Does Your Church Have the Right to Be Heard?
I have been in a fascinating conversation on LinkedIn lately. I’ve also been on the receiving end of some unsavory commentary during that conversation.
Let me paint the picture for you. It was Thursday before Good Friday. I thought it would be a good idea to look at the cross from a design perspective and pose a question to a non-Christian audience: “Is the cross the most powerful and iconic logo/symbol ever?”
I posted links in some graphic design groups asking the question purely from a design perspective, not from a faith perspective. The conversation in the group was going really well until someone clicked on my bio and found out that I actually worked at a church.
The resulting firestorm that came out of this person’s discovery surprised and disturbed me.
Because I was a Christian, I had lost the right to be heard. My voice was no longer a voice of professional discussion, but of a religious zealot who was pushing ‘religion’ on an unsuspecting group and somehow trying to convert them by stealth.
I’m a guy with broad shoulders and I took the feedback and abuse and rebroadcast my actual intentions.
I’ve seen this happen time and time again and not just in the blogosphere, but also in the media. Here are some principles I think churches can learn when trying to engage in the media and the public space:
- Be prepared to be shut down
No matter how honorable your church’s agenda, some people just don’t think the church has a right to be heard. When you stick your head out into the public space you have to be prepared for people to try and shut your message down.
- Engage with those who are trying to shut you down
Try and reach out to those who are working against you. Explain what you are attempting to do and bust the misconceptions or bias’ they may have about your church’s message.
- Be aware of people’s suspicion
Almost everyone I meet, as soon as I mention that I work at a church, they initiate the awkward silence followed by a generic, non-threatening, polite inquiry about what I do and people hastily try to turn the conversation away from ‘religious’ stuff. The average Australian unbeliever—and I would venture to say American unbeliever as well—is uncomfortable with Christianity at best. At worst, they are suspicious.
- When your church engages with the media and the public space, make your agenda as clear as possible
Don’t have a ‘secret agent’ agenda of trying to convert a school by going in to help out. If you are helping a school out, help them out because you want to make a positive difference. People are smart enough to see through the bait and switch.
- You have to demonstrate experience in the area you are talking about
When you engage with the media you will earn the right to be heard if you can demonstrate you are doing something about what you want to talk about. For example, my pastor earned the right to be heard in the papers talking about atheism because he was once, himself, an atheist. Our church is well received by our local schools because our chaplains and youth workers are already there doing some great work and making a positive difference.
Over to you: What do you think? Have you seen the shift in society’s response to the your church’s message?
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