When Churches Keep Quiet: Others Fill the Void

When Churches Keep Quiet: Others Fill the Void

October 18, 2010 by

In part one of When Churches Keep Quiet, we covered a simple principle: Silence sends a message; there is no such thing as playing neutral. When a church does not intentionally communicate, the listening community interprets the silence as apathy and ignorance.

Any math teacher will tell you that a blank answer is still an answer. The key is remembering silence literally sucks. It creates a communication vacuum—a marketing black hole pulling anything into it. In the wake of a church’s silence, others will fill the void.

The American church’s lack of voice in the area of creation and origins has sucked in neo-atheists labeling her ignorant and pitting the church against science. A church’s “don’t preach, don’t tell” position on homosexuality leaves society no option but paint it as judgmental and unloving. How? A lack of voice allows other churches to speak on their behalf, offering answers and a theology they might not embrace. View it as guilt-by-association. One church said “A”, and you didn’t say “B”. So everyone is left to assume that because you are also a church, you must think “A” also.

Some churches lose their platform by giving communities the wrong answer, “God hates queers!” Other churches lose their light by offering half-answers: social action without Jesus or justice without the law of God. Most of us have lost ground by saying nothing. Years of separation theology, fear and ignorance have painted the sleeping giant as the town fool. This is no picture for the bride of Christ. So how do we turn off the sucking?

  1. Exhaust your church’s individual opportunities. You cannot act or speak on every global or national issue. But you can meet local needs in your context. This is rooted in God’s intentional placement of local churches in specific communities. Remember, the un-churched and de-churched are looking for answers to their questions. Speak on their issues. Are absentee fathers a problem? Offer community mentoring. Is the gay pride marching? Bring them bottles of water. The church I help pastor is in a community riddled with single mothers, fostered children and abandoned elderly. This is a specific need in our context we must speak into and act on. Churches must bandage where their communities are bleeding and answer what their towns are asking.
  2. Take back lost ground. Replace the wrong answers with the correct answers. Speak truth into issues of homosexuality, social injustice and the roles of men and women. We must intentionally shift perceptions by changing our voice or sometimes just giving a voice to truth. If the local church is the body of Christ that includes being his mouthpiece.

If we continue to communicate nothing, Richard Dawkins is the answer on origins, Maury Povich settles relationship-conflict, and Oprah gets to define God altogether. When silence sucks the church cannot afford not to speak.

Post By:

Paul Hickernell

Paul is the Pastor of Creative Arts at ZION Church, a multi-site church in western Pa. His passion is helping the local church and its communicators share the best possible message to their context and culture, which he writes about on his personal site, paulhickernell.com.
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7 Responses to “When Churches Keep Quiet: Others Fill the Void”

  • Nathan Davis
    October 18, 2010

    This is huge. I have learned the hard wayin our internship programs that “there is a vacuum in the absence of leadership.” It’s a “lord of the flies” sort of principle. The Church must be present not neutral. Great post.

  • Rich
    October 18, 2010

    This message, the silence of the church and those in it, plagues me. I don’t know if unwillingness or fear can grip me harder. However, the greatest joy has come when my mouth drops open and “thus saith the Lord” comes out! We need more men that will open their mouths and speak the Word of the Lord!!

  • John
    October 18, 2010

    We are definitely missing our prophet voice! It has, and will continue to take us away from our true mission.

    Thanks. Stay blessed…john

  • Paul Bruggink
    October 19, 2010

    In the area of creation and origins, the American church’s situation is even worse than a lack of a voice. Certain vocal church leaders (John MacArthur and Albert Mohler, for example) and others are speaking out with the wrong message: that there is only one way to read the creation story in Genesis 1 and 2, taking it as literal history and science, rather than as the theological message that it was and is intended to be. Since others have stated the case better than I could, here are two relevant quotes:

    “Most people with even a rudimentary knowledge of current science are aware of the scientific thought of a universe and an earth billions of years old and of the success of evolutionary biological science. For people who are not yet Christian believers, the requirement that they buy into the idea of a young earth or a young universe, along with anti-Darwinism, as part of the Christian belief system puts up significant and invalid barriers for these unbelievers. The opening of the door to belief is unnecessarily too narrow. These “scientific” barriers make Christianity seem like a nonsense religion, a religion that is hopelessly out of touch, which requires its followers to turn off their eyes, ears and brains when stepping into church. But this barrier to evangelism need not exist.” [Richard F. Carlson and Tremper Longman III, “Creation and the Bible: Reconciling Rival Theories of Origins” (Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Academic, 2010), pp. 138-139]

    “Christianity, which did, after all, survive the startling (and at the time heretical) revelation that the earth circles the sun rather than vice versa, will also survive the revelation that biological evolution is a fact of life. It might take time, as it did with the Copernican revolution, for persons of faith to realize that they, and their faith, will survive. [Joel W. Martin, “The Prism and the Rainbow: A Christian Explains Why Evolution Is Not a Threat” (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010), p.52.]

  • Church Minister, Yorba Linda
    October 20, 2010

    We are missing the voice of morality and sanity in our lives and the Church is one place we can look to for guidance. The Church needs to speak up for local issues on the individual and family level on which our society stands rather than commenting on global news which sounds distant and cold.

  • Christopher
    October 20, 2010

    Dietrich Bonnhoeffer said “Not to speak, is to speak. Not to act, is to act.” He was referring of course to the nationalistic doctrine of Nazism and the associated evil pervasively invading the church at that time. If you read about the atrocities at the time you may note that first they, ( the Nazi party) had to first castrate the church. They replaced doctrine with their own socially relevant agenda. Long before Germany got to a point of a nationalized religion, that was no religion at all, the church failed to stand up for the truth of the Gospel. It failed to show that the love of Jesus Christ is offered to all ethnicities, nationalities, and sexual persuasions without reservation or conditions. It failed to witness that God’s love is a never changing love that changes the reciever. Looking for self preservation, they accepted compromise with the truth. Partial truth is still a whole lie.

  • Joni
    October 21, 2010

    Powerful message and great food for thought! I posted about it on our blog – we’d love for you to come join the discussion! http://www.r04r.com/is-our-silence-really-speaking/

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