Churches Getting It Right, Part 1: Public Discourse

–Daniel S. Ferguson

I talk a lot about what churches have done to drive people away, but the truth is that a lot of churches are getting a lot of things right. I thought it best to highlight those in order to encourage these things.

The first is this: many churches are finally understanding the church’s role in public discourse. Just recently, there’s been a bit of a hullabaloo here in Pensacola, Florida, over a local cross monument in a park. Just a little while ago, a judge ordered the cross removed because it is a religious symbol on public ground, violating the Establishment Clause of the Constitution. Legality aside, there just so happens to be an upstart church that planted basically next door to this cross only five months ago.

Of course, quite a few groups were upset about this, going on about the regression of the Christian America and such. When this new church posted that it was going to have a worship gathering at this cross with other churches, it would have been easy to bet that it would have been a protest against its removal, full of language about the evil liberal left and the secularization of America.

But you would have lost that bet, because the complete opposite happened.

Instead, two pastors spoke passionately about how the true symbol of the faith is not a cross in a park, but the cross we Christians are supposed to carry daily, that we are supposed to love our neighbors, even at our own expense. One of the pastors even said that we Christians should start by apologizing to our community for any division we might ever have caused in our city.

You have to understand: that is a radical change in American Christianity. In a time when political extremism has caused such great divide, even among families and friends, such that no one seems capable even of talking about the issue, for a church to stand up and declare its unity to its city rather than to its own cause is one of the most refreshing things I can think of.

And therein lies the true role of Christianity in public discourse, that we should never exercise our influence for the sake of our own will, but always for the sake of others, even at the expense of our rights, privileges, and comforts.

As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians (and as one of the two pastors quoted at the service),

“We would rather put up with anything than be an obstacle to the Good News about Christ” (1 Corinthians 9:12, NLT).

That’s my hope for the church, a hope that was reignited at this service. Christians should continue to forget about winning and continue to quit lamenting the passage of our majority in this nation. The moral majority is (finally) dead; the missional minority has resurfaced, and this is a position in which the church really can do great things.

I can’t wait to see it continue.

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