Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Being Bold with the Gospel

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. – Isaiah 43:18-19

During the past year, I have found myself challenged as never before. I am in the midst of middle age in a denomination that is facing decline. My physical age tells me that I will be more resistant to change. Everything I read in scripture and the reality of things, however, tells me that I need to be ready to embrace change. My father sometimes says, “The ‘good ole days’ weren’t all that good.” The prophet Isaiah said, “Do not dwell on the past.” Touché.

So I’m trying to lighten up. At the end of the month, Grace Episcopal Church is having a “U2charist,” that is, a service of Holy Communion set to the music of U2, whose lead singer Bono is a committed Christian and very active in world benevolences. In exchange for U2’s publishing company allowing the music to be used, they have asked that all offerings go to charity to fight extreme poverty and the AIDS crisis. I have agreed to help plan and participate. Now I have done a communion service set to music many times… but never to rock music. Who will come to it? If the current trend is any indication, a lot of unchurched will show up. And that’s a good thing.

And recently I read of a media campaign that GracePoint Church, a United Methodist church in Wichita, Kansas, marketed in their area. They rented billboards, designed T-shirts, did movie theater advertising, and sent direct mail out in their area with this slogan: “Church doesn’t SUCK!”

A lot of people didn’t appreciate it – and I didn’t even have the nerve to print the whole word "suck" in our church newsletter (blogs tend to make us a little braver, I guess). But the target audience evidently did appreciate it. GracePoint went from 400 to 600 in worship since the campaign began. And one young lady told pastor Bryson Butts, “You know, I was surprised. The worship service DIDN’T suck!” Bishop Scott Jones said that the slogan communicated well with the young. And the Rev. Butts added, “We weren’t risking enough. We weren’t stepping out enough. It’s about taking risks and being bold with the gospel.”

Evidently, it’s working. GracePoint only started as a church in 2004. They now worship 600. “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!”

What can we do to be bold?


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hope your U2charist turns out to be a powerful experience for all concerned! By the way, the Bread.org article to which you've linked has some incorrect info on how and where the whole thing started. Wikipedia has the correct info, and so does the U2charist FAQ.

And if you'd like to share any prayers, sermons, playlists, or wisdom from your U2charist with others hosting similar service, please pop by the U2charist resources page to let me know!

Blessings to you in your ministry.