Saturday, November 10, 2007

What's so bad about the Good News?

After last night's "Scenes from his nativity," a musical banquet performed at our church to coincide with The Friends of the Creche fourth biennial convention in Dublin, Ohio, I was floating. Words can't describe how beautifully the program and music led to the manger of Bethlehem. It began with scenes from the crucifixion in "God so loved the world," by John Stainer, which is really the heart of the Christian faith, and then took us back and developed the theme of the coming of the Savior. The spectacular final piece, "Is it really you?" [Words by Carolyn Martin, Music by Michael G. Martin] was commissioned by TFOC and tells the story from the perspective of one of the Wisemen, asking at the end, "Is Jesus Christ born in you?" Yes, this was a program filled with the hope, promise and power of the gospel.

Then this morning I went to check a date on our church's website, and came crashing to the ground. Such a disappointment. You can find the gospel on our website if you first Google "What we believe" + UALC" but it would be a challenge to find even a snippet any other way. Using the website, you'd have to know to first click on the link for visitors, then click on "What we believe" (it isn't there), then on "What worship means," and then from there follow a link to a pdf file, "What we believe." This pdf spreads at 45% to 2 pages, and is comprehensive. Does that mean shorter items about forgiveness, grace, Christ's death, sin, etc. couldn't be sneaked into other links? (The Alpha link doesn't count because that's an international program hosted by our congregation.) The Visual Arts Ministry, which spent weeks hammering out a mission statement that would explain why we are a ministry to reach the community for Christ and not a committee, is lumped with "fellowship groups," and has no spiritual message at all on this site.

Let's not waste my time and yours here quibbling about the God words or whether programs for visiting nursing homes or martial arts for little kids are really forms of "the gospel." Announcing that "we seek to live in and for Jesus" is happy talk, not the gospel. The gospel tells people about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Gentle, non-threatening phrases filled with chummy, non-threatening God words and wussy verbs declare nothing, believe nothing, and move no one.

The emerging church message is not new--it's a battle in Christendom that returns each generation under different names. I attended liberal, main-line Protestant churches with limp messages for 35 years. I know that no one is saved in a liberal church unless like me, they become so desperate for hope and truth, they are driven to look elsewhere. I was that desperate when I attended UALC for the first time in 1974. There were no websites then, or 8 page newsletters, or multiple campuses or large staff. Just a minister (Luther Strommen) with a 3 point sermon, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.

Let's prepare the webpage so there is room for Jesus this Christmas!

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