Last fall Christianity took a kick to the teeth when Florida pastor Terry Jones decided he was going to burn the Koran.
It must have been a slow news day. I don’t think it’s newsworthy when a pastor of a small church decides to do something stupid, but the national and international media picked up the story and before you knew it this guy was the picture of Christianity in action.
Looking back over the last decade Christianity has had some lousy representatives: poorly-behaved Catholic priests, conservatives who shoot abortion doctors, and protestors at the funerals of soldiers, claiming that God is getting even with our country for our loose morals. Dennis Kucinich would be a better spokesman for the olive industry than these people are for the work of the church.
Between now and Easter I have a challenge for you and your congregation. Become the face of Christianity in your town. But please don’t do it by burning the Koran.
There are nearly 800 local churches in our Conference and darn near all of them are doing great things. While the unchurched see us as places where people are judged, members are hounded for money and our clergy are equated with Jim Bakker, the reality is that we are truly the hands and feet of God. We are feeding and clothing the poor, supporting the sick, volunteering to build houses and tutor children.
We are, I believe, the church that people want us to be. The problem is they don’t know that we are.
Between now and Easter spend some time telling your story. Work with your local newspaper and TV station. Have a display at the mall. Get a buzz going at Kiwanis and Lions Club meetings.
The good news is that you’re not alone on this journey. Rick Wolcott, our Conference Communications Director, is a great resource. Before joining the Conference staff in the fall he was the Assignment Editor for Fox 8 in Cleveland. The Assignment Editor is the guy who decides what stories are going to be covered. Trust me, if what you’re doing can make the news Rick can tell you how to make that happen. And he’s also a pretty good guy to work with.
During lent folks in your community are going to decide if Easter is only going to be about chocolate and eggs or if they are actually going to include God in the celebration. As part of that decision let’s have them think of your church as the place where good things happen, where people are helped more than they are judged. If they’re willing to darken the door of a church, give them a reason to make that door one of yours.
Let’s put a good face on Christianity this spring and see if it helps us make new disciples. I have a real feeling it will.