Mark Davis: A lion’s share of controversy
I have been attending Fellowship Church in Grapevine for a couple of years. It was my pastor, Ed Young, on the roof of that church in a bed with his wife, Lisa, a few weeks ago as part of a series called the “Sexperiment.”
It also means that on Easter Sunday, I watched him onstage with a lamb … and a lion.
If you prefer your church low-key and your pastor quiet and safe, Ed is not your man. He will put a bed on the roof and tell you it is about time people heard what Christ has to say about intimacy. He will integrate every element of contemporary music, high-tech presentation and modern vernacular to bring a very traditional message to thousands each week. It minces no words, it allows no fudging and leaves nothing uncertain.
And sometimes it involves animals. Big animals.
The new series is called “Wild,” and it kicked off Easter weekend as Ed began addressing the paradoxes of Easter: Why the name “Good Friday” for the death of Jesus? How can man ever absorb the notion of a salvation we do not deserve? And how should we reconcile the responsibility to emulate Jesus in his lamblike gentleness and his lionlike strength?
What better way to illustrate that last point than those two animals, in the flesh?
As with the “Sexperiment,” opinions began flowing immediately from those who thought it was a great idea and those who did not.
Everyone is entitled to personal taste in terms of the worship they enjoy. Fellowship’s flavor is pure, unmitigated Bible 101 packaged in a 21st-century way that attracts tattooed twenty-somethings alongside grandparents. While some find these trappings a bit intense, others may be challenged by the thoroughly traditional messages within: God said it, you need to believe it, and that settles it.
The ripple of controversy since Sunday is not the product of theological discord but rather animal rights sensitivities. Some have said the cage was not in the best interests of the lion.
Well, I checked, and the lion is back on his spacious preserve in California, enjoying a happy lion life. Meanwhile, Fellowship attendees got a lesson in incorporating the Christlike qualities of the lion and the lamb in a far more vivid fashion than they would have if the sermon had been delivered without the animals. Personally, I believe the lion’s time was very well-spent.
Couldn’t Ed — couldn’t any pastor — deliver that sermon without the actual animals on stage? Of course. But I wouldn’t be writing about it, you wouldn’t be talking about it, and my third-grade son would not be invoking it every day since, with a perfect sense of what the sermon meant.
There is great beauty in the centuries-old sights and sounds of ancient masses and traditional worship unchanged through the ages. But if a church wants to step it up in a way that fills seats with people who might not otherwise see the inside of a house of worship, I would suggest that is exactly what Christianity is about.
As this series continues, the activists may grumble, but I am comfortable that every animal brought in for this high purpose will be well-treated, and every member of the congregation well-served.
I do not know what animals are in store in the coming weeks. There is buzz about a camel, and I would think a serpent would be in there somewhere. If the snake talks, that will be a whole other column.