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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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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4 thoughts on “Does Your Church Have the Right to Be Heard?

  1. What you're really saying is that the church and its voice are really irrelevant in our modern society. Indeed, the relevance appears as a negative (in people's suspicions). For example, the church is supposed to love the people. Apparently the people aren't buying it. There's an old saying, "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." It is quite true and should be a red flag for modern churches. Nobody cares about what the church has to say, because they don't believe the church cares about them. What is the source of their disbelief? Christians who act like idiots and maniacs. Christians who try to manipulate people (i.e., televangelists begging for money). Christians who have a self-serving agenda (i.e., building multi-million dollar facilities whilst ignoring the homeless, the uneducated, the widows and orphans in the community. Pastors who use the church as a platform to establish their brand and sell books, tapes, speaking engagements and generally become rich. If the churches want to be heard, perhaps we the church should focus on being relevant. Then what we have to say will be of interest.

    • Hey Larry, I'm not saying that the Christian voice isn't relevant, I'm saying that our voice is treated with suspicion and often cynicism.

      You comment about relevance so that we are heard, can you elaborate on that?

      P.S. Sorry for the late reply, I've been on a extended family vacation.

  2. I am a Chrisitian minister and have a ministry in a non-Christian church. This experience has given me some interesting opportunities for reflection about Christianity vs. The Christian church. I would like to put forth a slightly different view than you did. I don't think it is that people think that the Christian church does not have a right to be heard. I think that too often Christians take for granted the position of cultural power and influence that they have. In America whether or not you are Christain you live in a Christian culture. Our work week is based on the Christian sabbath, our school holidays are scheduled around the Christian holidays of Christmas and Easter and the list could go on. I have too often seen Christians in a Multi faith group run rough shod over the other faiths by making assumptions about language, sabbaths, theology. add to that that in America there are a number of highly visible Christian ministers and churches that behave in very not Christlike ways and they hurt people in ways that to me do not look very Christian. so I see people in America often being suspectful of Christians. I think as Christians we have to own up to the fact that we have earned that suspicion. We often do not respect the power and influence that we have