When a church congregation stunts evangelism
A few years back, Chimamanda was in France and in one of her speaking engagements a french journalist in attendance asked if there are bookshops in Nigeria, her response was sublime “I think it reflects very poorly on French people that you have to ask me that question”.
For a lot of churches, the goal is always to grow their audience and for some, grow the Word of God in the world too. There’s a big distinction between those two but this is not the article for that. For either of the above, what usually happens is the pastor nudges the congregation to invite guests with the hope that when they come around, they’d hear the sermon, maybe love the worship or atmosphere and stay. It’s a tried and tested formula, and it makes sense because what is preached on the altar is the main differentiator of churches; pastor A interprets the Bible this way, pastor B says it’s the other way.
When visitors come to a church, there’s always an unconscious emphasis on the sermon preached being what keeps or chases them away. E.g. If I go to a Church today and the pastor says something homophobic (see previous post) I’m probably never going back there. They’ve lost me. That being said, evangelism goes beyond the pastor and the sermon preached. The Bible says in Matthew 5:16
Mat 5:16: Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
I love this verse because as Christians going about our everyday life, it’s not always the direct actions towards someone that brings them to the knowledge of God, sometimes people watch and see how we live, see how we treat others and decide if that’s something they want for themselves.
Back to Chimamanda in France, I remember gagging at that response because first, it’s a really good read, second, it’s true! Why is a French journalist, which I assume went to school to get a degree, asking a question as stupid as that? Yes, there’s room for ignorance, but Chelsea C’mon now. Chimamanda was kind enough to adjunct the read with “It’s 2018. I mean, come on. My books are read in Nigeria. They are studied in schools. Not just Nigeria, across the continent in Africa.”. She’s a better woman than me because I would’ve stopped at the first part. I digress.
I’ll borrow from her and put a Church spin:
I think it reflects very poorly on your pastor and Church that you’d say, do or ask that
I mean, if you attend a Church and their mantra is kindness and Love of God, why are you in the congregation making queerphobic remarks while the pastor is preaching? Clearly the emphasis on God’s Love is not working in your life?
It’s sad because for some churches the pastor might not even be queerphobic, but who wants to sit in a gathering of people taking sneak disses at them?
Last year, in a different church I attended, the pastor made a spree of homophobic remarks and the whole congregation laughed in unison, if it wasn’t clear to me before, at that moment it was clear the kind of place I was in.
Of course, congregations are made of humans, all imperfect and still learning, but it’s important for church leaders to be cautious of this and put a stop to bigotry whenever it erupts in church. As a church leader, your members are the biggest billboards you can have — yes, not everyone will be a good example but it’ll be great if most are. There’s really no point trying to get new visitors to your church if when they come, the person or people sitting beside them give them the most uncomfortable look because of what they’re wearing or worse, make ignorant comments that relate to them.
(I don’t need to give any example of this, the point should be very clear.)
The spread of the Gospel is not the responsibility of just the pastor, every Christian has their part to play too, don’t chase queers that come to church with your ignorant comments, there’s wisdom in silence.
Proverbs 17:27 He that hath knowledge spareth his words: and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit.
Proverbs 17:28 Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.