The wrong emPHAsis: A word on First Baptist Church of Dallas’s statement regarding Tim Tebow’s withdrawal

We had a joke back when I was taking Biblical Greek. When we worked on pronunciation and somebody got it wrong, somebody would say, “You put the emPHAsis on the wrong sylLABle.” And for the purposes of you getting that, emphasize the caps and you’ll get it.

Well, today the big news has been the withdrawal of Tim Tebow from a speaking engagement at First Baptist Church of Dallas, TX. To read more of my thoughts regarding Tebow, I encourage you to read my post on the subject

FBC Dallas responded to the breaking news today with their own statement, which reads as follows:

The leaders and congregation of First Baptist Church Dallas are disappointed that New York Jets’ Quarterback Tim Tebow today has announced he will no longer speak at First Baptist Church Dallas on April 28, 2013, as part of the month-long celebration events surrounding the grand opening of our new $130 million, state-of-the-art campus on Easter Sunday.

Mr. Tebow called Dr. Jeffress Wednesday evening saying that for personal and professional reasons he needed to avoid controversy at this time, but would like to come to First Baptist Dallas to speak at a future date.

We are saddened that Mr. Tebow felt pressure to back out of his long-planned commitment to First Baptist Dallas from numerous New York and national sports and news media who grossly misrepresented past comments made by our pastor, Dr. Robert Jeffress, specifically related to issues of homosexuality and AIDS, as well as Judaism.

As a Christian pastor, Dr. Jeffress takes a biblical approach to moral and social issues, closely following his duty to preach ‘the whole counsel of God,’ and not just address issues that are politically correct. First Baptist is a church built on the truth of Scripture, even though at times that approach can be perceived as controversial or counter to the prevailing winds of culture.

The reason for the recent media firestorm is not because the Word of God has changed, but because society has changed.

More important, contrary to editorializing in the media, Dr. Jeffress shares a message of hope, not hate; salvation, not judgment; and a Gospel of God’s love, grace and new beginnings available to all.

I have two thoughts on this statement, and both have to do with the first paragraph because in writing these things the lead paragraph is often times the only one people will read. And to me, that first paragraph leaves a bad impression.

First, of what consequence is it to mention that this controversy has anything to do with the price tag or the “state-of-the-art”ness of their new facility? The fact the church spent an astronomical $130 million on this building is incredible enough to begin with. Why was it necessary to include that information in this press release? This wreaks of boasting in a building instead of in a Savior and His truth. And if it leaves a bad taste in my mouth, I’m betting it leaves a bad taste in the mouths of many unbelievers who may have read it.

Second, of all the Sunday’s in the year to do the “grand opening” of this new facility, why Easter Sunday? Doesn’t opening this building at that particular time detract from what should be the focal point? The resurrected Christ? Easter is one of the most highly attended days of the year, when non-attenders and the curious are perhaps most likely to show up. They’ll show up, alright. But why? To see a building, and in the midst of being distracted by the newness of the $130 million campus, they might miss the invaluable gospel of the incalculable Christ.

Perhaps I’m off base here, or at least going overboard. I’ll grant that. The statement, especially putting that up front, just rubs me the wrong way. I understand the need to explain why Tebow isn’t showing up (I think he’s in the wrong), and I am happy to see the statement defends their pastor, whose boldness I appreciate (even if he says things sometimes in a way I would not). That other stuff is not necessary, though, and I wish they hadn’t included it.

Let’s focus on the important stuff here. A highly public Christian athlete capitulated to the culture when criticisms came his way regarding the gospel exclusivity of this church and certain moral issues like homosexuality. This church’s pastor was slandered in awful ways and the church was right to defend him. The statement’s talk about the glory of their building only detracts from the glory that should go to Christ alone.

FBC Dallas’s statement puts the emPHAsis on the wrong sylLAble.

Author: Matt Privett

Christian. Husband. Father. Pastor.

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