Friday, May 9, 2014

My Vacation Bible School Teacher, and Kenneth Copeland

I recently watched a sermon by Kenneth Copeland about David and Goliath.  The sermon is dated to February 1992.  It may have been this sermon that I heard over twenty years ago at a Vacation Bible school, but I am not sure if the dates add up.

When I was at the Vacation Bible school, I was in the class for pre-teens and teens.  Our teacher was a huge fan of Kenneth Copeland.  When I told our teacher that we attended Garner Ted Armstrong’s church, the teacher was very familiar with Armstrong, for Armstrong’s television program was on right before Kenneth Copeland’s on Sunday mornings (which, by the way, was really early in the morning).  The teacher said that he liked some of what Garner Ted had to say, but that he felt that Garner Ted taught salvation by works, rather than the Gospel truth that salvation was a free gift for those who believe in Christ.  Whether the teacher’s assessment of Garner Ted was accurate, well, that’s pretty debatable: Garner Ted taught that we cannot earn our salvation through our good works, but did Armstrongism have the practical effect of encouraging legalism in people’s lives?  I would say that it did.

Anyway, back when I was a child, Kenneth Copeland did not impress me that much.  He reminded me of the stereotypical televangelist, the types, incidentally, whom Garner Ted liked to mock.  Copeland would yell and scream, and he had this folksy accent.  I told my Vacation Bible school teacher that, and he replied that, yeah, that may be a turn-off, but once I listened to what Copeland had to say, I might learn something that could help me out.

The Vacation Bible school teacher’s plan was to show the entire Vacation Bible school—-all of the young people of all ages—-the sermon by Kenneth Copeland about David and Goliath.  It may have actually been Kenneth Copeland’s intention for children, too, to hear this sermon, for, in his introduction to his sermon that I watched recently, he told parents to gather their children around the television so they can hear about David and Goliath!  Looking back, I don’t think that showing this sermon at Vacation Bible school was that much of a success.  I was rather bored watching it, and I was not absorbing much of it.  I seriously doubt that the kids younger than me were, either.

I think that part of the issue was that I was not yet at the age at which I could identify with Copeland’s audience—-adults, struggling to make their way through life amidst Goliaths that challenge them, wanting for things in their life to go smoothly.  I didn’t have those worries back then.  My parents took care of me.  My grades were not that bad.  Socially-speaking, I was fairly well-liked.  Life was not yet a battle and a struggle for me.  I still had religious needs, though.  I did crave a religious or spiritual feeling of inspiration, since most of the time I felt rather empty.  I liked Bible stories.  I liked to show off my knowledge of the Bible so people could comment on how smart I was.  I didn’t mind sermons that could be rather moralistic.

If there was anything that I learned from that Vacation Bible school experience, it was that I should be open to listening to what people have to say, paying attention to what needs are being expressed.  I’ve wondered what exactly my Vacation Bible school teacher saw in Kenneth Copeland.  Now, I can somewhat see, even if I don’t agree with everything that Copeland says.

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