Recently, a church in the San Diego area hosted an event, and then came under some heat. You can read the full story on San Diego’s 10news.com, but here is the crux of what happened:
A church in San Diego invited folks to their Christmas program, including some 30 Muslims from their community. The program featured a traveling evangelist who described her conversion from Islam to Christianity, and naturally, encouraged others to consider the same option. When she began ridiculing Muslim beliefs and described the Koran as “nonsense,” the Muslim attendees got up to leave. A shouting match ensued and the Muslim group vowed never to return to the church.
The article doesn’t provide enough information to place the blame on either a tricky, manipulative ministry or over-sensitive, hot-headed attendees. But it does allow us to consider three simple questions when planning an event:
- Are you being respectful of all those you are aiming to reach? Sometimes our good-natured goals of evangelism and outreach can go a bit too far (cf. Crusades, picketing preachers). The Bible calls us to love those around us. Without delving into the efficacy of specific types of evangelism, I’d just love to encourage you to consider which is the most respectful way to share the gospel with them.
- Are you being completely honest in your marketing? Are you billing the event as a magic show but planning an altar-call for your grand finale? Are you describing your event as family-friendly, but you plan to show The Passion of the Christ? Even though it’s good to share the gospel, it can’t be the culmination of a bait-and-switch technique.
- Are you prepared for who you might offend, and how you will handle it? The gospel is sure to offend some. But are you prepared to handle the repercussions of your actions? People may want to walk out, but a shouting match isn’t the way to show them love. Have you planned a way to respond in love and engage in direct conversations with those who are hurt by you? Always plan for this worst-case scenario.
This is not to say that the church in San Diego was actually guilty of the things I’ve mentioned above. Someone else can sort that out. But it does serve as an illustrative example for us. As Christians we need to pursue excellence, openness and honesty in the way we plan and market our events. Otherwise, we’ve undermined the very gospel we’re trying to share.