Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Preaching (sic) of a Bishop (sic)

I caught a sermon by Bishop T.D. Jakes on the tellie. I've heard raging reviews about Jakes as a pastor and as a preacher. He is supposedly the next Billy Graham - whatever that means. People seem to hold him in very high esteem, and treat him as a leading contemporary authority on the Bible and the Christian life. I have seen him on book and magazine covers, but never actually heard the man deliver a sermon - until yesterday.

I only watched for a few minutes, but I have to say, I was far from impressed.

He was strutting about, gesticulating, and making faces to the delight of the audience. He was preaching about St. Peter after the resurrection. He claimed that it was Peter who took the body of Jesus off the cross, wrapped him in the shroud and napkin, and laid him in the tomb.

All I could think was: "Bishop Jakes, please pick up the white courtesy phone. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus are on line one. They would like a word with you." (see Matt 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, and John 19). Sunday school children should know better.

Jakes also spoke of our Blessed Lord as being in a state of rigor mortis as his body was being removed from the cross. First of all, there wasn't time from a biological perspective. But even more important, this borders on heresy. Our Lord's body was immune from corruption (Psalm 16:10). One would think a "bishop" would know better.

Finally, he misrepresented John 21:3 in which Peter goes fishing as somehow symbolic of Peter backsliding into sinfulness. He further misrepresents John 21:7 that Peter had removed his outer garments as a crazy act of a deranged rebel from God's will, who reacted to not catching any fish by getting "butt nekkid" (yes, that is an exact quote) in desperation. In reality, Peter had stripped off his outer garments for work. He wasn't crazy, he was simply fishing. And there is nothing sinful in his fishing. The disciples still had to eat. Besides, "butt nekkid" is not a very good translation of "gumnos."

The Bishop has entirely missed the point.

Finally, Jakes made reference to Peter leaving his boat as being symbolic of getting out of one's "comfort zone." Jakes exhorted his listeners to likewise "get out of the boat." Of course, Peter also sank when he tried to walk on water out of his "comfort zone." Scripture doesn't use the imagery of boats as things to get out of. Noah and his family were kept in safety in the ark (which itself is a prototype of the safety of Holy Baptism (see 1 Pet 3:20-21) . Moses was preserved in a similar little ark floated on the Nile. Church sanctuaries traditionally include a part called the "nave" - from the Latin "navus" or "ship." The Church is a ship, an ark, that we Christians are to remain in. Of course, being bold and brash and trying to get attention for ourselves with "miracles" and flashy shows of spiritual prowess (like walking on water) make for better TV and spiritual entertainment, but we Christians do well to stay in the boat, stay in Holy Baptism, stay nestled in the bosom of Mother Church.

"Get out of the boat" is a terrible lesson! I would go so far as to say it is demonic.

Before I was called to serve as campus pastor of a certain Lutheran High School, I was told about a DCE (Director of Christian Education, which is a layman who is charged with oversight of education in some Lutheran congregations that choose not to let the pastor have such oversight) who had preached in the school's chapel this exact same faulty metaphor about Peter leaving the boat and thus leaving his "comfort zone" and encouraging his listeners to do the same.

These people are reading the same books and magazines, watching the same videos and TV preachers, and going to the same seminars. They are bringing this kind of faulty doctrine and misappropriation of Scripture directly into our churches and schools. Pastors are likewise doing this, as many of my brothers in the holy ministry serving in LCMS churches preach this same kind of nonsense. "As seen on TV" is not the same thing as "thus says the Lord."

Bishop Jakes is very good as a motivational speaker. He packs people into his megachurch. He even gave a "stewardship" pitch on his TV show to get money flowing into the coffers. And while such things (motivational talks, megachurches, and money) are the "butt nekkid" goals of many district and synodical officials in our church body (not to mention fame and denominational visibility), such feel-good psychological cheerleading is not preaching.

This is how it is that "Dr. Phil" can give Jakes a big thumbs-up without mentioning anything about our Lord Jesus Christ: "Is everything in your life feeling predictable and humdrum? Are you lacking excitement in your job or in your marriage? Dr. Phil wants you to meet Bishop T.D. Jakes, who says you have the power to create the life you want." (emphasis added).

He continues:

“He’s entertaining. He’s powerful. I never thought I would use the words 'preacher' and 'rock star' in the same sentence, but this guy is unbelievable,” Dr. Phil says of Bishop T.D. Jakes. “I’m talking about a guy here who is the only individual to ever sell out the Georgia Dome, with 90,000 people coming to hear him speak. If you’re one of the few people left on this planet who doesn’t know who Bishop T.D. Jakes is, you are in for a huge treat.”

“I love people, and I think that people can feel it when you love them,” Bishop Jakes says. “My first church was about 10 members. The church started to grow and to thrive, and I felt it was time to broaden my horizons, and I relocated to Dallas, Texas. People came from everywhere. The next thing we knew, we had a thriving, hand-clapping, foot-stopping, exciting, pep rally-type church. I’m about empowerment. I’m about encouragement. I’m about helping people to reach their dreams and accomplish their goals, and using their faith as a catalyst to get up on their feet.”

“The bishop meets real people with real problems,” Dr. Phil says. “He deals with marriage. He deals with parenting. He deals with relationships, and he deals with finance, and he doesn’t leave you guessing about what he thinks you need to change when he gets through talking. People always ask me what do I read, where do I seek counsel, whom do I look to as somebody I respect and gain information from? Bishop T.D. Jakes is on that short list. My mission to get everybody in America to meet Bishop Jakes really jumped up in priority when I read Reposition Yourself.”

“I wrote Reposition Yourself because I think so many times we make decisions at 20 that we feel obligated to live with at 60,” Bishop Jakes explains. “I turned 50, and I’m repositioning myself also. People are often saying, ‘T.D. Jakes is a preacher.’ They put a period there, but I believe that God put a comma.”

Not one mention of Jesus or the Gospel.

As we have all supposedly sworn to do according to Augsburg Confession Articles V and XIV, LCMS laymen ought to leave the preaching (predigen, publice docere) to those who hold the office of preaching (Predigamt, ministerium docendi) - that is to say, ordained (ordentlichen Beruf, rite vocatus) pastors and genuine bishops. Furthermore, LCMS pastors would do well to read, study, and preach like men such as Bishop J. Chrysostom instead of Bishop T.D. Jakes.

The bottom line: I heard not one iota of the Gospel from Mr. Jakes. Indeed, he truly is "America's preacher."

1 comment:

Clint said...

Let's not forget too that Bishop Jakes is a Oneness Pentecostal, meaning he rejects the trinity, and thus the catholic faith.