I’m not sure I’m ready to stake my life on this–it probably needs more thought and discussion–but it seems to be that we in the church would do well to cut back on our public pronouncements about our intentions. That is, some discussions need to be kept within the family and would never be understood by an outsider.
A few years ago, the Southern Baptist Convention announced that it would urge members of our churches to boycott Disney parks. The press covered it, we became the butt of every bad joke in the country, and untold reams of paper were wasted as columnists weighed in with their views on the matter. If we had any lasting effect, it escaped my notice.
These things are better off left “in house,” I’m thinking.
I recall years ago, Dr. Bill O’Brien, a missionary and pioneer innovator for missions in our denomination, saying that even the term “missionary” should be kept in-house. Outside, it’s a controversial subject. Well, it took a couple of decades, but eventually our people came around to see his point. Nowadays, denominations’ send out consultants, workers, engineers, teachers, and strategists. The same people, just different titles.
I wonder if we have learned this lesson yet.
A reporter once called me about an announcement from our North American Mission Board that we were going to target Jews in our evangelistic efforts. He wondered why we were singling them out.
I tried to explain that we weren’t singling anyone out, that it probably meant we had been overlooking them and wanted to include them. I patiently tried to get across to him that nothing NAMB or our churches will do toward the Jews would be anything but loving efforts to share with them the good news of Heaven.
What I wondered, though, was why the NAMB spokesman didn’t tell the pastors and churches that we are going to direct more efforts toward reaching the Jews, but left it at that. If anything, the public pronouncement just made the job more difficult.
Some years ago, living in a large Southern city, we watched a drama unfold involving one of our largest churches that was relocating. The pastor’s dream for the new church plant was grandiose in every way, and ended up costing over $30 million. Often the city’s newspaper gave front-page space to the church’s latest plans. A chief consideration was where in the world they were going to come up with that much money.
A church leader told the press, “As soon as we begin ministering from the new location. we’ll be reaching the rich people who live in the area. Their tithes and gifts will pay for the building.”
The problem was the newspaper gave that front-page space. And judging by the letters to the editor over the next few days, that little scheme backfired. The neighbors wrote in to say, “Not hardly. I’ll not be joining your church so you can get my money!”
Eventually, struggling under the crushing debt, the congregation terminated the preacher and entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Some things are better off not said to the public.
No one who lived through that time nearly 30 years ago will forget when one of our Southern Baptist leaders told a religious/political rally in Dallas (I think, might have been Houston) that “Almighty God does not hear the prayers of a Jew.” Now, he could have said that from the pulpit of his church and gotten away with it. But he said it to a national audience. It made front page headlines. That evangelist and our denomination were held up to be complete idiots.
One good result from it–God can use anything–is that it ignited a lot of conversations around the country on the subject of prayer and whose prayer God hears. I personally know of people who came to Christ as a result of that discussion.
On the one hand, our Lord taught us to be transparent. When on trial before the high priest and ordered to “tell us what you’ve been preaching,” Jesus replied, “I spoke openly to the world. I always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where the Jews always meet, and in secret I have said nothing.” (John 18:20)
Ask anyone who heard me, Jesus said. No secrets.
That’s a great way to be. But, some things do not need to be said to the public if at all possible. They do not understand spiritual realities or heaven’s agenda for the saints.
As I say, this is not the last word on the subject, but I’d love for it to open the discussion.
I have gotten the impression that many of the speakers I have heard at denominational meetings were trying to say inflammatory things simply so they could get a quote in the press. I even heard one guy look straight at the camera and say something like, “I want to say this to anyone in the media . . .” and then he proceeded to say something outrageous. It’s not wonder the world sometimes gets the impression that we are full of hate the way we rail against Muslims, alcoholics, homosexuals, liberals, and everyone who practices an unacceptable sin (i.e., a sin other than gossip, divisiveness, pride, gluttony, or a host of other things that exist within the church). It’s really hard to build bridges for the Gospel when we are constantly burning bridges with the culture. Maybe (and I’m just shooting in the dark here) we need to clean up our own house before we start trying to get lost people to act like saved people.
One thing that made this year’s SBC pastors conference the best I’ve attended is that the preachers were actually preaching sermons to help pastors and not just using rhetoric “to let the world know where we stand.” I was nourished and challenged spiritually.
Thank you for another good blog. Christians should not be on the offensive. We should be servants to the lost, not condemning them.
Mike Miller had it right when he wrote, ” we need to clean up our own house before we start trying to get lost people to act like saved people.”
Perhaps that might better read “INSTEAD of trying to get lost people to act like saved people.”
By the way, I have been mulling over the responses to your post about Anne Rice. Her inclusion of “anti-artificial birth control” in her list of negative statements that offended her indicates to me that she was rejecting the Roman Catholic Church. In my 56 years as a Christian I have never heard a Protestant make a statement against birth control. As I have written before, I was raised in the RC (the only true church) but turned away from it when I graduated from the 8th grade of a Catholic school. It was clear to me that I could not work my way to Heaven. It is a church of rules without scriptural facts to back up most of their rules, or doctrines. When I was 20 years old I was saved and read the Bible for the first time. I am a firm believer in the priesthood of the believer.
Many conservative Christians have put themselves back under the law. They have rules with which none may disagree with without being condemned. They are fighting battles instead of depending on Jesus. My favorite hymn right now is,