In my other WordPress blog, I did a history of my spirituality and church going activities. That series was a productive inventory of where I have been in an attempt to see where I needed to go. Spiritually speaking, there is always some new frontier for personal growth as a person learns about areas the need to be cleared away and cleaned up in order to move on.
This new church is firmly planted and grounded within all of the history, theology and traditions surrounding Rick Warren’s Saddleback church. They use his materials in order to promote their leadership training. They use his small group model in order to expand and build the relationship roots of the congregation. So perhaps I’ll name this new church Saddleback East. Even before I looked at their material, I could see this pastor was a sort of junior Rick Warren wannabe.
He and his fellow pastors are now on the march towards a major building campaign. He has preached a series of sermons on money and material possessions. The last couple of Sundays he has enjoined the congregants to give sacrificially towards a new building fund for the next 40 months. And I’m having some misgivings.
He went on throughout his message about how this campaign was not about the money. It was not about the building. It was about winning souls to Christ. And really and truly, I was okay with that. He went on and on and on. For an hour he went on. Then he wanted to on some more. My butt was getting sore. This is the thing about a second service is that this guy will use it as a license to go on longer. And he did. During the early service, he is limited because he has to clear a building and parking lot for the second.
I was at this second service as it was when Arwyn was scheduled for her baptism.
Baptism. There is much to be said about this subject. Some see it as purely symbolic, some see it as an act of salvation and some see it as an act of obedience. In pretty much every case, it is seen as something special and unique. Just about every denomination and sect recognizes it as a singular thing not unlike a wedding ceremony. This is opposed to something like communion where we are enjoined to do it often. And I did see some really special events. There was the father baptizing his two adopted daughters, one who had special needs. There was the middle school teacher baptizing one of his young students. And then there was the senor pastor, Rick Junior, who baptized Arwyn.
The issue that I have is that this whole affair felt very rushed. It was done at the very end at about 12:45 when the congregation was already tired and hungry. There wasn’t enough of a big deal made about it, in my opinion. The offering (which was done much earlier) took more time than the baptism. I felt that the pastor missed the greatest opportunity to drive his message home by not weaving these moments into his sermon. There is no single thing he could deliver from his mouth that would not be eclipsed by the testimony observed in those people being obedient in faith and exercising it by going under the water. They don’t do these things every week or even every month. So it was a rare opportunity, and I felt like he dropped the ball.
If I had known it would have been like this, I would have tried to convince Arwyn to do it within a small group among those that knew and cared about her the most. The number that was at my baptism was far smaller, but at least everyone was there because they wanted to be. I was allowed to deliver my testimony and it was a special experience.
I haven’t said much to Arwyn about it, except I did say that I thought the pastor sort of treated it as an afterthought. But it still vexes me. It seems hypocritical to go on and on about how it is not about the money or the building, but then watch as the guy spends all of his time talking about the money and the building. But that’s just me. Arwyn is good with it, so that’s what is important. I suppose I could find anything wrong if I looked hard enough.