Mystery Worship: Fear and Tribulation Bring in Money and People at Prestonwood Baptist

Mystery Worship: Fear and Tribulation Bring in Money and People at Prestonwood Baptist May 20, 2015
Tel Megiddo
Tel Megiddo

“Wow–Joel Osteen and The Summit in Houston have nothing on this place!” So my companion commented as we walked into the cavernous worship center of the main campus of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano. Tier after tier of green-cushioned pews, football stadium sized jumbotrons, multiple TV cameras prepared for filming and a giant stage with a 300 seat choir loft greeted us.

We sat on the second level behind the sound booth. One of the many dark-suited, conservative-neck-tied ushers had offered a four color bulletin that featured the Prestonwood Golf Classic. Nearly 12,000 people worshipped there the prior weekend, giving more than $600,000.

Rock music blasted through the room at 11:00. Screens flashed visuals of attractive, slender, well-dressed smiling people happily laughing and singing. The worship team, their faces featured on the jumbotrons, sang “Our God.” The tech crew raised the sound to ear-splitting levels. A few attendees sang, one or two raising their hands. Shortly after that, eyes turned to the sky-high baptistry where a young woman underwent a quick immersion.

It was graduation Sunday. The early part of the service honored the high school graduates and the Headmaster of the 1700 student-strong Prestonwood Christian Academy. Then the first prayer of the morning, a quick welcome, and the worship team launched into “He is Faithful.”

When the music switched to a familiar “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” the techies lowered the sound. Many attendees began to sing. Sound returned to higher decibels for the next piece. Then one of the pastors, his twitter handle displayed on the screen, came forward to honor work anniversaries of some of the Prestonwood’s many staff people. Another prayer also mentioned the offering, and the music began again.

At 11:35, all attention went to the screens. The words, “Are you ready for the Revelation?” appeared. Preaching from the book of Revelation, Dr. Jack Graham announced that we are going to get God’s perspective on the present and the future.

He asked, “Who is the Antichrist?”

As Graham proclaimed the giant battle on the fields of Megiddo, which I saw on my recent trip to Israel, I felt the chill of fear of being left behind.  Those who prayer the ‘I believe in Jesus’ prayer” in the right way will have been taken up in the massive Rapture. Only the evil will be left to suffer. The most evil of all will be the handsome, charismatic, Son of Perdition, the Antichrist, with the mark of the Beast, the 666 in digital form, clearly visible.

According to Graham, all is in the plan of God who allows evil to run its course. Evil ultimately takes form in the Antichrist, both a person and a spirit. Anyone who denies that Jesus is Lord is possessed even now of the spirit of the Antichrist.

Graham thundered, “Satan does not know when the last days are coming so he always has to have somebody ready.” That being the case, in every generation someone has been groomed by Satan to step into the role of the Antichrist. Graham explicitly identified the Antichrist as a male, so at least I’m not the one being groomed. Other than that, he told the congregation not to speculate who it is, but did say, “It is not your ex-husband.”

Warming to his theme, Graham announced “Anyone who denies Christ deifies Satan” and “If you reject Christ, you will not reject the Antichrist.”

Graham referred to the book of Daniel, weaving together those words with the words of the book of Revelation. Knowing the complexity of the interpretative tasks, he suggested the congregation just “take my word for it” as he knew he was speaking truth.

He noted that many current day nations are mentioned in the Bible but there is no mention of the United States. Why? Why would the greatest superpower in the history of humankind be left out of these prophetic works? For these reasons: Our national debt and the startling moral meltdown that has taken place in just a generation.

Graham said that we have been buried, just as Nikita Khrushchev’s 1956 shoe-banging speech prophesied. The sexual revolution has taken us down. The decision currently before the Supreme Court of allowing same-sex marriage will be the final nail in the coffin. This is the ultimate game-changer and must be defeated.

Graham’s statement, “Homosexuallity is not a civil right but a behavioral issue,” generated loud applause. Clearly, there will be no such behaviors tolerated in this gathering.

He further proclaimed that if same-sex unions become legal, then Christianity will be criminalized and people may have to practice civil disobedience in response. “Judgment is coming to America if Americans don’t repent.” We must pray and then elect leaders who will keep and write laws that are consistent with the Bible.

By then my fear was moving to an all-time high. I thought, “Oh my–laws consistent with the Bible will mean that men can slaughter all the men of rival tribes and rape and enslave their women.”

It got worse. Graham shouted, “Are you a name or are you a number?” Only If I’ve said the right words will my name be indelibly written in the Book of Life. If not, I’m a number for the Antichrist to devour.

“Choose today!” Graham insisted as he wrapped up his 35 minute message. He ordered, “Every head bowed, every eye closed” while he issued an invitation to join this loving body of Christians, none of whom are bigots and all are assured of their place in heaven.

The worship team jumped into “At the Cross” in conjunction with Graham’s final command to come forward, reminding us of the Amtrack train wreck that killed several people earlier that week.  We’re all off the rails. Many will get hurt.

At 12:20, the choir and worship team again sang, “Our God,” proudly owning the God who has so generously given them assurance of salvation and will keep them from the Great Tribulation.

[Note: this article is scheduled to run in the May 22, 2015 edition of the Denton Record Chronicle]

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • You deserve props, and probably a good bottle of wine, for sitting through that whole thing. I know I couldn’t

    • I’m going to confess: my worship companions and I headed straight for a bar afterward, all ordering Bloody Mary’s. Quite a morning.

  • Robin Jansen

    I believe in the Rapture and Tribulation, but I think some people are more gung ho about Ivan the Terrible (the anti Christ) than I am. I know if I show mercy and love to others, the same will be mine in return. This is the Christ I know. I don’t see things in black and white, and I believe God is the ultimate judge. Thank goodness.

  • David Weber

    I know we share some part of a theological tent with those who are titillated by fear, status, and innuendo. But, the endlessly pervasive and duplicative message which seems to boom from so many pulpits and leaves so little room for creative even revelatory engagement by those being ‘taught’ causes me to be more and more unable to identify WHERE in that tent we might find common space. “Jesus is Lord” seems to be the only thing we might be able to say in tandem, but even those three basic words have been bent into such red, white, and blue shades of meaning, that I don’t think I would even make it over their particular I-believe-in-Jesus line in the sand.

    Save me, Jesus, into the protection of your homogenized testosterone-touched and gray flannel security. ??

  • Sounds very Prestonwood Baptist, from everything I’ve heard about it. Years ago my nephew had a co-worker who was there every time the doors open. They guy wore a suit almost every day, all day long, because he wanted to look his best when the Rapture comes! We can only imagine what he paid for his pajamas and can only pray the rapture doesn’t come while he’s using the toilet. I’m sorry, but such a Christian belief as his and so many is just beyond this Christian’s ability to begin to understand.

    • I remember when I was myself caught up in this theology (Late Great Planet Earth time) that I, too, was concerned that I might be using the bathroom when Jesus came back. Really worried me.

  • And yet the message continues to be preached, and crowds continue to consume this type of food. It is mind-altering in the most disturbing of ways.

    • Yes, it is mind-altering. Good words for it. Such preaching creates a world-view that has strong in-group/out-group boundaries and permits the “in-group” to confidently predict eternal damnation on the outies. And I’ve been there. Spent many years inside this bubble. Was a terrifying process to leave it. I genuinely thought I was going to leave my salvation. I also knew if I stayed I would lose my sanity–and probably my life.

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  • Muff Potter

    Although I didn’t coin the label, what you’ve described here can really be characterized as: Chrislam

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