How many other conferences advertise by telling you a dozen things that WON’T be there?
I don’t even know where to start with this one.
An alert SFL reader sent me a link to the 2011 tax return filed by The Sword of the Lord which on page 7 reveals the following information about the income of its employees:
I had no idea that running a fundamentalist fishwrap which features mostly old sermons, self-righteous rants, and ads for bus ministries was such a lucrative affair for the guy at the top. If Shelton is making that kind of dough I guess it must be seriously hard work culling all the Calvinism out of Spurgeon’s sermons to make them fit to print.
Once again, a brave soul had attended a Sword of the Lord conference and is here on SFL to give us a field report of the goings on there. The videos of these services are also online here although I have no idea why you’d want to subject yourself to them.
Since we’re coming up on the Sri Lanka week here on SFL I won’t be able to put the other days of this report on SFL. I can hear some of you breathing sighs of relief.
Instead, I’ll compile them all in a document for your perusal and post a link later in the week.
The Lighthouse Baptist Church was founded in October of 2001 after Randy Tewell answered the call to pastor the former Theodore Heights Baptist Church. He moved his family all the way from California to lead our fine church. I would love to tell the whole story of how this came to be, but it’s too long a story and I’m sure that it would be all too familiar with most of the readers on [SFL] anyway. The conference began on Sunday July 29th with morning and evening services. Invitations were sent to pastors all over southern Mississippi, the state of Alabama, and the Florida panhandle. It concluded with the Wednesday night service on August 1st. This also served as our church’s annual revival service we usually hold at this time each year. Dr. John Hamblin served as the primary speaker and Dr. Shelton Smith, although very weary from the national conference the week before, also served during the middle two days of the conference.
Dr. John Hamblin is an evangelist to the local New Testament churches all across the nation. He is from some town and church in Michigan, and he has been in evangelism for over 32 years. This is an amazing feat since he preaches the same 3 or 4 sermons everywhere he goes. The one thing I can say for Hamblin is he is always entertaining and does do a very good job at keeping you awake with all his antics and hollering from the pulpit. He walks the aisles and interacts with the congregation so you better pay attention. By the way he hollers the entire sermon, but I decided not to put my notes in all caps so just pretend that when you’re reading you do so as if it is being screamed at you. Dr. Shelton Smith on the other hand is not very entertaining and I found him to be very arrogant and boring. He hates liberals, children, puppy dogs, other denominations, the government, the NIV Bible, women, and I’m fairly sure he probably doesn’t care too much for himself either. He has served as the editor of the Sword of the Lord newspaper for the last 17 years out of that town in Tennessee that I can never remember how to spell. He spent several years before that pastoring somewhere in Maryland. But, enough of all the nice words and serious tone, let’s get to the craziness.
Day One: Sunday, July 29, 2012
A.M. Service: 11:00
Speaker: John Hamblin
Before I begin I encourage you to read the scripture before you read the following and ask the Holy Spirit to share with you the purpose and the message contained in those verses. I think it will help when reading to really get a good idea just how much these guys take the scriptures and come up with such elaborate sermons usually containing a lot of fluff but no stuff. The scripture for this message was John 20:1-10 and it is the story of the discovery of the empty tomb by Mary Magdalene and what Peter and John found when they went to the tomb.
Even thought this is a conference we held to our usual Sunday morning routine. The choir opened the service with a special song. I didn’t catch the song as I was making my way to my seat after fulfilling my duties at the welcome center of the church. After that the Pastor Tewell came up and welcomed everyone to the service and said a few random things. After a couple more specials and standing several times for congregational singing, the offering was taken and we were on our way to the message. We began the service promptly at 11:00 but at I looked down at my phone to check the time I realized 32 minutes had passed. I guess it is true that time flies when you’re having fun!
Dr. Hamblin takes control at 11:32am and now the real fun begins. He starts out telling us how great it is to be back and he has looked forward to being here ever since he left last August. He tells us how Dr. Tewell and his family (by the way his son is on staff as the youth pastor and vice president of the church as I like to say) are some of his favorite friends and that our church is one of his most favorite places to preach, and he tells other churches all over the country how awesome our church is. All I can figure is we just pay him more than other churches he preaches at because we sure don’t do anything special, and most people try to avoid him all together while he is there. At this point he tries to be funny and he tells us the only thing he doesn’t like at our church is the fact the pulpit is too tall and our usher coats are the ugliest he has ever seen. For some reason several people found this funny and there was lots of laughing all over.
He proceeds to tell us to be in our place for the entire conference, bring lots of visitors, and there are great things in store. Our place is in front of the fundamental pulpit and not the television. Don’t miss a single service.
Scripture: John 20:1-10, but he preaches almost exclusively from verse 4 only. He has us underline the words ran and outrun in the verse. This is the story of Peter and John running to the empty tomb. We stand for the reading of the scripture and then he gives his standard prayer. Most of the staff has it memorized because they have heard it numerous times over the last three years.
After we sit he rants about the KJV being the inspired, preserved words of God, and we should hear about the incarnation and resurrection more than just twice a year.
He tells us ran means to move fast, and outrun means left behind in running.
Though his study he has determined that John was probably much younger than Peter because he got to the tomb first. Glad he could share that with us considering how much bearing that has on the story! He tells us that those that dash to the empty tomb will always delight in the truths they will discover there.
Through his study of this scripture he has discovered 3 thrilling truths as I will now share with you.
- 1. The bone yard that is barren.
John found an empty evacuated space. From this point he jumps all the way back to Adam’s disobedience in the garden and tells us that Mr. Death is an uninvited guest at this point and he points at you telling you you’re next. Not sure what he meant by we are next but I locked my door that night just to make sure he couldn’t get to me.
He quotes a very strange and long poem at this point that I could not follow and had absolutely nothing to do with the sermon. At this point I am already dazed and confused but I purposed in my heart to carry on so I could share all the joy with you also.
He proceeds to tell us a story about the painting that shows the devil playing chess with a young man. It appears to him the devil won and the young man believes this also. He has never played chess with the devil, but he has played monopoly with his sister who may or may not be the anti-christ. Not sure about the point of his story, but he rambles on about victory over the grave. Just a side note, one of our assistant pastors had this painting on his office wall and it looked really cool.
- 2. A body cloth that is becoming.
John tells us they see Jesus gone, but everything is left orderly, but the head cloth is lying separate from the body cloth.
- He then tells us everything in the Bible is supposed to be there. This napkin or head cloth reminds John about the crown of thorns that Jesus wore. This is the first time during his sermon that he mentions Jesus. We were so much of a sinner it took a redeemer that gave everything of himself. It started at the head and went all the way to his feet.
- Recalls his cross of torture. He tells us people think that Jesus hung on a golden jewel encrusted cross. This is a major cause of problems in our fundamentalist churches. I must say this is the first time I have ever heard anyone say anything about a cross made out of anything other than wood. Must be something common in his part of the country. By the way it was an old rugged cross in case you were wondering.
- Recalls his coming of triumph. He will come back in the clouds and tells us a story about a cloth napkin and how the servants would know whether people were coming back to the dinner table by how the cloth napkin was placed on the table. Once again I learned something new, and now I am really just praying that he will shut up and put me out of this misery. He also told us another riveting story about Scottish sailors on a fishing vessel and how they could see their families in the binoculars, but one of the wives wasn’t there. She was waiting for him at home. The sailor rebuked here because others were watching and not waiting. Still hoping this ends soon. He quotes 1 Corinthians 1:7 which tells us that they were waiting for the Lord and watching Christians are working for the Lord.
- 3. A belief that was bolstered.
Verse 8 shows us that they saw and believed. Peter and John finally understood the teachings of Jesus at this point. At this point he starts quoting the words to the hymn: Up from the Grave He Arose. I would probably be asleep at this point but he was yelling so loud it would have not been possible. He then tells us that victorious resurrection is the proof to any question.
Quote: I feel a preaching storm about to break in this service (I just really want to go home at this point and I am praying that the storm moves on and the damage left in its wake is kept to a minimum).
At this point he finally decided to close the service but not before another fantastic story. He tells us a missionary story about Mecca and Jerusalem. I take it was a conversation between a Muslim and a missionary. The Muslims find Mohammed in his tomb, but the Christian finds an empty tomb. There were two keys to this story: 1. The tomb was vacant, and 2. The throne is occupied. There were several amen’s at this point.
So finally at 12:03 the invitation finally begins. He tells us there are two types of people: those saved and those lost. He is a very insightful man and I imagine it took someone with superior knowledge to come to that conclusion. At this point the sale pitch begins with the goal of getting every living, breathing human being to come bow down at the altar. I am afraid a preaching storm may be about to break out again of even worse a second sermon. He then wants to know if we are Bible saved and does your salvation experience match what the Bible says. We are only one heartbeat from hell and you need to recognize that Jesus died for you.
Then the hand lifting portion of the invitation:
- Lift your hand if you are Bible saved.
- Lift your hand if you want to be Bible saved. He then points out a lady to the pastor’s wife how raised her hand.
- Lift your hand if you are a Christian and god had spoken to you (I thought they believed that only the mog could hear the voice of the Lord)
- He starts laying it on heavy at this point to coax some more out of their seats
- Do you need to follow in believer’s baptism and there are those of you out there that need to join the church today.
I’m not sure why I felt the need to count but at this point 23 people went to the altar while the choir director sings: Nothing between the Lord and the Savior. He is also hollering at a fever pitch over the music and singing trying to get that last person to come forward. Finally the invitation ends at 12:13pm. We have prayer and one baptism and two families join the church. One family used to go to our church and had just moved back to town, and the other is the son of an evangelist that is moving to our area and our church is going to help support. That is a story for another day. We finish with prayer and are dismissed at 12:20pm. Not bad considering how long winded Hamblin can be at times.
Day One: Sunday July 29, 2012
PM Service: 6:00PM
Speaker: Dr. John Hamblin
So we come back for round two and I have prayed all afternoon for the strength to endure another marathon sermon. As you know the farther you get into one of these events the longer the services become. We also have an ordination service scheduled for the evening which promises to add at least another 30 minutes to our night. Mind you I have to be back at 7:00 in the morning so I’m looking at the prospect of severe sleep deprivation from all the festivities.
We stick to our usual schedule for a Sunday evening service, although most of the fluff that takes place has been condensed in order to give Hamblin more time to teach us something. What that may be I don’t know but it promises to be entertaining. I expect a little more screaming and a little more controversy seeing as how the Sunday night crowd is always the more faithful in their eyes.
So I will skip all the details with hymn choice and special music, but I do want to share that we learned a new but old hymn called “Oh How it Saves.” The significance of this is last year the church presented him with a hymnal from Billy Sunday’s song leader for over 20 years Homer Rodenhever. This hymn was sung as every revival service Billy Sunday had during those 20 years and apparently it was his favorite. We get to tell our grandchildren about this great experience. He also claims to have to only audio recording of this song in the entire world and conveniently has it available on CD at his book table. We must be the luckiest people in the world.
This is a one verse sermon and it comes from Act 8:9. The title of the message is why the devil hates revival. He begins at 6:33pm and keeps to his routine as we stand and read the verse and he recites his well planned and rehearsed prayer. We then sit and the teaching begins.
After we sit he begins to tell a story about the special music he hears in the churches that he visits. He tells us that our music is awesome and how that the specials in other churches is just standing up and singing and then sitting down and he just can’t see how that could be do special. He proceeds to tell us how much he loves our pastor and church and loves the fact that we are a fundamental church with no hint of evangelicalism. He also tells us how privileged we are to be hosting a Sword of the Lord conference and how churches would kill for the opportunity.
He told us how he spends most of his summer preaching tent revivals and how hot it is in some places. He told a joke about how the mosquitoes came flying in singing “Nothing but the Blood,” and he got a few laughs. He also told a joke about how he lost his voice and told us his wife said it was the best week of their marriage because he couldn’t talk. I could actually see how pleasant that could have been for her.
He gets into his message and tells us the devil hates God’s son and great spiritual awakenings. The saint can count on Satan crashing the party when the savior is doing something compelling and powerful. He will show up before, during, and after the service. The devil is opposed to everything we are doing. He talked an awful lot about the devil during this sermon, and it still amazes me that the devil is talked about more than Jesus
- The Christ is Exalted:
In verse 5 of Act 8 Phillip preaches Christ to the people that are present. He then jumps into a story about how John R. Rice preached wickedness of men and repentance. He preached the power of the Holy Spirit. He then quotes the first two verses of a John Wesley hymn, but I didn’t catch the name. He then announces that Billy Sunday is his hero and quotes him several times. We then get a story about a preacher who was loved by his people but it seemed his preaching was devoid of message (he probably graduated from the same fine institution as Hamblin because all his yelling is devoid of a message). A member left a message on the pulpit one morning and it said: Sir that we would see Jesus. He mediated and this and there was a change in his heart. After the next service he found a note that said: then were his disciples glad when they say the Lord. A neat little story but not sure what it had to do with the message or scripture. He never really elaborated on this point other than the devil doesn’t want Christ to be exalted.
- The comrade is exhibited:
We should have good report and good will among friends and family. The fundamental pulpit will pick the climate of the fundamental family (or message). The devil knows if we are pushing each other and he will not be able to hinder us. It is amazing to me how much credit and power he gives to the devil. I understand that he is a spiritual being but they way he talks about the devil he is almost as powerful as God. I think this is very dangerous and misleading to people who are not very strong in the faith. But back to the message. The devil’s main tool in 2012 is the internet:
- Facebook (and the place erupted with amen’s). Hamblin refers to this as wastebook. For the record I do not have a facebook account, but it is a personal decision and not because it could possess my computer. He really cannot stand how people just post their everyday business on their wall page and if he could he would write who cares all over your wall. At this point he says welcome to the summer meeting. With that said he does have a blog and a twitter account. People are acting a fool on the internet. He reminds you it only takes one click. We need to bring harmony to the house of God.
i. Through the savior we experience
ii. Through the scriptures we embrace. Everyone has the same Bible in a fundamentalist church and everyone is therefore on the same page. He tells us how fortunate we are that our m-o-g brings in evangelist that hammers the Bible into us where we get our message, methods, and ministry.
iii. The sinners we evangelize. You’re not a good Christian if people have to find out about a fallout with someone on facebook. Before you talk about your issue with the person with whom you have had a falling out with, go soulwinning with that person. Supposedly this will help with the healing process.
iv. His glasses come off at this point so I’m pretty sure he is about to get really serious.
- He now decides to tell us that he loves the history channel. I must tell you this trip down the rabbit trail literally lasted 15-20 minutes. I suppose at the end of this story he made a point, but by the time he got done I had totally forgot what he even started talking about. So while he was out of town at a hotel room (I guess we should be thankful that he didn’t follow in most fundies foot steps and used this time for extracurricular activates) he discovered that his room had a television. He discovered the show Swamp People, which he dearly loves and enjoys more than anything else on this earth, at least for the sake of a good illustration. He is really excited at this point also he is all over the auditorium going up and down the aisles. He tells us how he watched the first episode and God must be really good because he blessed his television with a second episode. However, his wife called and interrupted his viewing and he had to get her off the phone so he told her he was really in the middle of an important project and to call back later. She called back again later and he got her off the phone then too. Glad to see how much he cares for his wife, she must feel like the luckiest woman on earth. So his point was to catch alligators means working together which I believe he was referencing to the fact that we should go soulwinning together instead of falling out with each other. Not sure about that, but hey I just trying to stay awake right now. Got a lot of amen’s though.
- The Christian is excited.
There was great joy in the city according to Acts 8:8. There is always joy when there is revival. He realized he doesn’t have to endure but enjoy the Christian life. I glad he is because I am miserable right now. He is on the happy train and wants you to be on the happy train and he ain’t about to be getting off any time soon. I need to call the hotel and make sure he didn’t find the mini bar. We can’t afford for him to be getting on the happy train every night he is here. The devil knows when revival comes and the Christian is happy. As Christians we should smile all the time. Where does the devil hit you the hardest: your joy. He goes on to tell us that the devil is a fundamentalist. This does explain a lot about what goes on in a fundamentalist church. The devil knows the Bible and the joy of the Lord should be our strength. It is now 7:18 and he decides now would be a good time to close the sermon.
In closing he tells a story about a great earthquake in San Francisco. There was a women how refused to leave her house. It was destroyed, but she managed to salvage a rocking chair. She then sat in it in front of the wreckage all while whistling victory in Jesus. San Francisco was destroyed and she was just happy because God was changing things. He then goes on to tell us that Shelton Smith had told him he had never heard a sermon on why the devil hates revival and Hamblin was the first.
We then have the required invitation that followed the same pattern as the morning service so I won’t spend any time on it now. I think you know how it goes. We finally finish at 7:28.
Bonus: I’m going to include notes from the ordination service that followed for absolutely free. This is the first I have ever experienced so I thought I would share with those that have never had the privilege of attending one.
We ordained the three youngest members of our staff. The story of laying on hands and prayer from the book of Acts was referenced and we recognized this doctrinal integrity. They were warned to watch their marriages and how the wives should support their husband in the ministry (you better be submissive or else you’ll be responsible when your husband fails).
Seven truths Hamblin gives to the young pastors:
- Be a student of the scriptures
- You may do more than those who trained you, buy you will not know more than those who trained you
- If you only have a fundamental head but not a heart you will jump the fundamental fence
- Success comes from time spent alone with God
- Moral failure is the greatest, most grotesque of all failures
- You have fingerprints of other upon you. Never forget! Be proud!
- Never monkey with the King James Bible and don’t let others mess with it either.
Wives are his biggest supporter. Ladies are the greatest cause for preachers to fall or fail. Hamblin then gave a prayer of ordination and dedication. The certificates were then presented. We had a few announcements, Hamblin gave a sales pitch for his book table, and then finally at 7:56pm we were dismissed.