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?
- 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.
- 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.