My primary traveling companion had to be in Scottsdale, AZ for a few days late last week, so I ended up tagging along to do child care, cooking, cleaning, chauffeuring, and all the other things a Sensitive Nineties Guy does these days. As my reward I got to spend big chunks of days with our other traveling companion and I got to visit Scottsdale Bible Church (SBC) [link].
I won’t keep you in suspense, dear reader. Our impression was basically positive, and the sermon we heard is available online [link]
I didn’t set out to visit yet another megachurch in the Phoenix metro area (the Hartford Institute lists 26 megachurches in Arizona; SBC reports 6000 in attendance and ranks 6th on that list); we were actually looking for a former Navigators acquaintance and had no idea how big SBC is. There are two campuses; we were on South Campus, which I understand is a twenty-acre plot. We were running very late, so I didn’t get a chance to visit every building on campus. There are separate buildings for the main sanctuary, children’s ministries, a high school, etc. And there’s lots of parking, but not so much that there’s shuttle service from outlying lots. There are four services on Sunday: 8AM, 9:30AM, 11AM, and 5PM. The 11AM service is spread across the main sanctuary and the high school gym. They offer different music at different services: more traditional church music at 8AM, a blend of traditional and contemporary at 9:30AM, and contemporary at 11AM and 5PM. We ran so late we missed the music at 8AM, so I can’t tell you what it was. I did spot hymnals in the pews, however.
The current pastor is Jamie Rasmussen; he is not the founding pastor, and from some comments he made during the sermon I would guess he is about 45 years old. If I had to say he sounds like or looks like someone you may already have seen I’d suggest Rick Warren: he’s bearded, overweight, not especially attractive, wears a casual shirt in the pulpit, and has a delivery style that is hurried bordering on anxious. He divides his time between standing behind a small thinnish pulpit and sitting on a nearby stool.
The sermon we heard (see above) was expository but not verse-by-verse. I’d be tempted call it expository-topical. There was a primary text, and most of the sermon followed the text in order, a phrase at a time, but he would occasionally jump to another text for an illustration and return to the primary text later. I’d call it expository because the substance of the sermon was driven by the flow of the primary text, but there were elements of topical teaching as well; my interpretation of what he had to say was driven by his outline rather than dictated by the text itself. But it still more or less followed the expository pattern of read-explain-apply, even if it left the application a bit abstract.
One of the sermon analysis tools some people find helpful is to divide topics into “God-centered” and “Man-centered” piles: the former being “about God” and the latter being “about Man.” Or if you prefer, “about God and His Glory” and “about Man and his problems.” I’m not sure these are always helpful categories, especially when the text is, as was the case in this sermon, about some aspect of sanctification. It’s almost as if, and I realize this is a bit glib, we were to insist that Shakespeare’s play Romeo And Juliet be either about Romeo, or about Juliet.
Rasmussen, if I understood him correctly, was encouraging us to think and feel a particular way because we understand our circumstances in a perspective that values the glory of God above all else; I’m not sure something like that can be put into either of the above categories: is it “man-centered” because we’re the ones doing the actions? Or is it “God-centered” because the glory of God is the main thing?
That’s enough for a first post; I need to come back to this tomorrow, and talk about what a difficult thing it must be to be Jamie Rasmussen, responsible for a church in a place as American as Scottsdale.
I was in Scottsdale AZ last week and had a chance to listen to a few minutes of Harold Camping’s late-night program Open Forum. For some reason I assumed he’d be taking questions regarding something other than the Rapture, which he has predicted will occur next week. I don’t know what I was thinking. I should have known that nobody would want to talk about anything else.
He spent the entire twenty minutes or so I heard defending himself from cheap potshots about whether his ministry was still taking donations, who would be taking over his network after the Rapture, what sort of plans he had for June, etc. It wasn’t pretty.
He even merited mention on Bill Press’s radio show this morning. Apparently someone from Family Radio tried to get his show involved in their last-minute media blitz. Press of course suggested that Camping is asking for money and compared him to William Miller [link]; kudos to Press for knowing who Miller was.
To my knowledge Camping isn’t actually saying “the End is nigh; send me money,” so I’m a little disappointed in Press for not doing his homework before climbing on his high horse. I can’t figure how Camping is making money off this; it’s like he decided to mortgage any future earnings (past May 2011) for a big run-up ending next week.
For the record, the calculation I’ve heard from Camping is captured on the appropriate Wikipedia page [link]; it’s the second of the two listed. I had forgotten that Camping used a base date of April 1, AD 33 and calculated forward using a solar calendar. Never mind the underlying problem that he’s mixing the poetic, the literal, and the numerological to get his 1978 years; I’m under the impression that Old Testament prophecy used lunar years, not solar years. I was also under the impression that the Crucifixion occurred in AD 27; apparently the most commonly used date is April 3, AD 33 [link].
When I was a kid I found this sort of thing fascinating; in retrospect, I think mostly because it used simple arithmetic and calculated things with grave implications. As an adult I’d despair of getting a calculation like this right: never mind how silly the premise is; it’s just hard to count a half-million of anything and have no margin of error, and that’s what this calculation attempts to do.