Set in a field amongst the St. Charles sprawl, Morning Star Church is part of the United Methodist Church, but it looks and feels more like a hip, contemporary evangelical congregation.
The underlying assumption? That a United Methodist Church couldn't possibly be "hip, contemporary," or "evangelical." It's as if the very idea that a mainline church could be doing something like Morning Star is doing in their worship services was just too mind-boggling for the writer to comprehend.
If you read the whole article, you'll see that it is about a really cool practice they have at Morning Star UMC. People are encouraged to send text messages to the church's cell phone during the sermon. These messages are screened and sent within seconds to the preacher's laptop computer. Mike then reads the questions and addresses some of them in his message. LOVE IT! Completely cool idea!
What makes my stomach hurt is the surprise expressed by the article - as in, "Y'all aren't going to believe this, but this is happening in a United Methodist congregation! Crazy, huh?" Since when is it so shocking that Methodists are evangelical? Arghh!
Is there anyone reading this who is still unconvinced that the public image of the mainline church is very seriously damaged? There are thousands and thousands of people who wouldn't even think of a denominational church as a place where their spiritual thirst might be quenched - not because of any animosity, but just because of simple ambivalence. It's not that they hate the church, it's just that they don't really care about it.
And without seeing the irony, it seems to many of us that the mainline is still doing battle to "win people" into their congregation. I can't even count how many times I've heard someone use the expression "win people for Christ." "Win people"? What? Evangelism isn't a fight anymore. We are not battling for people's souls; their souls are just fine, thank you. It's not really a fight when nobody is fighting against you, it's just a tantrum. You can't "fight against" ambivalence because people who are ambivalent ... um ... are ambivalent! This, incidentally, is another reason that my stomach hurts.
Morningstar UMC's innovations are exciting and definitely will help to convey the gospel in a language in which it can be heard. And in doing so they stand firmly in the Wesleyan evangelical tradition of "becoming more vile" in order to communicate the love and grace of God through Jesus Christ. (That's how John Wesley described the innovation of preaching on the street in his day, btw.)
I long for the day when the fact that a United Methodist Congregation is doing such creative, cool stuff does not result in "Crazy, huh?" but rather "There they go again!"
(btw - if you read the article, be sure to peruse the comments that people have left. There are some pretty interesting critiques of the practice that are worth reading.)