Fridays Weekend Column
About a Minnesota Man Exploring Life in the South
Praying for Money
Last week my son Garrett came down from New York for a visit. Before he came, he wrote with only one request, and that was to visit a church where people spoke in tongues. Garrett explained he had seen the documentary, "Jesus Camp", and that he wanted to see if the adults who spoke in tongues at church sounded at all like what the kids in the documentary sounded like.
I didn't know where to find a church like that, I and it didn't seem right to call a church and ask if people would be speaking in tongues this Sunday. Right away, Wanda said that I would have to take him to a Pentecostal church, as speaking in tongues was one of their core beliefs.
Well, there just so happened to be a Pentecostal Church about three minutes away from our house, and so we set off for there Sunday morning. The church was in an old department store in a shopping mall. The church bought the whole mall, and so they had this huge parking lot, with plenty of church members directing traffic. They were helping the people from the earlier service get out of the parking lot, while helping the people coming for the next service find a place to park. They knew what they were doing, and traffic flowed smoothly.
Walking in we noticed that the parking place reserved for the pastor had a nice new Mercedes Benz convertible parked in it. I guess it was nice that it was right up front for all to see, the man wasn't trying to hide anything.
Walking in to this church immediately let you know that this church was into money. The place no longer looked like a department store, everything was new, and money was not spared on the rehab of this building.
There were people in the front assigned as greeters, a streaming video display that had a count-down to the start of the next service, a booth where you could buy DVDs of past sermons, and even a coffee shop, named "He-Brews."
The sanctuary was huge. There was a large stage that had what I would call a jazz band on one side with two drummers on the other. There was a place in the middle with room for a dozen or so singers and a place on each side for dancers. The stage was flanked by large video displays, and there were three large pedestals out in the seating section where cameras could be set up, but on this day only one pedestal was being used for that.
We sat on the right side in back, and there was a good size crowd that I would guess at 1500. To our right were two policemen guarding a door to the back of the stage. The service started out with music and both the band and singers were very good. They sang no songs that I had ever heard before, and in truth, everything they sang was a repetition of the same phrase over and over. Every once in a while the musical key would change to a higher pitch, and the crowd was getting worked up. About the third song in, Garrett tapped me on the shoulder and pointed out people to our left who were standing and speaking in tongues. You really couldn't hear what they were saying as the music was so loud.
While the music was playing, there was a dancer on each side of the stage, and they were doing some sort of modern dance. When the hymns were fast tempo, they were moving fast, doing splits, almost looking like they were interpreting to song with their bodies.
After the music was over, a woman came out and sang a beautiful ballad a cappella, and she was excellent. Next was the offering, and the plate was passed and at the end of each row the money was dumped into a bucket. All these buckets were stacked up and carried through the door guarded by the two policeman.
Next up was the pastor with the sermon, which was on Babylon and prosperity. He mixed in the point that if you give the church money, God will give you back your money many times over. The man shouted a lot and tried hard to get the crowd worked up, and he did somewhat, but mostly he talked about how God wanted you to have money, a nice house, a nice car, and not to have to worry about anything.
I guess that maybe I didn't get much out of what he was saying, because when it came time to read a Bible verse, I found that his Bible and my Bible were not very much alike. I also found it strange that almost no one carried their own Bible. When he said to turn to such and such Bible verse, nobody was doing that, because nobody had a Bible with them.
Not bringing your Bible to church is very strange, especially down here in the South
When the minister was done, so were we, and we made an exit. As we left I could hear the band start up again and the repetitive singing was starting all over again, and to tell you the truth I wasn't getting much out of that.
The different Bible, the different Hymns, the pronouncement that God wanted me to have money and riches didn't sit well with me, and made me wonder if that really was a Christian church.
After that time at church I did a bit of study and came up with these two quotes,
I know anyone can cherry-pick the Bible to say what they want it to, but when a church puts earthly possessions as a goal we should not only work for, but that we should expect, then I think I am probably in the wrong church. But hey, this is America, and people can believe what they want, they can even change the words in the Bible to what they think sounds best to them.
When we die, we will find out who was right. I hope those people with the Mercedes Benz convertibles aren't too attached to them, because as the saying goes, you can't take it with you.
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