The other day, I was poking around on youtube, and I stumbled across a series of videos recently released by our former church’s music department. Pastor Smith’s (not their real last name) son (an excellent pianist but a horrifically tone-deaf singer) put out a new CD this past spring, and the church had obviously poured a bunch of money into producing some pretty professional looking DVDs of the key songs.
[Random aside: I couldn’t help but wonder, as I watched the choir and backup singers, many of whom are amazingly talented, if Tommy Smith was giving any of these singers and musicians a cut of the money he raked in from selling his CD and DVD. I highly doubt it. Yet without those singers and musicians, people would be forced to listen to the pastor’s son sing alone, and he’d be a mere shadow of what he’s now able to think he is as he hides behind those who can actually carry a tune.]
Anyway, I bring up those youtube videos because one of the new songs Tommy had written contained lyrics that focused on how all we as Christians need is “just a moment” with God.
It is actually a very pretty song, one that tugged at my heartstrings as I listened to the emotive harmonies, the whispered, worshipful “hallelujahs” in the background. And a part of it was quite nice, singing about a moment in the Lord’s presence, and how wonderful this could be.
Matter of fact, the majority of the songs Tommy Smith has written are along these same lines, always celebrating God’s presence…with the insinuation being, of course, that it (God’s presence) is found within the four walls of our former church. I’ve been struck by this observation before, but as I listened to this new song, pretty though it was, it yet again occurred to me that the people at our old church really believe that “receiving a touch from God” is what a successful Christian life is all about. Have a problem? Get the pastor to lay hands on you. Need a breakthrough? Hope and pray that the pastor will give you a prophetic word. Need to make progress in your Christian life? Well, the specifics of Godly character were rarely discussed – not even simple things, like being nice to one another in the church parking lot, instead of cutting people off and giving them dirty looks as you fought for your turn to exit after the service.
We would never hear basic, practical teachings from the Bible. But we were relentlessly hammered with the idea that “being in God’s presence” – which was defined as falling down on the ground, weeping before the Lord, praying in church – was what was needed to make one holy. If you wanted to be a victorious Christian, you needed to be where God’s presence was.
Of course, there’s a nugget of truth buried in there somewhere. But it only takes “a little leaven” to ruin the whole thing, right?
People at our former church never seemed to be taught that the keys to Christian living were right there in their hands – the Bible, and the indwelling Holy Spirit Who already resides in them as believers. People were never taught that they should look to the Holy Spirit to help them become more Christlike, in such areas as being more honest (we met more pathological liars at our former church than I’d met in my entire lifetime prior to becoming members). Aside from being told to give money sacrificially to the church, people were never taught anything about “dying to self.” Instead, we were told week after week that God was going to make us people of great destiny, that we were going to be favored, that we were going to be prosperous…as long as we remained at Living Word Church (for the record, a pseudonym) and under the “covering” of Pastor Smith’s “anointing” – which, when you got right down to it, was always defined as the power that flowed through him when he preached, prophesied, and laid hands on people.
So, Tommy Smith’s new song is pretty good at summing up what the Christian faith is at our former church – it really is about “moments in time,” where one “feels” God’s presence…with the insinuation being that it happens at church, through the pastor or his appointed guest speakers.
I think more than a bit of that mentality is at work in the Lakeland meetings, too. “Come and get some” means what? What, exactly, is going to be the fruit produced by “some” of whatever “it” is? I guess time will tell…how many of those people will shake and tremble and twitch and roll, “drunk,” all the way back home, and actually exhibit more Christ-like character?
I hope it’s all of them, but from our own experience, I’d be surprised if it were very many at all. I knew far too many people who did lots of “carpet time” at our old church, only to get up and go and lie and cheat and just be generally wacky flakes the rest of the 167 hours left in the week.
Yet they thought – because we were constantly fed this notion – that they had a superior handle on Christian living since they had access to Pastor Smith’s “anointing.” They’d enjoyed many memorable moments in “God’s presence” at church. And since that’s all it takes, they had it all together.
This “moment in time” type of Christianity feels good, and it sounds appealing because it’s easy. But since its fruit bears so little resemblance to the “fruits of the Spirit” (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control), I do not believe that it’s healthy for us to reduce our life in Christ to distinct occasions where we “feel” something that has been dispensed to us through “the anointing” of another human being.
Try as I might, I just can’t find this concept anywhere in my Bible.