Traverse City Record-Eagle

Body & Soul

March 29, 2014

Program seeks God's voice in pop culture

TRAVERSE CITY — Mention “verses” in church and it’s clear you mean bible verses.

But God speaks to his flock through other verses, too — even in pop culture, said church youth director Melissa Lopez. All you have to do is seek His word and you’ll find it.

That’s the idea behind Verse O.N.T.A.P., a new outreach program of Bethlehem Lutheran Church, which has about 300 members. The bi-monthly program at the Blue Tractor features live contemporary music followed by lyrics discussion in a casual, almost coffee house-style format.

“O.N.T.A.P. stands for ‘Old and New Testament Appendix Project,’” said Lopez, Bethelem’s director of youth and young adult ministries. “Basically it means that we believe that God still speaks to us, even though the Biblical Canon has been closed for quite some time. It means that God’s word is still present among us, and that we can hear God’s voice through verses and voices of all types,” including music, poetry and art.

The program began in October with the music of U2 and took on The Beatles in January. It features the neXus band from The Presbyterian Church, where Lopez’s husband is pastor.

Song performances alternate with discussion, facilitated by handouts of printed lyrics alongside seemingly corresponding bible verses.

“We were thinking of doing something to attract more youth and reach out to the community with something that’s not so church-y but does still talk about faith and life,” said Lopez, who dreamed up the event with Bethlehem pastor Paul Busekist. “We’re advancing it as a community event. We hope to move to monthly, but we’re just starting. We’re kind of testing the waters.”

So far about 50 people have shown up for each of the events, most from the Bethlehem and Presbyterian congregations, Lopez said. Surprisingly, more are closer to baby boomers than babies.

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