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.