Not Your Father’s Bible Church

I can say this about Hill Country Bible Church, Pflugerville, Texas because about 40 years ago I attended a Bible Church while in college.

To be fair, this church had more explicit references to the Vicarious Atonement than either the Assembly of God church I visited in April 2015 or the Wisconsin Synod church I visited in July 2015. Curiously, it was more Pentecostal than the Assembly of God church was – more hand waving, more swaying, more “just letting God’s presence be felt.”  Curiously, their contemporary songs while being more rock than the Lutherans were also more Lutheran. They mentioned who Jesus was and what He did. The sermon was also more Lutheran in that the pastor mentioned and linked Yahweh of the Old Testament to Jesus the great “I am.”

Still this is not your father’s Bible church; it’s your father’s televangelists’ church. They do and say what Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart did and said in the 80s. There “set” is the same. What televangelists did with plants and pictures they are doing with video. Prayers are a prominent feature both then and now. I counted 7 or 8 times of prayer.  Both the televangelists of the 80s and this Bible Church of 2015 emphasize being part of their community, partnering with them to reach the lost.

There was a terrible mixing, confounding, and confusing of Law and Gospel.  This is not new to Bible Churches or televangelists or the Reformed in general. The Gospel assurance was the Medieval doctrine of justification. If you do what lies within you, God will work His power through you. The doable law was preached in this way: “Aw shucks we don’t always do as much as we should.” God’s wrath was make fun of by making light of it. “You really don’t want to kindle the anger of the Lord.” This brought chuckles from the audience.

A Bible Church Communion service was celebrated. As Paul told the Corinthians, it’s definitely not the Lord’s Supper they are coming together to celebrate. It happened right after the opening rock song – which did have explicit Gospel in it. It was “celebrated” by a layman. They were clear on several things. They practiced open Communion, and if you were a Christian they expected you to commune with them. Communion is a symbol. And you were to wait till the elements were passed through the whole congregation so you could take them together as a family. (They had mood music going throughout their celebration of Communion. I thought it would be fitting to break into “We are Family.”)

This is not your father’s Bible Church, but it is your confessional Lutheran father’s nightmare. SPOILER ALERT. “Soylent Green” is a 1973 sci-fi pic (Note the casual way I slid into that chic, hipster way of speaking. This was notable in the Pentecostal, the Wisconsin Synod Lutheran, and the Bible Church sermon. They used the lingua franca of our day which is abbreviation, mixing numbers with words, and short syllable words.) The horror of “Soylent Green” is that the solution to the world’s food shortage, Soylent Green, is really made out of people. “Soylent Green is people” is the phrase that can get you arrested or killed.

The phrase that would get you run out of this Bible Church and is the nightmare of any Confessional Lutheran, father or not, is people are God’s power. That was the crowning point of the pastor’s message. Not God’s presence or God’s power carried the day but God’s people do. We have met the Antichrist and he is us. This is what Revelation 13:18 says. “Let the person who has insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man.” Drop the “a” before man and you see that one of the great revelations of the Apocalypse is that the Antichrist is man.

People are not God’s power, but God’s true power is revealed in a Person, a crucified Person. The irony here is that this Person wishes to be present in the midst of His people today in the Sacrament of the Altar.  But Hill Country Bible Church wants nothing to do with this presence of this Person by this means. They specifically, publicly deny that Jesus is really present. People are present, and that ultimately is who they point you to. I remember the Bible Church of almost 40 years ago, and they did consistently point you to the Bible. This Bible Church did not. It would be more accurately called Hill Country People Church.

About Rev. Paul R. Harris

Ordained pastor of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod
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