Christian blogs are full of unseasonably vitriolic postings, full of Scriptural references, theological arguments and appeals to common sense. Evangelicals are attacking other Evangelicals in the media. And the debate within the Evangelical community is giving the rest of America a rare look at the divisions that do exist, usually quietly and below the surface, of the 65-million-strong Evangelical community. It is a reminder that this group, so often labeled the "religious right", is diverse both in theology and methodology. The church is in fact many churches, this bloc is no monolith, and this argument, says Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, "shows we're still all very human."Ben Witherington III reprises his roll as "Prophet to a Wicked and Depraved Generation."
Bill Hybels arrises to defend his church!
"The church is supposed to be brothers and sisters in Christ—the primary family. These churches are putting the wants and needs of the physical family first, not that spiritual family," says Ben Witherington, a theologian at Asbury Seminary in Kentucky. "Our society is narcissistic enough. We don't need to encourage more me-focused behavior."
The last time Christmas fell on a Sunday was in 1994. Leaders at Willow Creek Community Church, a congregation in the affluent Chicago suburbs where about 15,000 people worship each weekend, said that attendance wasn't great. This year, they decided to try "an experiment in decentralizing the congregation on Christmas morning," says senior pastor Bill Hybels...."In our community, people—particularly seekers who may not normally attend church—are more like to go to Christmas services in the days preceding Christmas with their friends who invite them," says Hybels. This strategy leaves them "free to celebrate Christmas day as they so choose."
These congregations have not canceled Christmas. Willow Creek will have eight services in the five days before Christmas Sunday, with up to 60,000 expected to attend. According to Hybels, worshippers at those services will receive DVDs, which they will be encouraged to watch on Christmas Day with their families. The message: "God is with us everywhere."
""The central point is not what hour of what day the congregation gathers corporately to celebrate the birth of Christ," says Willow Creek's Hybels, "but rather that in our hearts and lives we allow the coming of Christ to transform us."
Ted Haggart steps in as "Wise and Kindly Peacemaker."
his church "would never not have church on a Sunday. Christians have been doing it for 2,000 years." At the same time, he says, Willow Creek is showing the creativity and innovation for which it and Hybels have long been known. "Willow Creek is communicating that we're in an era when the church meets in a variety of ways," Haggard says. "This is what makes American Evangelicalism so great. We're so diverse. The meaning of Christmas is more important than the church service itself. The message is more important than the method."
and the Rev. Louie Marsh just shakes his head as "Humble Witness."
"I do know [that] this isn't something we should be fighting about," MarshBravo!
blogged. "Let's just focus on serving God the best we can."