by Bob Wickizer

Faith and Evangelism
Rev. Bob Wickizer
Isaiah 9:2-4, 6-7; Psalm 96; Titus 2:11-14; John 1:1-18

The communications department for the Episcopal Diocese of Texas recently developed a series of television advertisements aimed not at churchgoing people but at those who have not attended church in years. One of the ads shows a driver pulled over at the side of the road, police car in the rear and a law enforcement officer approaching the closed window on the driver's side. The camera cuts to the face of the driver who has obviously just cried out in desperation while the narrator says, "Now that you have called on God, why don't you visit his house?"

Long respected for fine liturgies and tradition, Episcopal churches from Laurel to Houston Texas often struggle just to maintain the status quo. As an indicator of entrenched views, many churches refuse to air these modern television advertisements and frequently don't even understand the need for such messages. "These ads are too irreverent . . . They're flippant" complained some people. Other vestries questioned why they needed to grow. After all they had a fine building, good choirs, a nice Sunday school program and a cozy feeling of family. Who would want to trade all that for the uncertainties of a lot new members and bigger services?

Look around town and consider what other churches have done. At the top of the hill a nearly identical sanctuary as St. Philip's was built for St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church. In our one hundred fifty year parallel history, St. Philip's still worships in the same beautiful sanctuary while St. Mary's up the hill increased the size of their church by tenfold. Consider a local bible church that has grown from nothing to four times the size of St. Philip's in fifteen years. Yet conversations with some old-times at St. Philip's reveals the same outlook present in Episcopal churches across the country - "We like our little church. We like the family feeling and we'd ...

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