Thursday, 10 February 2011
By Matthew at Jesus Needs New PR
For three years, a forty-something man named Brian mentored me. Brian, an elder at the church I attended, and I met once a month to talk about life, career, relationship, and God.
At the time I worked at Jammin Java, a faith-based coffeehouse ministry in Maryland. Brian was a member of the board.
During one of our monthly get-togethers, Brian asked about work. That was a loaded question at the time considering one of the local pastors was up in arms about the possibility of us booking a “secular band” to play at the coffeehouse. “I won’t support you guys,” the pastor had told me. “Not if you let a non-Christian up on that stage.”
Brian smiled. “So when is this band playing? I want to make sure I’m here!”
“I wasn’t going to book them.”
“What? Why not?”
“Because I don’t want Pastor Jim (name changed) mad at us.”
“Wait. Is he the only one who’s against booking the band?”
“Well, his wife is against it too. And one of the members of their church.”
“But everybody else is for it?”
“Then book the band, Matthew. Don’t let a loud minority of Christians make the rules around here!”
“But what if they get mad?”
“Then they get mad. We’ll give them some free coffee or something, but we’re not going to give them control. When you get back to the office, you get on that phone and book that band. And then call me to let me know when they’re going to be here.”
Since I was a child, I’ve witnessed “Christian culture”–whether it’s a church, ministry, non-profit, businesses, etc–giving a great deal of weight and control to the Christians who whine and complain. And usually, they do it loudly. And usually their complaints revolve around “change” or something they think is “biblical”. In so many Christian situations, these people rule over the majority. Because they’re loud. They’re usually mean. They quote Bible verses using tones that contradict other Bible verses. And while the majority usually agrees that the naysayers are mean, frustrating, controlling, and taking Bible verses out of context, usually the majority also submits to the minority’s “authority.”
And there’s always a reason the conservative churchy minority wins…
Usually, they’re rich. Or they’re influential. Or they’re a relative. Or they hold grudges. Or they’re loud and capable of making a big stink. Or they manipulate people using scripture.
Or they’re rich…
The other day I was talking to a friend about a situation he was dealing with at work, a Christian online business. I knew that he’d been working hard on a new project that had recently launched, so I asked him how it was going. He rolled his eyes. “It was going great until a member of the board sent an email to the entire board complaining. He thinks the whole thing is ‘worldly.’ It won’t surprise me if it ends up getting canned.”
“Over one guy’s complaint?”
“Yeah, because his father is the CEO of (large Christian company), so my boss doesn’t want to piss him off. So… six months of work down the drain…”
Why do we let the boisterous Christian minority have so much control? Why do they get to define what we do? Where we go? Who we help? What we stand for? What we don’t stand for? What changes we want to make?
Or… The books we read? The blog posts we write? The music that gets played? Etc…
I’ve met preachers who quit because of this minority. I’ve met bloggers who stop blogging because of this minority. I’ve met Christian radio deejays who stop playing songs because of this minority. And the list goes on…
Every one of us knows somebody who is a member of the negative churched minority. And the truth is, we’ve probably let them (at times) control us, manipulate us, fill us with fear and worry. Why?
Because we hate confrontation…
We hate making people angry…
We want people to like us…
Because they’re rich…
Toward the end of that conversation with Brian, he said, “It’s fine to let the negative Christians have their say….”
(And they usually don’t wait for an invitation…)
“….And perhaps because of their concern, you tweak a detail or two to see if it makes them happy. It usually won’t… But it’s nice to try. However, don’t let three or four negative voices define you.”
I’ll confess… that’s not always easy.
Last week I received an email from a reader who told me that he/she had been reading my blog for a month or two. He/she went on to write a paragraph about why he/she hated my blog. And he/she wrote another paragraph explaining how he/she had written to World Vision to voice his/her frustration about their affiliation with me. And when World Vision didn’t comply with his/her request to discontinue their relationship with me, he/she wrote to tell me that because of my blog, he/she would stop sponsoring 6 children with World Vision. And they wrote: You claim to be their champion but do you care that these six go back into the system because of you? I am sure that this is water off your back. (Please don’t attack this person in the comments. That’s not why I mentioned this story.)
I sat at my computer and cried. Because frankly, I do care. About those six kids. In fact, I genuinely care about the reader, his/her opinions. Anybody who sponsors six kids has a big heart. And I truly believe that.
And I admit, I could have let that person’s email define me. A part of me wanted to.
But why should I let the loud negative “churchy” few drown out the positive many? That’s not to say that I won’t tweak a thing or two, but I won’t let them define me.
Author’s Note: Though I use the terms “majority” and “minority,” this post does not reflect a political viewpoint.