Below are the impressions of a first-time revival-goer who went to hear John Hamblin, fundy evangelist extraordinaire.
My personal take on my first IFB revival service:
To give a bit of background, I attended a private Christian school for 13 years. They claimed non-denominational, each to their own in their private church to pick what you are. My home life was more Baptist than anything, but really what the Bible says was it. We attended church every Sunday and pretty much left it there. In church, you sang the songs and you were quiet when the pastor starting preaching. No showing off, no talking from the congregation and no drawing attention to yourself. The pastor was pretty even-toned the entire service. My parents both grew up in a Baptist church but when the church started changing, they realized they didn’t believe the direction of the church, so they left and replanted in another church. Today, my husband and I attend church but my parents don’t even have a home church.
Now that you have a little background, here are my thoughts on Dr. Hamblin’s service. I walked in wearing jean capris and a dress shirt, my tattoo on my foot showing, my nose piercing in, my multiple ear piercings in and my hair in two tones. I was not distasteful to the average person but from what I was told, I know I was out of place at an IFB church. But when I was greeted at the front door, they were all extremely nice. As the organist starting playing, I thought the volume was just a bit loud but thought it was just the sound system. When we started singing it was pretty normal to me. We sang two songs and continued on with the service. There was special music which was also pretty normal to me. Next was Dr. Hamblin’s sermon. He started in the book of Jude. We read verse 22, and his main focus was on the later part, “making a difference.” My first thought was, ‘ok where is this going?’ As he continued, his voice started escalating. He then told us a story about the US army and Germany. By this time, he is talking so loud I really can’t understand him; I was straining just to stay with him. The only thing I got from the story was, say “Nuts!” Not too sure what this story had to do with his sermon. Next thing I remember is that he outlined some of the previous verses. At this point I am questioning to myself if what he is saying is really true. Was this really the actual content of what this passage was about? I didn’t have the ability to listen to him and also read the chapter, but that was the first thing I was going to do when I got home. As he continued, his volume remained at a yell. My head was starting to hurt. I felt as if my ears were starting to ring. It was like I was at a rock concert. I have never been to one, but this is what I would imagine my ears would feel like. I tried so hard to push this feeling aside and pay attention.
He continued to tell us how to be a “difference maker.” First, a difference maker knows how to contend. He referenced verse three and also Luke 18:8. I don’t really remember what this point was about. I couldn’t keep track.
His second point was a difference maker knows how to contact. His reference was verse 20 which stated we need to be in the Holy Spirit, to pray in the Holy Spirit. I agreed with that until he stated that if we would just pray in the Holy Spirit more than 5% of our prayers would be answered. I had to dwell on this for a second. He was telling me that because I don’t pray earnestly enough and I don’t pray in the Holy Spirit, that is the reason my prayers aren’t answered?! Whatever happened to maybe that it isn’t in God’s will? As humans we don’t want to hurt, we don’t want trials, but maybe that is what we need. God’s way is not always our way. Jesus prayed it the garden for hours before he was crucified. He knew what was going to happen but he didn’t want it to happen. He begged, cried, and bled for this not to happen, but it still did. Are you telling me that the son of God wasn’t praying in the Spirit? If anyone can pray in the Spirit, I know it would be him. But I guess according to Dr. Hamblin he was not.
So I came back to the sermon and realized I didn’t agree with that, but I continued to listen. He stated that when you pray in the Holy Spirit you get Power (Acts 4:31), Perception (Acts 4:34), and Perseverance, I don’t catch the book reference. He told lots more stories than he actually used the Bible. He would give us the references but not even refer to them. Like he expected us to know it or just believe him. One of his stories was about his aunt and uncle that he prayed for their salvation for 30 years. They were not Christians but one day they came to one of his revival services and were saved. My first thought was, ‘well for those other 20 plus years, did you not pray in the Spirit? It took God that long?’ My second thought was as he was yelling at the camera, (this church broadcasts services over the Internet) ‘why in the world are you putting on a show?’ You are making this about how many people you can point out. You are making this about how loud you can get, almost to “yell” the Bible into us? This is where I understand my Pastor when he says he doesn’t want to make a show when he is on the stage.
His last point was that a difference maker knows how to convert. His reference was Jude verse 23. His main emphasis on this point was that if you don’t carry a tract in your pocket that you are basically not allowed to speak to him about spiritual things. It disgusted him that pastors would come alongside another pastor who wasn’t a fundamentalist, take a picture with him and say he is so great. But yet one of his main stories for this point was that on one of his plane rides he met a famous rapper. He didn’t know at first who he was until he asked. Then he gave him a tract. This rapper accepted the tract so nicely and even asked to be prayed for. Dr. Hamblin put his arm around this rapper, had their picture taken and up on Twitter it went. He said his phone was blowing up before he even hit his gate. Now this was awesome. Or was it really? He won’t put his arm around another pastor that does share the same exact beliefs but yet will put his arm around a rapper whose number one song is “God Forgives but I Don’t”. I’m a little confused. Then he went on to state that if you don’t carry a tract in your pocket that you must not be a true Christian. Where in the Bible is this ever stated?! A piece of paper doesn’t affirm my salvation. A piece of paper separates you from me?! I don’t think so. But, man, did Dr. Hamblin knock this point home. Even to the point that the ushers have to have a tract in their pocket to collect his money. Yet again, where does it state in the Bible that your salvation and worth is held by a piece of paper? I do agree that a tract can be a great tool to witness but it is not a necessity.
He went on to talk about an obituary that he read that morning. It was about a fashion designer that had recently passed. Her story was how her husband had an orange farm and she would sell orange juice. The juice would splash on her dress and stain, so she bought colorful fabrics to camouflage the stains. All the ladies loved the dresses and before long they were selling more dresses than oranges. Then Dr. Hamblin got that dig in. The one about how girls shouldn’t be wearing pants. Remember, I am in jean capris. Well, as I sat there with close friends one felt that I needed a bigger dig and gave me the old pat on the shoulder… Oh gee, thanks! But Dr. Hamblin continued with his point, that he didn’t want his obituary to state that he was known for temporal things, but of things that are eternal. Agreed! Wonderful! But yet again what does that piece of paper do that your mouth can’t? Why does that set you apart from me (the Sunday school teacher that has a class of 6-8 year olds who just told me the exact gospel, word for word, meaning for meaning)? I can’t change their hearts but I can teach them the truth. I have given them more than a piece of paper has. I am just as worried for their eternal state just like you. But I guess since I don’t carry a tract in my pocket, I am not qualified to teach these kids the core of our faith. And even worse that I taught them in PANTS!! Now I’m a true sinner. Because, yet again, where is that in the Bible?! I asked about the pants reference in the car on the way home. The explanation that I received was that the IFB churches believe that if a woman wears pants that she is trying to be a man. My question was ‘didn’t men wear dresses first?’ But I guess this is an oversight?! I guess one of many.
They closed the service with a long head-bowing and an alter call. I wasn’t sure when I was supposed to be bowing my head or looking up. As our heads are bowed he goes on a rant about March Madness. Then he starts alluding that basketball isn’t the real March Madness. I can say I’m still lost on that point. We closed the sermon with one last song.
After I got home, I opened my Bible to study what he had said. I found that the few scripture passages he used were taken out of context. The book of Jude was written to the church to warn against the apostates within the church. These apostates were already taking root in the church and twisting the word of God. Not sure how that corresponded with “making a difference” to the outsiders, like Dr. Hamblin was stating. And his references in Acts and in Luke were out of context also. As I read the entire passage, trying to understand what he was talking about, I could only say that, to me, it made his whole sermon null and void. If you can’t keep in the context of what the Bible is saying than you yourself are twisting God’s words, making you an apostate. I can say, yes, Dr. Hamblin, you made some good points about how we need to pray earnestly in the Spirit and, yes, we are called to witness but that is pretty much where I stopped agreeing with you.
While the people that I came in contact with were extremely nice and welcoming, I have to say that I have no desire to have the Bible preached to me out of context or even yelled at me. That stirs nothing in my soul.