the “presence of God.” Pastor Smith called it the presence of God. The church members all thought it was the presence of God. At the time, we ourselves would have said that that certain “rush” – that certain something that made us want to both weep and jump for joy at the same time – was the Holy Spirit.
But when you look at the harsh facts, it’s difficult to know for sure.
On the one hand, this “feeling” – or whatever it was – is marketed by Pastor Smith as the single most important reason why people should leave their “dead churches” and plant themselves at Living Word. This “feeling” is also carefully orchestrated and cultivated, particularly through the use of music. People would often refer to it as “The Anointing.” They believed – and Pastor Smith taught – that “The Anointing” was something he personally dispensed (for lack of a better word).
Yet, on the other hand, how could Pastor Smith knowingly be so manipulative and still come across as so believable and sincere? How could he stand there week after week, as he’s done for more than twenty years, and not be afraid that God was going to strike him dead with a lightning bolt or something?
After posting “Hooked on a Feeling…”, I really enjoyed the comments that different folks left. They helped me to come to the following sudden realization:
Sometimes I think that, rather than being so diabolically manipulative that he deliberately manufactures a FALSE something that he then tries to pass off as the “presence of God,” Pastor Smith is actually just as hooked on the sensation (what ever “it” is) as the rest of his audience. He’s probably deliberate in how he wants the service structured, and in the kinds of music he tells his son to choose. But I think he and his family do genuinely believe that whatever it is they “stir up” in people actually IS “the anointing,” or the presence of God.
Probably the fact that they believe they CAN dispense God’s presence is one of the reasons they’re able to hold themselves above everybody else. I mean, if you think you’ve got God Himself at your disposal, you’re going to feel pretty superior. And you’ll actually begin to believe that you NEED bodyguards and that you DESERVE all the best things.
If the Smiths genuinely believe this – that they somehow “have God on tap” – a lot of the crazy stuff at Living Word would make more sense. Such as the birthday offerings they’d take for themselves. I always wondered how they dared to have the nerve to TELL PEOPLE to give them gifts. Who do they think they are, anyway? But I think I may have inadvertently explained this to myself here. They think they’re the keepers of God’s presence. That’s GOT to be some heady stuff! No wonder they do all the arrogant, insensitive, and prideful things they do. It all suddenly makes sense.
What do YOU think?