I now know who is forking over 70 bucks to buy a shirt that looks good untucked. It’s the pastors of Antioch Community Churches. I virtually attended Antioch, Waco on 10-11-20 and Antioch, Bryan in person on 10-18-20. And every pastor I saw – and they have lots – save the female ones and there are lots of them too – wore the same uniform: untucked shirt, blue jeans – perhaps the skinny kind – and colorful tennis shoes. And that says something, but what?
How clergy dress always says something. Those who wear traditional vestments show they are plugged into something that transcends current fashions, trends, and are conservative in nature, i.e. they don’t change with the times but conserve the past. This is not by divine right but by human choice. The guy who wears a clerical collar that is traditionally black in another color conveys the message that I’m traditional but not too much. I’m also sensitive to the times. And times do change. The liturgical district president of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod’s English District opined in the 90s that there could come a time that the shirt and tie would be so out of style that it would be a sign that you were conserving the past and not changing with the times. In other words, that would be the uniform of the day for confessional, liturgical pastors.
So Antioch pastors are letting you know they are plugged in to the spirt of the age, the trends of today. I’m betting they speak Starbucks, Instagram, and Snapchat, as well as four other languages that mark and matter today but will not in 10 years. Remember Myspace? Faddishness, trendiness, and change is what every college-aged person wants – and this is their demographic. With the exception of myself, I only saw two other people in the auditorium who were outside the range of 18-30. Everyone wants more, better, different, until they have kids. Then, they want stability, routine, and certainty.
“More” is the mark of Pentecostalism. See Fredrich Brunner’s A Theology of the Holy Spirit. Virtually all their emotive, gushing, pleas to God were for more passion, more fire, more burning, more consuming (Note I didn’t say consummation, but believe you me that is where this movement will end up.). Fiery was a leitmotiv throughout, so much so, that “I Fell Into a Burning Ring of Fire” could have been theme music. Here’s an example of that theme from Bryan. The 9 piece band emote/perform in contradistinction to the other contemporary worship bands I’ve seen just singing, “Come and consume all that we are…We give you permission.” As the Church Lady said, “Ain’t that special.”
They are Pentecostal but like pirate ships of old they don’t fly that flag. They fly the flag of the spirit of the age. In Waco, the theme was “Racism” and in Bryan it was “Human Trafficking”. This, as they say, “is ripped from the headlines.” The preacher in Waco flatly said, “If we don’t act on these things now the church will appear irrelevant.” Wearing centuries old clothing, following a centuries old liturgy, confessing a centuries old creed makes you appear that way. Ergo, they don’t do that.
While not publicly worshipping as Pentecostals, all that tongue gibberish, slapping upside the head of Robert Tilton, and slaying in the Spirit done by Benny Hinn belong to them. Here are some sample statements from their websites: “The Holy Spirit speaks to us through the Bible, intuitive thoughts, other people and circumstances. We believe in His present ministry, His indwelling, His empowering, His impartation of gifts for today, and His transforming power in the lives of all believers (I Cor. 12:4-11, Gal 5:22-23)” (http://antiochchurchbrighton.org/antioch-community-church-in-brighton-values-and-beliefs/). “Holy Baptism and Holy Communion aren’t things the Triune God does among you, for you. They are things you do for God. We believe in the Lord’s Supper and Believer’s Baptism as acts of our obedience and a testimony of our faith (Mt. 3:6; Mk. 16:16; I Cor 11:23-29)” (www.antiochslc.com/about). They believe in an inerrant Bible, but only to a point. “We believe it’s without error in its original manuscript, absolutely infallible, and our source of supreme revelation from God, superior to conscience and reason, though not contrary to reason” (www.antiochslc.com/about). The part about it being shameful for a women to teach or have authority over men (1 Tim. 2:12) must not be reasonable to them – and it’s certainly not to the spirit of our age – because they prominently feature women pastors and preachers.
But what does this have to do with the Parable of the Sower? There it is the one who receives the Word with understanding not joy that produces manifold fruit. Antioch isn’t aiming for understanding. In fact, all Pentecostalism wants you to disconnect from the brain, first the emotions, then the understanding, and finally what seals the deal, the tongue. You jabbering nonsense has much the same power of the Masonic Lodge making you take a vow of silence before telling you what you are to be silent about. You have “bought-in” at the cost of your reason and self-respect, and to repent you have to acknowledge that. Most don’t. The majority of those affected or afflicted depending on your viewpoint, when they grow out or burn out from this intense appeal to emotion don’t return to traditional Christianity. They just fall away even as the soil that received the word with joy did.
You can Google Antioch Community Church for reviews of former members saying they are a cult. I have to admit it had that feel, but then all Pentecostalism does. However, I don’t find a point in their confession that marks it as a cult. I find their confession Pentecostal and Reformed, and the Christian who joins them is saying my Baptism did nothing; the Lord’s Supper is not His Body and Blood given and shed for us Christians to eat and drink. And while certainly not worse, it is probably more dangerous: You are sitting at the feet of someone who binds your conscience with God told me, God revealed to me, God laid on my heart. And if it really is from God – and he, she, and they pastors all – assured me it was, then what can I do but obey? In Waco it was “Be like Jesus: go to eat at places you feel uncomfortable.” “Do what Jesus did: start a business with someone not of your race.” He, the black pastor speaking said, and this was potent because he was referring to pastors’ conferences within the denomination, that he put himself where people talked to him as if he were a 15-year-old because we need to tear down walls. In Bryan it was human trafficking that was the most pervasive problem of our time. Acts 16 teaches us that our mission is to bring heaven to earth. We are to enter the jail of the human traffickers to bring the kingdom of God.
Good luck with that as they say. As for me, I continue to sing with the Church for the past 7 centuries: “Come from on high to me;/ I cannot rise to Thee” (Now Sing we Now Rejoice, v. 2). Like the Reformed in general and the Pentecostals in particular, they believe the arrow must point up from them to God. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper is something they do for God. He doesn’t come down to them. What a piety. They’d have more understanding and probably joy if He did.