Dear readers of World Religion Weekly,
A person never truly knows how many Christians they know, until they say that they want to attend a church service.
My small town of Poulsbo is absolutely swimming in churches. When I mentioned that I wanted to attend a church service, I immediately received suggestions of Christian churches from Catholic to Protestant to non-denominational. Ultimately, I chose to visit the North Kitsap Baptist Church because my friend, Gary, presented this option before the other suggestions and offered to drive me. You can learn about them here on their website.
We walked through a maze of hallways to stage-centered room the North Kitsap Baptist Church uses for services.
Impressive lighting and sound equipment perched on a metal frame that spanned the areas in front of the stage. Diaphanous curtains draped the back of the stage, and a message of welcome beamed from the projector screens. Gary and I were on the earlier side, so I had time to get one of the little interactive sheets that a church-goer would fill out throughout the sermon. This struck me as a sensible and clever way to keep individuals engaged.
The service began, as a man with a guitar took the stage, along with harmony singers and a rhythm section.
He introduced himself and launched into a Jesus-centered song. Gary later explained that he was not the usual North Kitsap Baptist Church preacher, though he was a very good public speaker. He sang several songs with his group, most revolving around the themes of God’s greatness and Jesus’s sacrifice. The crowd of worshippers stood for this, most singing along. Several people raised their hands, in apparent devotional ecstasy. This musical opening was quite similar to the many of the other services I have attended (check here for those stories).
This musical section soon ended and was succeeded by a woman announcing upcoming church events.
Awanas, a youth program that teaches children bible passages, was praised, an upcoming Christian finance consultation meeting was promoted, and an advertisement for a grief-therapy program was shown. The church evidently remained busy most days of the week.
Then the sermon began.
I had arrived for the final segment “The Armor of God.” It included metaphors such as “The Helmet of Salvation,” ” The Breastplate of Faith,” And “The Shoes of Peace,” “The Sword of Spirit.” I’ll give a brief summary.
This is when the preacher began to go in depth about ancient Roman weapons. Roman shields were usually more than five feet tall and were made of wood wrapped in animal hides and other things which prevented the shield’s bearer from being stabbed. These shields could also be soaked in water, so that they could quite literally extinguish the flaming arrows of the Roman empire’s enemies.
“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (Hebrews: 11:1) The preacher explained that trusting in any knowledge was faith. He knew the exact weight-holding capabilities of the stage, and he trusted that they were accurate. To emphasize this he jumped up and down a few times. Of course this act of faith wasn’t quite on the same caliber as most occurrences of faith in the bible. Rather than faith in the reliability of measurements, these acts of faith usually involved trusting in the ultimate goodness of god and that even bad things are part of a higher purpose.
“In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.” (James: 2: 17-18) This was followed by a call to action to “take up the shield of faith.”
“For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” (Roman’s 10:10) The preacher explained that faith in God’s word is the only true faith and that faith in yourself is fleeting. Compare it to the Buddhist take here, in my interview with Pra Sandee.
At this point we pulled out our handy-dandy worksheets to fill out Satan’s Fiery Arrows:
A new piece of God’s armor was now introduced, the Helmet of Salvation. A helmet is pretty imperative to any sort of protection gear, as your head is the most vulnerable part of your body. Moreover, the Helmet of Salvation guards your mind from the Fiery Arrows mentioned above.
“But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” (Thessalonians: 5:8-11) The preacher grinned as talked about how cool it would be to see Jesus face to face. Eventually, Christians believe that they will meet Jesus, whether in the afterlife or apocalypse. He instructed the audience to turn to the person next to them and say “Jesus is coming back.” “Jesus is coming back,” stated Gary, grinning. “Okay,” I replied, “That might happen.” I am not Christian, and I cannot honestly say that I have faith in the accurateness of that statement. It was very impressive, how excited the people around me became as they shared their faith with their neighbors.
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.” (Revelation: 21: 1) Christians believe that God will one day live alongside his people, and the preacher instructed the worshippers to frequently think on this and their eventual salvation.
“Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6:17) He pulled out his phone, and explained that while we no longer keep swords on our belts, our cell phones can be an equally advantageous tool, especially with a bible app.
“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword,it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)
“The weapons we fight withare not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10: 4) He then talked about the Hebrew words which were translated to “word” in England. Rama means utterance, while logos means something more like logic.
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15) Here the preacher brought up the importance of memorization to Christians. I was only made aware of this recently, but it has cropped up quite a bit since then. Christians like to memorize bible verses that have meaning to them and keep them in their minds, to be meditated upon when the occasion arises. The preacher hastily elaborated that this was not like an incantation, but more like an inspirational quote. Jesus, himself, used scripture (the “Sword of Spirit”) to ward off Satan when he was tempted.
“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people” (Ephesians 6:18) He concluded his sermon by calling on the worshippers to pray for each other.
The North Kitsap Baptist Church sermon ended with more singing.
I thanked the preacher as I walked out the door and chatted for a moment , promising to send him a link. It was a lovely sermon, and I am sorry for the general disheveledness of this post.
Thank you for reading,