4 Questions Churches Should Consider When Taking a Stand
Nik Goodner Writer + Creator of CRTVCHURCH
There’s a lot of pressure on brands to take stands on tough social issues and matters.
In early 2018, David Schwimmer gained some social justice street-cred when he teamed up with the Ad Council to produce and the American version of sixth short films titled #ThatsHarassment. The short films depict six different cases of sexual harassment in the workplace, all based on real events.
That said, taking stands on social issues doesn’t always fall on big brands.
In recent weeks; we have seen churches, thought-leaders, and influencers, weighing in on the issue of immigration, border policy, and the psychological implications of separating immigrant children from their parents attempting to cross the United States border.
Pastor John Gray from Relentless Church in South Carolina shared this clip to the church’s Instagram feed:
In the clip, Gray discusses a biblical perspective on immigration policy. Gray explained:
I’ll simply say this, anybody who is a Christian, who has challenges with immigration, may want to reference Scripture. Because in the time of Herod, he was seeking to kill children two years old and under, because he heard a king was coming, and he didn’t know which one it was, and so an angel told Joseph, ‘Get your wife and your son, and go to Egypt.’ And so he had to immigrate to Egypt to flee persecution and the threat of death. So be careful how you treat immigrants because your Savior was one.
However, for every #LikeAGirl and John Gray, there are movements promoted by brands that seem to miss the mark entirely.
For instance, in 2017 a Pepsi commercial faced a ton of backlash for the trivialization of the Black Lives Matter movement and protests against racial injustice by having reality TV star, Kendall Jenner, defuse a tense protest standoff with a can of Pepsi.
And, in 2018 during the Super Bowl, Dodge Trucks felt the heat when viewers criticized the company for using a speech from civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr to promote their line of trucks.
Dissipate the wins and the mishaps according to a study released by Sprout Social earlier this year “consumers and audiences alike are demanding that brands leverage their influence for good and not allow injustices to happen.”
But, where does the church fit in all this?
Of course, as the church, our entire ethos is based on taking stands against injustices. However, in recent years we’ve seemed to be slow to react to many pressing social justice issues. One can speculate, the church has become apathetic towards culture and ignorant of difficult conversations happening outside their congregations. But, I don’t think that is true. I think many of us feel uneasiness and uncertainty which makes us unwilling to engage in issues we see as polarizing.
There is a concern among church leaders that engaging in specific issues might destroy our reputation or negatively affect our attendance numbers.
Risk will always be involved when taking a stand; therefore we cannot allow that to keep us from speaking up. The time for the church to remain subjective and silent on issues has passed. We as the capital church must engage our culture, and as creators called by God, should strive to solve the problems and injustices we see in our culture.
However, being empathic to the issues around us requires that we do so thoughtfully. Which begs the question, what should we ask ourselves before taking a stand?
1. Are we informed on this issue?
The invention of the internet has given us the task to be diligent truth seekers… We’re all journalists now. Why? Because a lot of media is opinionated and skews information to draw the most significant reaction from their audience.
It is easy to absorb news and headlines that are solely geared to our personal bias. Therefore, we must seek to be well-rounded and informed by listening to multiple experts and sources on difficult topics when we are looking to take a stand.
We must also be willing to host conversations with experts, thought-leaders, and those whose views differ from ours to help us navigate our stances and opinions. Bringing different voices to the table helps us better grasp the complexity of issues facing our culture.
2. Does our staff + key leadership support our stand?
Taking a stand is a community effort. When taking positions on significant issues that might cause controversy, conversations with essential leadership and staff are necessary.
Not everyone will agree on the views of specific issues, and for those that don’t, it doesn’t necessarily mean they should be off the team. The beauty of the body of Christ is the different viewpoints we hold.
That said, there is time for conversation, and there is time for action. Once leadership has made a decision and given direction it is essential the decision is respected. There are exceptions to this next statement, but the majority of the time, we are not called to be on a church staff to undermine church leadership. If you cannot respect your church’s stance and feel the need to sabotage their efforts, it might be time to find your exit.
3. Are we prepared for the backlash?
The scary part about standing up is knowing others will come to push you down. We don’t know what will trigger the backlash, all we can do is prepare by praying, strengthening our core position, and being willing to navigate some intense (maybe heated) conversations.
If we are confident in our position, then we can respectfully hear the opinions of those that might disagree without becoming divisive.
4. Are we committed to working the problem or do we want to say nice things to get likes?
Our voices are important, but they are only a start. When we take a position, we have to be prepared to follow up with action steps to solve the problems we are standing up for.
Christ said, ‘blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the sons and daughters of GOD.’
What does a ‘peacemaker’ do? They solve problems. We are all called to be peacemakers. So, when we take a stand as a church, we not only do so with our words but with our actions as well.
I believe when the church is silent on important issues, it creates a void that many will desperately attempt to fill. And, as the church, we have never had the luxury of silence when we see wrongdoing in our world. As Paul advises us in Romans: “Hate what is evil and cling to what is good.”
I leave you with this:
“In the end, we will not remember the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
— Martin Luther King Jr.