I grew up in a little town near Pittsburgh, PA. We had a house-top antenna for our TV, so we didn’t get many channels. In fact, we only got two on a regular basis. (Occasionally, we got one or two extra stations, but only when the atmosphere was perfect. Even then the channels were so snowy, it was hard to tell the players without a program—if you know what I mean.)
There were no remotes or DVRs, so I saw a lot of TV ads in those days. For much of my life, I watched Iron City Beer commercials during Pirate games. When the Miller Brewing Company introduced light beer, Iron City came out with one as well. It quickly became known as IC Light. To this day, the name IC Light resounds in my mind’s ear. If I’m not mistaken, it’s still around. I moved to Virginia many years ago, but I can still hear those commercials in my head.
IC Light has taken on a new meaning for me in recent years, however. When I hear the term, I still think of the beer. Yet along with that memory, I now also think of the church.
The IC has spawned a new attitude.
Of late, many people have given up on us (the church, that is). They feel like we have become irrelevant, passé, or ineffective. Numerous folks with that opinion have begun to call us the Institutional Church. While that’s hardly a new term, it has taken on a new meaning. Or maybe I should say, it’s now spoken with a new attitude—a negative one. The term, Institutional Church (IC for short), has become a derisive term used by those who have fled the traditional church trappings.
Since I’ve been a Methodist most of my life, I can relate to a derisive name. John Wesley adopted the name, Methodist, to spite people who used it to mock him and his followers. We’ve been Methodists of various stripes ever since.
I don’t think I like being called the IC as much as he liked being called a Methodist. I’m not sure why, but I think it has something to do with the fact that those who have fled our institution really have a point. In fact, they have several points—most of which are valid. And while I wish they were still around helping us to get better, I understand why they left.
In many instances, we have become a much lighter version of our former selves (thus the IC Light moniker). It’s not simply that we have fewer people (although that is often the case). It’s more that we’ve let a lot of people down. We’ve often abdicated the throne, so to speak. We’ve strayed from our Biblical moorings that always showed us what it meant to be the church.
It’s going to be a struggle to get back to what we were meant to be. Brewing beer would be a lot easier. (To be continued…)