This past weekend a group from the church went to Breakforth, a church conference in Edmonton. Some of it was really, really, good. Other parts where appallingly bad.
Michael Card. Wow. What a wonderfully gracious and humble presence. His topic was “Sacred Sorrow” and he talked mainly about psalms of lament (80 out of 150 psalms fall into this category) and the book of Job (which, he said, "smashes any notion of the 'when we are good we get a blessing, and when we are bad we suffer' formula that so many people – and preachers – believe"). He called lament the "lost language of worship." Which is so true for many churches.
Twila Paris: I don’t have any of her CDs in my collection and probably never will, but she was wonderful. She radiated grace and joy. After the morning’s session (see under “the bad” below) I needed to hear a more life-affirming message. Through her music, she provided such a message.
Bill Hybels: I hadn’t heard him before and was surprised by how nervous he was. He was shaking and his voice was quivering. I figured someone of his stature would be brimming with confidence. But he shared what was more like a church effectiveness workshop than a sermon. Which was fine with me. I don’t always agree with his theology or approach to church, but I always appreciate his humble spirit and good ideas
I’m not even going to mention his name. If you were there you know who I’m talking about. This “preacher” came dressed like a “homeless” man (although, to me, he looked more like Red Green, as if jeans and hoodie were the uniform of homeless men) and told the crowd that God had drawn the line for Edmonton, and the church needed to stop being mere “believers” and start being “disciples.” Disciples sell all they have and are ready to walk away from family obligations, all for a “greater experience of God.”
If we don’t become true disciples then Edmonton would be lost, he said. This was our last chance. Heed his warning. The line had been drawn.
Then came the altar call. Anyone who wanted to become a "disciple" and save Edmonton from judgment could come forward and commit themselves.
Anyone who was still in their seats were obviously hard-hearted and arrogant, so he “released God judgment” upon those still sitting. Especially the pastors. “You will know when God’s judgment is upon you and your church.”
(Note to Good Shepherd folks: if you lose your house in a wind storm, I’m the guy to blame.)
But I’m glad I went and I’m looking forward to next year. I doubt this guy will be asked back. Arrogance, meanness, and just plain ‘ol abusive preaching doesn’t mix well with the more positive, Christian message of salvation.
While Lutheranism doesn’t easily fall into the “evangelical” category, we do share a common faith, even if much of our shared ideas get lost in translation.