Friday, July 13, 2007

The Faith Center

Church Field Trip #4

We've been to the Faith Center once before, to see one of our favorite preachers, Tony Evans. So we knew what to expect, partially, before heading into this one (Word of Faith/Pentecostal). In addition to our posse, there were probably six other "white" people in the entire church that comprised almost 2,000 people. This church was celebrating it's 16 year anniversary (it started in a school cafeteria with Bishop Henry Fernandez and his wife, Pastor Carol. She also holds the titles of Dr. and First Lady.)

As expected, their music/worship was off the chain. There's nothing like dancing and clapping along with 2,000 other worshippers who are all dancing too.

After worshipping for some time, we listened to two different testimonies: one health - a woman who was cured of breast cancer; and one wealth - a couple who gave money to the ministry, then lost $20,000 in an investment, then prayed, and subsequently received $25,000 from various outside sources.

A mission offering was taken to go towards buying school supplies for poor children in Jamaica. Bishop Fernandez asked all who were able to give $100 toward this special offering.

We read through a "confession" that must've used the words: prosperity, wealth, blessing, and health at last half a dozen times each. (An obvious exaggeration, it was more like three times each.)

We then listened to music and testimony from special guest Helen Baylor. She told us of her deliverance from drug abuse and prostitution, and then she gave an invitation to come forward to all those who didn't know Jesus. She even put people on the spot by saying, "If you brought a friend with you today, lean over and ask them if they'd like to go forward with you at this time to receive Jesus."

She also invited anyone who had not yet been blessed with the gift of tongues, "the only sure sign of the indwelling of God's Holy Spirit", to also come forward to receive that most important blessing. "If I couldn't speak in tongues, I don't know how I would get through this life," she said.
Trust me, lady, it's not that hard, really. I've managed it so far.

Bishop Fernandez closed the service with the "first fruit" offering.

Here's the bottom line: my wife and I both love the energy and fun that comes from being partially charismatic (or as Mark Driscoll describes it, "charismatic with a seat belt"), but when the Pentecostalism comes into play, its gone too far for both of us. Translation: "Don't tell me that I haven't experienced God if I'm not speaking in tongues."

Second, I love the "real world" grittiness that comes from a church like this - people talking about their afflictions and struggles with disease, poverty, property taxes and insurance, drugs, Satan, and life in general; as well as people actually believing in the gifts of the spirit rather than dismissing them as obsolete in our modern world. But there is also an obvious obsession with the aspects of the Bible that deal with health and wealth. I look to Jesus to keep me healthy and pay my bills too, but I don't think that I am consumed by that one aspect of our relationship.

That said, I don't think it was possible for anyone to have been a part of this service, and not have been "moved" in some way. Inspirational might be a good word to use.

And while we were leaving the sanctuary, there was a sign that hung over each of the doors that read: "YOU ARE ENTERING THE MISSION FIELD." Perfect. I love it. I couldn't agree more.


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