Pastor takes Marvel-ous Approach to Gospel
By Charita Goshay, CantonRep.com staff writer
What if a guy wearing tights, a mask and a matching cape walked into your church service?
In a way, it’s happening at New Way United Methodist Church where the Rev. Keith Brown is teaching a youth-ministry series based on Marvel Comics’ superheroes.
The eight-week series is based on the book, “Marvelous Myths: Marvel Heroes and Everyday Faith,” by the Rev. Russell Dalton.
Brown said the gifts possessed by such characters as Iron Man, the Silver Surfer, Spiderman, the Avengers and Captain America are illustrative of how people of faith should share their talents to serve others.
“In the ‘Fantastic Four,’ each one had a special gift, and they defeated Dr. Doom by combining them,” he said. “Whether you’re a good listener or good with numbers, your gifts matter to your church. Everyone can contribute. Also, we fight evil every day.”
Mindful that some people might not approve of using comics, Brown said “I’m more of the mind that we can learn a lot from a lot of different sources. You have to have an open mind. There’s a lot of spiritual overtones in these characters.”
Brown said some of the story lines in Marvel Comics parallel what real people experience and even what Jesus taught.
“In ‘Spiderman,’ first of all, he’s a teenager dealing with all of these troubles,” Brown said. “He breaks his arm, he gets bitten by a spider, and he’s living with his aunt and uncle. He goes through a lot of difficult times. I think people can relate when they were growing up, or as current teens.
“Jesus warns his followers that even if you’re faithful, you will face difficult times. Jesus’ own life was an example of the hardships people of faith are sometimes called upon to endure. But you can rely on God in hard times.
“We have a choice. To push on to the next great thing, or do we allow hard times to drag us down?”
Brown said that his personal favorite, Ironman and his altar ego, technology billionaire Tony Stark, exemplify good stewardship.
“How are we using what we have to glorify God and serve others?” he said.
Thor, which is based on Norse mythology, symbolizes living between heaven and earth, and also is illustrative of what is expected of Christians, Brown said, adding, “We have a responsibility to (ensure) justice instead of waiting for heaven to take care of it. We’re to be strong and not be shy about our faith. ... Our sense of spiritually and hope for the future does not relieve us of our duties for (practicing) love and justice on earth but calls us to action.”
Brown said even biblical figures share some of the same characteristics as superheroes.
“If you look at ‘The Hulk’ and his anger, you have to look at Peter,” he said, laughing. “He clearly was a man of actions before word or thought.”
The Apostle Paul, he said, is reminiscent of “Ironman” because of his radical change of heart.
“(Paul) had a transformational moment,” Brown said. “He went from killing Christians, to preaching the Gospel.”
Brown said his young members are enjoying the series.
“They’re engaged,” he said. “The key is partly because it’s fun. I know you’ll have people saying church isn’t supposed to be ‘fun’ but if they’re not there, you won’t reach them.”
A teacher at Perry High School, Brown has been pastor at New Way since its founding in 2008. The father of three children, 15, 10 and 8, said that even the very young can be taught to understand the tenets of their faith.
“You do it by action, by showing them love,” he said. “They come to learn that people at church are different from other people.”
The series will conclude on Halloween Sunday, and will include — what else — a superhero costume contest.
New Way meets from 6 to 7 p.m. Sundays at the Perry Grange at 6300 Richville Drive SW. For more information, call or visit www.newwayumc.com or on Facebook at facebook.com/newwayumc.