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The only way forward

by Dr. Frederick W. Baltz (WordAlone board member, Galena, Ill.)

November 25, 2008

photo of Dr. BaltzAs one who has written some books and has aspirations to write still others, and who has also become involved developing scripts for videos, there are a few things I can tell you. First, when people say that you can't judge a book by its cover they are missing the point. Today, if a book does not have a compelling cover, no one will read it to find out if it was good or bad. The artwork is crucial.

The title is, too. I recall something from Strunk and White's "The Elements of Style." "These are the times that try men's souls." (Thomas Paine) What if it read, "Times like these try the souls of people" or "People's souls get tried in times like this one"? They're just not the same. As with Paine's words, so it is with a title. There is a best way to state it, and you must not settle for anything less. The title of a book is a phrase that must communicate what the entire book is about, and do it well. The right words in the right order are crucial.

One more thing I have learned is that subtitles can double your title's possibility of connecting with an audience. The subtitle can be another way of stating the title itself, or it can complete a thought introduced by the title.

I have been wondering...Does the WordAlone Network need a subtitle? Do we need a phrase that would follow the Network's name to explain what the Network is about? I'm not actually suggesting this, mind you, but it would be good for all of us to consider it.

My candidate for a subtitle would be: The Only Way Forward. Surely, for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the WordAlone Network does present the only way forward for this denomination, and that is: the Word...alone.

The present course of the ELCA set by decades of leaders who focused the church's energy elsewhere has not moved the denomination forward. Instead, we have stagnated, lost membership and failed to offer a compelling vision that individuals and families wish to embrace. All the mainline Protestant denominations share this same experience.

There is no guarantee that upholding the Word alone will make the denomination "successful." However, there is plenty of evidence that those churches that do concentrate on the ministry of the Word find ways to reach out to people in need, and that many of those people respond.

For any who think the WordAlone Network is about complaining, dividing the church or theological hair-splitting, a subtitle like I suggest might get the truth out there front and center.