Entertaining but Lacking

My family attended Rock Bridge Community Church for several years.   We are Baptists and Rock Bridge is listed as a Southern Baptist Church on the SBC website (even though “Baptist” is not in the church’s name.) My wife and I were aware that leadership had a seeker-sensitive approach, but we were willing to accept that as long as the teaching was solid.  However, over time, we began to see an ever-increasing focus on attendance numbers and a tendency to be very concerned with not offending previously unchurched visitors. The preaching was more topical than expository.  Sermons were more like self-help motivational speeches with nuggets of biblical wisdom sprinkled into the message. While the preaching was entertaining, the lack of depth became something that concerned us the longer we remained.

As a parent, I had a major concern with the lack of strong discipleship in the youth group. The longer our teenager attended, the more we noticed a lack of clear biblical teaching on topics such as sexuality and gender identity. The leaders were too concerned with offending visitors or anyone else to proclaim the truth of God’s word on these issues.  We watched as woke ideology around Covid and the racial tensions at the time began permeating and influencing the overall messaging of the church. It became obvious that compromises were being made in the name of acceptance and tolerance.  As a result, our teenager began taking on a more secular worldview instead of the biblical one she had been raised with. It became evident that the youth events on Sunday nights and Wednesdays were more centered around making sure the kids were having fun and playing games, instead of promoting sound biblical teaching that prepared them to defend their faith in the world.

I am a musician, and, for a time, I was involved in helping on the worship team. I observed that most of the songs selected came from Bethel Church, Hillsong, and Elevation Church. I began to sense too much of a “me centered” tone in the lyrics and saw a strong desire from leadership for the worship to conjure an emotional response from the congregation through the music.  I began to research the background of the churches that provided the music and found they are not doctrinally sound.  They all are influenced by the “New Apostolic Reformation (NAR)” and prosperity movements. Bill Johnson, who pastors Bethel Church out of Redding, California is probably the most concerning of them all, but each of these ministries share troubling similarities. In addition, these churches are financially supported when licensing fees are paid to play their songs on Sunday. I communicated my concerns to the worship leader at the time, and I was told the all the songs are chosen by the main campus in Dalton. In the end, nothing changed.  I won’t go into the harm the NAR movement causes but I encourage anyone who is interested to read the book “Counterfeit Kingdom” by Holly Pivec and Doug Geivett.

Once we found a new church home that had doctrinally sound expository preaching, I saw a change for the better in our kids’ walk with Christ and their confidence as believers overall.  It has been several years since leaving Rock Bridge, but my family is in a much better place today.  While I would not want to re-live the experience of our time at Rock Bridge, I am glad God took us through it because it ultimately strengthened us as a family. Most importantly, my kids saw firsthand the problems of going to a seeker-sensitive church that is more concerned with being liked in the community than being salt and light.

-David G.