Newsweek recently ran its annual Christmas-time story on Christianity, this time taking on no less a target than the bible itself. And not surprisingly, Albert Mohler responded on his own blog with a diatribe trashing the story as liberal bias and defending his brand of evangelical Christianity.
The details matter little. In fact, I don't even recommend wasting your time reading the articles. The Newsweek piece is poorly written. Mohler's response is predictable. It's insider baseball.
Here's what this debate should get you thinking about. Regardless your position on the theological spectrum, those outside the church, or on the margins-those everyone is struggling to bring back to faith-sees this sordid debate as "the church." For better or for worse.
As you move into 2015, it's important to remember that the Newsweek-Mohler debate is what many, many Americans see as typical of church. It's what they're fleeing from, with no interest in fighting the good fight from the inside.
They are finding the expression of faith in other venues, in other ways. Through personal relationships, through their volunteer work. And through online forums and chatrooms.
How can your church change the way it is communicating its message apart from what people have come to expect?
There are no easy answers to this question. And the answers that emerge will certainly vary from congregation to congregation. Here are some ideas to consider:
Celebrate and embrace our common human concerns. Those outside the church understand and will respond to human need. Put your focus there. Partner with non-faith groups. Welcome all to serve.
Celebrate discussion. Become engaged in blogging, in radio and television if that is possible, and join the broader discussion about current issues in your community. Allow your faith to motivate your discussions; don't use your discussions to move others to faith.
Celebrate who you are. People on the fringes of faith get that you have a theological viewpoint. They understand your hold strong opinions on theological topics. Be honest about that, without making it a barrier to involvement in your community.
On second thought-read the Newsweek article and Mohler response. But read it not as a person of faith, but as one who isn't part of a faith community precisely because they've grown weary of these discussions.
It's a lesson in failed communications we cannot afford to repeat.
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