In ninth grade Heather Cooper sent me a note in study hall. It was the typical, “I like you. We are in German class together. Do you want to go out? Check yes or no.” I wasn’t prepared to manage such a life-altering decision eight minutes before the eighth period bell rang. I had no idea how to fill out the note, and I have always preferred to ignore a message rather than send the wrong one. Case in point, I never enjoyed answering the phone when creditors called. I don’t want to give them poor news, so why give them any news at all?
This habit, a bad one, still plagues me and too many churches. In short, our silence can overpower our message. What and when you don’t communicate can negate whatever message you are attempting to convey.
Churches and their communicators are always sending a message to their local communities. Our given message is to be the kingdom of God and gift of Jesus Christ. When this message is not clearly proclaimed by our verbal and non-verbal communication, our audience fills in the blanks. Our neighbors come to two conclusions: we are either ignorant of their problem, or we don’t care. Or both. And unfortunately, there are churches in both camps.
No one accidentally concludes you are a loving church without hearing your message. No one guesses you are a serving church without seeing your actions.
The current religious climate demands we exhaust every possible avenue in carrying the message of Christ clearly and concisely to any open ear. If your church is not using Facebook, then start—your high school, chamber of commerce, library and most tax paying citizens are. If you don’t use Twitter, learn—your friends and community already have. Does your local community have a bulletin board, free town mailer, radio station or homepage? Get on it. Go out in your community, and do something. The church’s silence is killing her message. If you make people guess what you are about, they will guess wrong.
There are two perceptions your church must counter:
- Battle perceived ignorance. Engage your community leaders and find the needs. Take the mayor to lunch. Write your district representative. Obey Jeremiah 29:1-7 and care about the welfare of your city.
- Battle perceived apathy. Invest all your resources in meeting the needs of your town. Use financial resources—budget if they aren’t there. Each dollar dropped in the plate should draw a clear connection to a mission, local or global. Encourage your people to invest their lives in reaching the community. Celebrate stories of church members getting involved outside the walls of your building.
Your challenge is to leave your community no excuse for marking the wrong answer if asked, “Do you think my church is loving? Check yes or no.” Branding isn’t what you say you are about. It is what your audience says you are about. May our message clearly be proclaimed through our words and our actions.
What current ways are you sending your message out? Is it working? How is your town filling in your blanks?