Monday, August 30, 2010
Author's Note: The impetus for this post came from my own thoughts, discussion with others in church, and some recent reading that critiqued the construction and reception of Hollywood entertainment. Joel was extremely helpful in offering criticism of the rough draft and expressed some serious doubts about the message put forth, though he eventually gave me the go ahead. Those doubts have taken root in my own mind, but I still believe that there's some utility to this post. My only hope is that before you agree or, more likely, disagree with this post, that you take a little longer than you normally would and mull it over some more. An author doesn't typically have such a luxury with his readers, but I suppose I can ask, anyway.
The Scenario: It’s a typical Sunday night service at your local church. The praise team is playing a great song, everyone is clapping and singing, and there seems to be a good spirit in the sanctuary. You’re a little over twenty minutes into the worship portion of the service and your internal clock is telling you that in just a few minutes it will be time for intercessory prayer to start—or so you thought.
All of a sudden, something happens! The music doesn’t stop, in fact it keeps going. Now, Sister A takes a glory lap in the altar. Brother X grabs a tambourine from somewhere and dances up and down his aisle. Two of the male youth are in a seeming contest trying to see who can jump the highest for Jesus and next to them are a gaggle of their fellows laying about in states of blissful torpor. Before long, the entire church has erupted into prolonged and passionate worship and you yourself are swept up in the same tide, dancing and singing praises to the Most High! You haven’t given much thought to what’s happening, you’re just praising, but for the sake of those unaware in the congregation, bewildered by what they see around them, the pastor is kind enough to shout an explanation:
“Oh, I’m sorry folks, sorry we couldn’t just let church happen AS USUAL, but God just showed up and He’s decided to take your cute, tidy little service and mess it all up! Why don’t you just let Him!!”
Aha! That’s what happened! As you walked through the carnage, after service, tiptoeing around the bodies strewn about like a battlefield, it started to come together and it all made sense afterward when you went with your group of friends to the postchurch meal. You all agreed that God just did something amazing, that His spirit really fell, that His power really showed, and that the service was awesome!
Commentary: What you just read was a very general first-hand description of something that happens quite often in pentecostal churches (The examples of people used above and below are not based on real people, but generated from stories related to me and the typical bric a brac of pentecostal life.) It is by no means an all-inclusive rundown of what occurs when the Spirit falls, but I think it’s safe to say that pentecostals love it; they love it when God takes over the service, when things go from the natural to the “supernatural” and they love that it’s completely unlike the “dead” services that other denominations must surely have (and that pentecostals sometimes secretly have also.) The idea hinges on the assertion that one form of service is man-made, and therefore ungodly, while the other is entirely Godly (which is good, in case you didn’t know). And you, too, can learn to appreciate and participate in this wonderful experience!...so long as you ignore those nagging questions in back of your mind.
You know the ones, they started off silly when you were young, like, “Howcome I get in trouble when I’m late for church, but God gets to roll in forty minutes late—or even go weeks at a time without ever even showing up at all?”
Then you mature and actually grow in your faith, you love God and truly seek His presence, but the questions still pop up and now they’ve changed. Your pentecostal conscience has by this time become quite strong, call it a super ego of sorts, but the sparring match between the two can snowball out of control if you aren’t careful.
“So, if God was in this service, does that mean He’s not in the other ones?”
Well that’s a simple one, of course He’s in every service. He’s omnipresent, He’s everywhere all of the time.
“Oh….well, if that’s the case, then why is it different now? I mean, what’s the factor that differentiates this type of service from any other?”
Because God is spontaneous like that! He does what He does, no way we need to or even could understand why or how.
“Hmm…but you know, I’ve noticed that it’s not so spontaneous. In fact, every time it happens, it’s preceded by the praise team playing a little longer than normal, then there’s kind of a lull in worship because the people are getting tired of singing the same chorus on repeat and then preacher starts getting animated and tells us that we need to dig deeper, that God’s doing something and that we’ve got to push if we want it to actually happen. Then a few people, and it’s almost always the exact same people, get really emotional and worship really demonstratively and it eventually spreads to everyone else. Then afterward, we forget that it started out like that.”
Right, well, you see what’s going on is—
“No wait, that’s not all. Why is it that it’s kind of always the same show? I mean it’s pretty much always the same group of high school girls that gather in a prayer circle and eventually collapse into a sobbing, hysterical mess, but everybody knows that with very little exception they’re all going back to living their lives the way they did before God took over this service—that’s why they’re going to be back sobbing again next time.”
“also, if God’s really being powerful now, then why doesn’t Sister so-and-so get delivered from her emotional affliction? I mean, she’s back every few weeks in the altar with people praying for her, but then she continues to live out of wedlock with a guy who treats her like garbage? Since God’s here, why doesn’t he just pull a Maury Povich and tell her to dump that guy and try living a little more in line with the Gospel?”
It’s obvious you need to pray more. You’ve let some junk into your life and you clearly can’t perceive the true presence of God.
“But that’s just it, I’ve been praying, fasting, and reading my Bible and I’m beginning to wonder if this is really of God or if it’s actually man-made…..I Corinthians 4:20 says the Kingdom of God is power, not talk—if this type of service and everything that goes with it is really about God’s power, why is it so talky, so much about performance? And, in effect, it’s that discernable, exterior phenomena that makes a service change from ordinary to Godly…is that really the distinction and should we really live our lives between the peaks and valleys of revival services?”
Listen, the problem here is—
(Excursus I: Sorry to interject, but a little explanation seemed appropriate. We’ve thrown around some Marxian analysis in previous posts and right about now seems an appropriate, if limited, application. If you’ll recall, drawing from Hegel’s dialectical model, Marx posited that eventually the inherent contradictions of capitalism would become so strong that at some point the system would collapse in on itself. This next segment of the interchange between spiritual introspection and pentecostal conscience is the point at which the internal contradictions become dangerously apparent.)
“Hold on, answer me this: which is more Godly? A really emotional service where lots of people get exhausted but they all leave feeling good about themselves or the baseline, middle of the road type of service where everything went steady and that, unknown to anybody else, one person decided after several weeks of hearing the truth to repent and commit his/her life to Christ? Which one is the occasion for a real party (Luke 15:10)? Really, why is the messy service so…..so tidy? So constructed and scripted?
In fact, it’s really not out of the ordinary at all; I know exactly what’s coming because it always happens the exact same way. In this manner, doesn’t “God” just become the verbal key to set off a celebration or the ex post facto justification?”
Whoa, whoa, are you saying what I think you’re saying? You don’t believe in God anymore, do you? You’re starting to doubt that any of what’s going on in the pentecostal church service is real at all; you think it’s all just an act and that, by proxy, God Himself doesn’t exist.
No, I can see where you’d draw that conclusion, but that’s not what I’m saying at all. Please understand me, I believe and know God can and WILL do His will in every service. I don’t doubt that His power is active and moved by faith in the raucous type of service also; He can move however and whenever He wants. What I am troubled by is the very act of identification, of naming one type of service “Godly” and hinging our spiritual life on it. What we’ve done is misplace the means for the ends; the process, that is to say the service itself, has become formalized beyond any self awareness on the parts of those in it. Our own opinions about what a Godly display of power should be has already predetermined what is and isn’t Godly before it actually happens. In short, the perception of the Godly service by which the church feels itself confirmed has been shaped by a predisposition even before the perception takes place. Are we so caught up looking, hoping, and waiting for what we know is a good church service that we lose out on so much of what God really has for us? I don’t know, what do you think?”
(Excursus II: If you’ve never had those types of questions, then this might not apply to you. God bless you, truly. If you have, then I honestly don’t know what to tell you, except to say don't walk away from this thing, but keep praying and searching for truth. If this post has come off as condemnatory, then chalk that up to the weaknesses on my part as a writer. The hope in writing this has been to bring about some self-analysis and discussion in the body of believers. Mainly this, are we missing out on what God could have for us by settling for what we’ve become comfortable with?)
Friday, August 27, 2010
Intro: Of all the types of people that have been discussed on this blog, the Sermon Affirmation Guy is one of the ones that I hold nearest to my heart. And I really mean that. One of the reasons I love the Pentecostal experience and Pentecostal Churches in general is it's tolerance and embrace of "the Weird."
Whereas most of us would like to put a muzzle on some people's exuberant prayers, or tie up some people's legs during the course of the service because of the peculiar manor they carry on worship in dance, I genuinely want to soak each and every occasion up within my soul and wish from the bottom of my heart that I could be like them. It is the Pentecostal Church Service that forces me to face the strange otherness of some people's unreserved behavior and say that while that may not be how I worship, God's grace is alive in that person. They ARE A CHILD OF GOD.
I don't like being uncomfortable in my flesh. And if my flesh had it's way, I would like myself in a box if I could sustain as so, just so I don't become uncomfortable. Discomfort is foreign to me, and I want to repulse as far as possible away form my being. It's "the Weird" that happens in the Pentecostal Service that smacks such a pathetic thought away from myself. God's grace is not bound by discomfort and I hope it never is (although I Corinthians 14 does need to be taken account in this rant).
But of all "the Weird" people in this world and in our church (or is it that the reserved worshipers such as myself are the weird ones because we don't act on the bubbling in our soul?), as I said, The sermon affirmation Guy is one of my favorites. He is the guy that in short, will yell "Amen" or "Preach It" whenever the preacher is on a red-faced rant, mostly though, the applauding echo from the sermon affirmation guy comes when the preacher makes a reference to God being One or that Acts 2:38 is how you get to heaven.
It's like the Sermon Affirmation Guy has a filter in his brain during sermons, wherein all words said during the sermon go down a conveyor belt located just inside the SAG's (Sermon Affirmation Guy) ear. As the words go down the belt they are quickly on a path to their unknowing destruction by being emptied out in the ear at the opposite end of the conveyor belt. However, when the preacher gets loud or quotes a certain "buzz" verse or mentions a certain doctrinal position, the filter catches the reference and a red light goes off in the sermon affirmation guys' brain wherein those words are derailed from their fate, and are rather sent into the rest of the brain. Once inside the brain, the filtered words assemble themselves in such a way depending on their power, to force a results from the SAG.
The results the SAG displays after hearing the buzz words or buzz verses from the preacher vary...here is a chart descending from least motivated response to the greatest response that let's you know just how "on target" the preacher is....
1) "Amen" while seated
2) "Preach it Pastor" while seated (usually said when the congregation is provoked by the preacher himself in the form of the preacher saying something accusatory and then adds "man it got quiet in here real fast." The SAG does not want to be indited as being guilty of the accused charges brought upon the congregation and therefore if the SAG says "Preach It" he is hoping that will be enough evidence to be found "not guilty" in God's court of the accused crimes.)
3) "Amen!" while standing up and then extending arm to a finger-pointing position back at the preacher as if the SAG had just shot a super powerful dose of extra preaching power at the preacher as a favor for the Good Word that has just been said.
4) A Silent but very authoritative and demonstrative slide out of the pew into the aisle whereupon the SAG marches swiftly in the direction of the preacher. When the SAG gets to about the altar he either goes to the aforementioned finger point (which is done so as to ensure accuracy of the the preaching power dosage because sometimes the finger point from the pew is a bit more inconsistent at the preaching power reaching it's desired destination) or allows for more of a swatting with his hand in the direction of the preacher as if he was swatting in imaginary fly. This "swatting" can be down several times in one movement as if to "fan" the preacher (this fly swatting technique gives the effect of the SAG either demonstrating that the preacher is too "on fire" to be touched or the Preacher is so "on" that he doesn't need the encouragement of the SAG).
5) A swift but masterful siege towards the altar again but this time the SAG gets on his knees and either chooses to hit the floor of the altar/platform or the base of the pulpit. When this rare site occurs, it is done so in repeated strikes to the floor as if the SAG is nailing a metaphorical nail into the floor (and thus seal the casket), or more likely the SAG has deduced the devil is in the floor and he needs to beat any remaining will power out of him in his dejected state.
6) A march straight onto the platform wherein the SAG either slaps the back of the pastor or high-5's him. Admittedly I have never seen this occurrence myself, but I would love it none the less, and Mark Stanton (post recommender) has testified that he has seen this happen on more than one occasion and also (most surprisingly) by different people.
Now if I ever happen to be blessed enough to see this happening, I don't even know what I would do with myself in such excitement of the pure weirdness that I would be observing. At such marches up to the platform, the SAG in one swoop is demolishing any unspoken barrier between "man of God" in the midst of his God-given sermon on the elevated Platform, and the place of the average layman in his inferior position as being the listener. God Bless Him!
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
And the worst part was that Relationship saw me see him take off his face and swore me to secrecy not to say a word about his real identity.
Of course I agreed and we became best friends for a couple years.....
But I think the time has come to bury our expired and overly-mentioned friend.
You see, Relationship at first glimpse seems like a very good thing in theory. But I was talking to a friend a couple weeks ago and he mentioned how that word is just another buzzword for "I can live however I want since Christ to me is about relationship and not rules" (paraphrased). It takes obedience and responsibility and throws them in the bad "religion" tent and thus doesn't have to think about them one bit. So naturally, relationship is a subjective term which allows for personal interpretation of Christianity for each and every Christian young person. Which I theoretically agree with.
What I can't stand is that when someone says Christianity is about "relationship" they aren't talking about holding hands with God walking on the beach or God calling you late at night while you are hanging out with your friends and Him saying "Say you love me" and you say "But God all my friends are around and it's embarrassing if they hear me." And then God shouts "I knew it!" and then when he says that, you whisper in the phone "I love you" but all your friends still heard you and break out in laughter.
But I think in most cases, relationship doesn't mean that at all. It actually is said with a bit of self-righteousness to it that implies that anyone who is not "for relationship" is actually "for religion" like the older generation. But my question is, what Apostolic Pentecostal do we know that are against having a relationship with God? Because everyone wants to have a relationship with God that gets them closer to knowing Him! Some may not act it out, some may classify the way to have relationship by following several formulas and rules, and others may go about that relationship only in the pews 3 days a week, but whatever the case is, everyone is still "for relationship." That even means those people who you say make Christianity a Religion, those people are for relationship. And are you not, by saying Christianity is about relationship, in a way making your own religion of the "relationship?"
Thus the bottom line is this: Any time someone says they are not for religion, they are for relationship, all it really means is "I want to worship a God that I want to make out in my own image and limited understanding of God and if it's not good enough I trust God will tell me. Not you!"
So thus I propose that we bury the term here and now because it essentially means nothing any more. And it can be downright hazardous to our health.
I'm sure a new kid will show up in our school soon enough anyways that is just as good looking and loving.
Friday, August 20, 2010
So when one of my favorite blues' artists suddenly is being swallowed up whole as the chosen son of my denomination, I am left to do nothing else but to have a midlife crisis and claim like a sheepish brat to anyone who brings up Jonny Lang in conversation how, "I liked his early stuff such as Lie to Me and Wander this World" and how I find "his newer stuff too poppy and too far removed from his true bluesy roots."
But for those of you who are keeping track at home, Jonny Lang is a wonderful, world renowned blues artist who in the past couple years converted to being an Apostolic in one of our churches in California.
And too not put it too lightly, or too heavily, let me give you a sense of his celebrity: In the secular world he isn't close to a household name. But that hasn't deterred his fame nor the aura that surrounds his reputation. Because Jonny Lang is like your Stevie Ray Vaughn's (pre-death), Steve Vai's, and Leonard Cohen's of this world who by no means are going platinum the first week their albums go out, but are held in the highest esteem by those who value talented musicianship and creativity. In other words, don't judge Lang by the amount of albums he sells (although he sells many), but by his grammy and the fact that Eric Clapton can't get enough of him.
That said, there have been many urban legends in our movement about celebrities getting saved such as Elvis Presley walking into a UPC camp meeting and speaking in tongues and John Lennon calling up a local pentecostal minister to pray for him months before his assassination and then proceeding to speak in tongues. But all of these stories come third hand, and while they may have been true (the Elvis one seems to have several more witnesses to the occurrence than the Lennon one and thus seems more plausible in my mind), but Jonny Lang is an urban legend walking in the flesh. Anyone, should they endeavor to do so can walk up him at a concert and say "I'm an apostolic pentecostal" and from what I can tell this is a code word that anyone who has used such a code-word, Jonny has been very accommodating to.
But Jonny Lang is the latest example of the apostolic infatuation with celebrity that has any connection with our movement. Kings of Leon and Katy Perry are claimed as ours even though they left a long time ago. Kings of Leon, in spite of their nihilism, and raunchy lyrics is listened to freely by youth pastors across the country without complaint simply because we met someone who either was related to or knew them personally. And Jonny even more so, even though up until the past year, all of Lang's recordings were done without reference to God in his songs. (Note that Lang's lyrics don't come close to approaching the profane as Kings of Leon does). In other words, there is this weird relationship we have with celebrity wherein anything that is produced by those who have ever walked into our churches and are also famous is immediately declared "kosher" for our entertainment pleasure by the Unseen Judges of Pentecostal Cultures.
Note: Borat is in judgmental purgatory for the time being where no one wants to acknowledge him, but they would like to point out to anyone who would listen that they know "so and so" who appeared in the Camp Meeting scene in the movie. The prediction is that the Borat Apostolic camp meeting scene will be approved thirty years from now wherein every young person is too detached from the emotional impact of the event to actually care what the movie is/is not saying about Apostolics (think how Christians love Mark Twain these days without thinking twice about how much he hated Christianity, wherein if we were living in Twain's day we would probably want to set his books on fire).
From all accounts, Jonny Lang is on fire for God and will talk to anyone about Him. Lang, is a jewel and a gift to the world from God, and I mean that in the most sincere way possible.
But what makes me a tad ornery is our reaction to his conversion. To fill in the unknowing, Lang's music was immediately embraced by all apostolics who are in touch with any sort of cultural relevancy. Youth presidents, youth pastors, and anyone else of the Apostolic Elite were soon found to be claiming him as a personal friend that they had met either backstage at one of his concerts or through a friend of a friend. Lang was the ultimate prized testimony for Apostolics, and those who could claim they had touched his tassels would freely brag about the experience. (Please note that I am not saying Lang is anyway responsible for this reaction.).
So what does this matter? Well we preach against the pop-music on the radio. And we warn kids about dancing too closely with the world that they unknowingly adopt their habits. We tell them Hollywood is not something that should be desired, and that rich celebrities are really unsatisfied in their glamorous lifestyle and if we could somehow x-ray the soul of the common celebrity we would find it completely empty.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
"By the same token, the writer's role is not free from difficult duties. By definition he cannot put himself today in the service of those who make history; he is at the service of those who suffer it."
That was good to remember when you are writing about the importance of Jonny Lang and it's influence of introducing Nashvillian blues within our movement. (I Kid.).
But then I saw IT!
Now as main writer to this blog, I have persevered as best as possible to not indite specific individuals. A whole post on gigantic head gear/head band has been refrained from being written because the only pictures I could find of it's inception are those of Apostolic girls at camp.
But the "It" here is a facebook status of a specific individual. And the poor soul who wrought the status is of the utmost good Christian standing as far as I can tell (but I can't tell much because I don't know much). They just proceeded to write a status that is so indicative of the Christianity of our time, at precisely the wrong time as to find their status in the midst of the procession that is to be presented here.
So naturally everything I am going to quote next is true. The only thing that has been changed is the words.
"If you have clothes on and shoes to walk in, and enough money to buy a meal, compared to the third world, you are blessed abundantly. Be grateful and thankful!"
Makes me weep right on the spot.
Because this is our Christianity at work summarized in one concise sentence.
And I will say that if this is how we are to define our being thankful to God, then I reject that God flat out. I would rather have hell than the heaven that such a God would offer. A God that gives more and more to those who have and are thankful about it, and continues to turn his blind ear to those who have not.
I can recount several preachings where the preacher says, "be glad you aren't blind like some others." Or "you could have been born with some name deformity or disease here, but you are not so Thank God for that."
And when I hear that I become so aggressively angry inside. Maybe some will call it my flesh that doesn't want to thank God, but I would think it's something much deeper.
I just want to ask the preachers when they say such abominable things, "yes but what about the blind? What about the sick? What about the poor and the starving? I guess they have less to thank God about? And for God's sake, I want to know one thing. If God is kind enough to bless me to not be blind or deaf or be born as a crack baby, why in the world couldn't He have gone out of his way to do the same for those who ARE blind, deaf and born with an addiction to crack? Why?"
And then they say something to the effect of, "Well God works in mysterious ways."
Which must also be answered, "Well I'm glad you got the good end of the mystery."
And we'll all laugh and play golf the next day. Yes, Apostolic Pentecostalism in America can be summed up in the following sentence, "A few got sick. Many got saved. And overall, a good time was had by all."
And here I am your court jester playing a tune and saying a joke for us all to laugh at in the good company we have gathered to enjoy life to it's fullest through and through.
(I'm guessing you never realized a facebook status can get one so ticked off).
Thank God we have a free nation to worship in. In China they would be persecuted if we had church like this. HERE HERE!
But I guess my shtick is, if there is that persecution going on I can't dare be thankful. If Africa is full of AIDS, I can't dare close my eyes to it and say "Well Thank God I'm over here and not Like those over there." Because the fact is those people are existing and suffering and if God is to be held responsible for our security here, then we most hold Him accountable for the disease over there.It's over there I see a whole lot of room for grace and redemption when there is such suffering. I swear to you some days I wish I had the money and the medication to head over to Africa. Because at least people there are starving and they're not pretending otherwise. The only difference is the starvation of the African variety is much easier than the American kind.
My goodness, forgive my uncontrolled ranting. This is not healthy.
I guess the point is, in II Corinthians 10-12, we have a very angry Paul. For at least the second time in his Ministry, the church He founded, the church of Corinth is questioning Paul's Christianity and claim to apostleship. You see, Paul wasn't the best speaker, actually he was terrible if anything. Paul also didn't have the riches the other apostles had. So the other apostles would get up and call out Paul and say (paraphrasing from the arguments made throughout both of the epistles of Corinth), "Paul isn't anything of God. Look how sickly he is. Look at the lack of power in his ministry and look how poor he is. He even has to make tents to fund his ministry. Listen to me for I am clearly the blessed apostle. I speak with authority and am blessed financially and in signs of miracles and wonders. We should all be thankful we are not like Paul."
And how does Paul respond, well first off in the opening chapter of I Corinthians, "But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are,"
Do you see? By this logic, it is the sickly, the deformed, and those without clothing in Africa who God is choosing. Not the ones who are financially well-off and thank God because they are not poor like the rest. Paul then says that the only thing he will boast about is the Lord and at one point, only in the crucifixion. He is not boasting over what he has that others do not have....
but it gets worse....
But the time II Corinthians 10 comes along, Paul is more ticked off than we have ever seen him. And he simply starts saying basically that the reason he is losing is because he refuses to brag whatsoever unlike "those blessed apostles." So then he says, "fine, today I will act like a fool. And brag about what I have." And how does it brag? Not through what he has. But rather the vicious sufferings he has encountered ("if I must boast, I will boast in my weakness" II Corinthians 11:30).
These sufferings which are in no way exhaustive include, "Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. 27I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked" (II Corinthians 11:24-27).
But why Paul? That doesn't sound very much like a blessing. Au contraire! Because II Cor. 12:9 says, God's grace is "made perfect in weakness."
So there you have it. By this reasoning, when we are weak we become dependent on God. Thus any kind of self-built affluence can be destructive as we are dependent not on God but ourselves.
And thus when someone tells me to thank God because I wasn't in a car crash wherein some stranger paralyzed, I really think "but I bet they will find God a lot more now than before. When there is weakness, there is God's grace made perfect."
Sometimes, I thank God for the starving African children. Not because it means that I am better off than them. But rather it means God's grace still has broken and empty places to reside in.
Thus when I have the shoes on my feet and a shirt on my back that I paid for, I have to pray that in spite of myself and my material riches, that somehow God's grace descend past it. But I don't really know if it's possible.
Postscript: I apologize for this complete anvil of a blogpost. I couldn't refrain. If you want to continue to kick the fallen child while it's down, read this article here: http://theemergers.com/blog/2010/07/heaven-in-africa-and-the-starving-babies-that-live-there/
Come back tomorrow night and I will probably have a new lighter, "Jonny Langified" post here.
Monday, August 16, 2010
#184-Indiana Bible College and how I regained paradise in Indianapolis, IN that previously had been lost in Ann Arbor, MI where republicans are slaughtered
SO before we go on, let's get a little background music in here. Why? because I have been listening to the Album the song is on nonstop for six days (yes, even in my sleep and in the shower)... The album is Suburbs by Arcade Fire and it is the most horrifyingly accurate description of not only my life, but anyone who I have ever met that has grown up in the suburbs. This song particularly, is what I really think Indiana Bible College is all about. That said, I present "The Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)" by Arcade Fire as the background music to the rest of this post (bonus points if you are a Blondie fan).
Arcade Fire - Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) by Hypetrak
"They heard me singing and they told me to stop,
Quit these pretentious things and just punch the clock."
Sure there is the whole aspect of IBC "preparing young people for ministry" which is entirely accurate. But the allure of IBC for most is not the formal explanation of its existence, but rather its social significance:
It's literally high school but for people who are too old for high school. It's one last long reach for the years of innocence of not having the burden of the world on your shoulders, where bills getting paid are of the utmost concern, diapers with poop in them are the odor of life at home, and having your soul gradually stolen from you without you noticing is the hobby of choice.
And IBC delays this inevitable horror, and keeps the dance of childhood right on into the dorm rooms. It is the middle-earth between the heaven of adolescence and the hell of adulthood.
And I do not think I am being unfair at all. On the occasions where I departed South to IBC from my University that forces self-introspection amidst isolation amidst the chaos of college-life, I was startled about how much I felt like I re-entered into my own days back home in high school where you would sit and talk with friends about stuff that you couldn't care less about, and go out to eat A LOT because that seemed like the only decent thing us aspiring adults could do to declare self sufficiency without looking rebellious.
The classes themselves are more akin to high school than anything I have heard about at college (I was a guest one day there to see what the whole experience was like). Literally there is a bell that goes off and everyone floods the hallways amidst gossip and laughter and high five each other as they cross paths. The classrooms themselves follow suit in their role as an older version of high school with students falling asleep while the teacher lectures and getting snapped at for talking out of place. It's quite a thing of beauty.
And the conversations during lunch, after class, before bedtime, how magnificent! I tremble at the memories I have of these conversations where if I close my eyes hard enough to remember them, I can almost see angels floating around us who were gathered in the room to talk about whatever biblical or theological issue that was on the plate.
Most of the time, the issue at hand was Rob Bell. Because everyone at IBC hates Rob Bell and the rest of the emergent heresy and they have a story about Mooney confronting Bell to his face to prove it. It literally has folklore status wherein whenever someone is a guest to the conversation and has never heard of the story before, someone goes "you haven't heard the Rob Bell story?" And then there is a hush that fills the room. And then I swear someone turns off the lights, and a candle is lit in the next room. And the candle is carried to the storyteller who amidst darkness and one lit candle under his chin, recounts in a slow chilling voice, the tale about the time Archbishop Mooney confronted the 21st century's best imitation of darkness: Rob Bell. Sometimes, someone adds in that some people speculate that Mooney had to get violent with Bell because Bell was foaming at his mouth ready to jump and bite Mooney in the neck, but that Mooney is too humble to tell this side of the story.
There is a brilliant subplot to this whole occasion, as my friend who went to IBC would recall many occasions where the Emergent church was at the heart of the conversation and one got the sense you were dealing with the Red Scare wherein it wouldn't have been surprising to the Apostolics in the room one bit if the windows would have been kicked in and their door busted down as the Emergents dressed in yellow jump suits and gas masks came storming in with guns in their hands and arrested every member of that room for believing the truth and preaching it. But yet, when he was in the midst of the paranoia, I would ask him if anyone had read Velvet Elvis who talked so pessimistically about this Apostolic version of the Red Scare and he said he didn't think so.
It was not long after school was over that my friend called me to tell me he had just got done reading some of Velvet Elvis and that it was nothing like it was made out to be (I wholly admit that while I do remember such a call, he may not have taken the exact tone that I am projecting him as taking here. He is not a Rob Bell fan by any means, but rather he just saw that the whole emergent thing was quite exaggerated as an enemy at IBC).
But after you have found God and have find yourself, I would add, go to bible school and have the time of your life. And please for the love of God, do something useful while you are there. Something that makes us want to be your friend and wants us to root for you every step of the way. Don't be one of those people who we all know your name from a far, but all for the wrong reasons.
I dedicate this post to Andrew Coffield a friend who is taking the IBC plunge next week. I wish him Godspeed and hope to God he doesn't become one of "them."
Friday, August 13, 2010
That said, for Gateway, I will be presenting another former student's experience at Gateway who wished to remain anonymous. To me his take is fascinating in many respects. First of which (and much like Ryan's experience), the college is not so much defined as a building or a place where learning happens, but rather is based on the personalities of the hired personnel that work/taught at the college. As for me, while I have never been a student (and thus my grounds to speak for it are minimal), I am actually a fan of Gateway. While I have heard complaints about some of the staff and kind of an "old guard" of teachers, there are several fascinating teachers there who have made an impact on my own life. Gateway's building is an old jesuit college which is AWESOME, because the architecture is so sweet. Honestly, when I visited for the first time, it was the first building I had seen that made me proud to be a part of the movement. I wish someone, somewhere would raise a couple million for the building's complete renovation (because some of it is decaying and run down), because to me I would rather renovate that building awesomeness than start constructing a new building any day. Plus the sanctuary, complete with old stain-glass windows (with bible scenes), is by far the coolest sanctuary I have ever attended that is affiliated with our movement. For all of the above reasons, whenever an adolescent asks me (and my ignorant opinion) which bible school I recommend, I always tell them Gateway. Not to mention (and I know this is such old rhetoric that it's hard to believe), that I can attest first hand that if any bible college is trying to work towards accreditation, it is Gateway.
That said: I now present to you the former student's take on his experience....(I don't know any of the people he is referring to in the post and I still laughed)....
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Once known for its great theology program and progressive music department, both of which have since slid into oblivion. All the teachers left and nobody replaced them (slight exaggeration here). There was a Dean of Music whose perspective on ministry was very progressive as well as how that related to music. She empowered students and created a great environment for learning and ministry. But then she left (shout out to LLP - woot!), then there was a replacement. Then they left. Then nothing. I remember hearing the chorale at a Youth Congress and then IBC sang and made them sound like kindergartners (although since they've added 'I'm A Pentecostal" to their repertoire they've become infinitely more popular). In case you're not familiar with the song, I've attached a link for your viewing pleasure.
CLC was once known for being Theologically progressive (Segraves, Garner, etc). Then there was a change in the administrative structure. Although evidently there are prayer meetings and fasting retreats all the time now. Actually, there is Roy Fischer who everyone expects to be fired after his teaching on biblical criticism (imgood.me if you're interested). But all the people in the Pacific Northwest are now happy that they have someone to send their kids. How does CLC differ from some of the other schools? Here's an example:
Ask an IBC kid for directions or something at an event they are hosting and they'll pretend they know and be very helpful even if they don't; ask a Gateway student and they'll probably know (very organized people) and be able to help you; ask a CLC student and they'll look at you with blank stares and just say no and walk away leaving you bewildered and no better off than you started. If you want professional Pentecost, you'll have to go to the Midwest or the South.
If you went to CLC and have some additional descriptions, please leave them in the comments section.
Also - we're still looking for blogs on the other schools. You can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gateway will be posted later this week.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Let me just start by saying that my one (1) semester of Bible School was one of the most fun periods of my life. I got introduced to the war between Contemporary Christian music and Gospel (I swear that if they had sung 'Open The Eyes of My Heart Lord' one more time I was gonna stab someone so that their heart would be the only way they'd be seeing). I learned that 1-4-5 gets boring really, really fast. I was once told that I could play one chord, fourths, for the entire song. Thanks for that, by the way.
But I got to be involved with some incredibly talented people, see aspects of ministry that blew my mind and watch young people take their first steps into ministry in ways that were incredible. I have enduring friendships and connections from Bible School - I've met tons of other people through friends at other Bible Schools - the social networking aspect is amazing. I also grew a fat stomach for the first time in my life, frequented Krispe Kreme donuts almost every day (I had a booklet of free dozens), and got the worst GPA I'd ever had in my life. Typically at least a 3.0 student, I descended into the abyss of the 1 point something zone. I think it had to do with the 7am classes (who does that - really people, you should think out the scheduling a little better). I fell asleep in that 7am class whenever I managed to attend (Thanks to Terry Baughman for being kind), faked my way through sight singing and had a blast the whole time.
But at the end of the semester, it was decision time. "Do I come back or not?" So what had been a blast, an escape and an all around good time had to be thought over. So here we go - a look at the phenomenon that is Bible School.
What do you do with your child when they're finished with High School? They've been sheltered, perhaps Home-schooled, and now they're at the stage where keeping them at home and completely sheltered from the world is becoming increasingly difficult. The answer? Bible College! Here's why:
1. Bible School will surround your child (almost adult) with other people of like precious faith in an unsustainably 'spiritual' environment where they will go from glory to glory and ascend to dizzying heights of spirituality and godliness. (Where else can you find midnight prayer meetings on a regular basis that people actually attend?)
2. There will be a campus pastor. This person will be like a parent, thus making the fictitious nature of 'freedom' easier to bear for the parent while still giving the child some latitude to engage in the heretofore villainized world. (This poor guy has the worst job at the school; the parents want more, the kids want less, and he's constantly being monitored by the school.)
3. There is an entire staff of people who will monitor the clothing choices of your child. They will not be allowed to dress like heathens and be immodest.
4. They will be further indoctrinated in the ways of the UPCI (unless they went to CLC prior to Dan Segraves and Jeff Garner leaving - and even then, David Bernard's books are required reading).
5. They'll be getting an education without any fears of contamination by that evolution crap or liberal agendas or crazy humanities or any critical thought that will really make them think all while supporting the belief set you have drilled in to their heads from the time they were able to formulate small sentences.
6. If they do question anything you taught them, it will probably have to do with sleeve length and whether shorts are acceptable or not. Although I do remember a couple of guys I knew who showed up in the dorms with brand new matching lightning bolt tattoos. Think Harry Potter, only instead of on their foreheads, it was on their right shoulders. I was then required to read the Bible and figure out whether tattoos were actually a sin or just a cultural taboo. Wow, that's a paradigm shift. But then again, maybe not.
7. They will be required to attend church services and attendance will be taken to make sure they are there. If they miss, fines will accrue. (Every bad action has an equal or greater reaction that inevitably has a fine attached. There's a reason Bible College students are always broke.)
You parents should be aware. There are other parents who send their kids to Bible School because they are at their wits end. So what you also get are the problem kids. Kids who smoke pot and sleep around. Kids who are exploring their sexuality. Kids who are questioning everything. And they all get thrown into the same pot.
So although there are curfews and dress codes and midnight prayer meetings, and no mixed bathing at the beach, there are also curfew breakers, kids having sex in the school library/parking lot/chapel/etc., teenage pregnancies and the gay/lesbian who comes out and then continues their ministry in the gay pentecostal movement. Not to mention the inevitable interest in alcohol and all that entails. Much to my surprise (I found out after I left) there was a room that was known for being the party room and people got drunk in there frequently.
And the best part? If (and that's a very big if) you manage to make it through all four years of Bible School - you get a diploma. A diploma that doesn't mean anything unless you're at a UPCI event where you see all your other friends who went to the same school you went to. Or a neighboring school. Then it's cool because of social networking. And you know people. And people know you. And if you happen to be talented, you might get asked to do music at an event, or speak at a conference. In the Apo/Penny world. Try and do anything outside of that and the diploma you just spent four (4) years to get, and you get a blank stare and the realization slowly dawns: "that school isn't accredited." Even though they've been trying since the 60's. It still hasn't happened. And nobody in the greater Christian subculture even knows what this school is. Unless it's Missouri Baptist and then you can transfer over. And Gateway students said, "Hallelujah!"
I remember an instructor telling me that the education I would get at Bible School was as good as one in a secular college. Which made me wonder, "if they're equivalent, why not go to the one where I'll get an accredited degree?"
So the next logical step would be to discuss the available Bible School options. Which we will do in the next few blogs. But I'd like some input from you all. To those of you who are either current Bible School students or alumni would be interested in doing a brief, but humorous write up of the college of your choice and email it to email@example.com. We'd love to post your take - we can credit you with authoring the piece or you can remain anonymous - it is up to you.
I went to CLC so I'll be posting that one in the next few days and someone is already taking Gateway - but if you went/go to IBC, TBC, ABI, Kent, or JCM, please feel free to send us an email. If I've missed any schools, let me know.
Friday, August 6, 2010
And specifically what is the name of this Satanic attack to which countless women have fallen prey to?
It is none other than that which we know as "The Spirit of Jezebel!"