A few weeks ago there was a local kerfuffle on social media regarding a local faith-based non-profit who stepped over the line in a presentation to students. The speaker (from what I understand) decided to “share his faith” with the group of students, even though it was on a public school campus. Having some experience in this area, there is an understanding with any school district with a speaker about the content of their message being for a broad, multi-ethnic and religiously diverse audience. That is, even though our public schools are situated within the “bible belt”, there are many viewpoints represented within any student body.
The conflict on social media revolved around a letter of apology the principal sent out to the community regarding this event. A majority of Christians that I knew online jumped all over this principal and school district crying fowl about the apology. Many of of those who responded felt like their religious liberties were being trampled on by this speaker not having the freedom to share his faith on a public school campus during a presentation.
This really confused me. And in some ways, angered me. Then I felt sad. And, I didn’t fully understand why. I understood my frustration with their basic misunderstanding of how faith-based non-profits have to work within the school system. We have to walk a line and be respectful of the institution to have a seat at the table.
But, there was something else bugging me. I couldn’t figure it out.
Then a few weeks later, I had a conversation with a youth pastor of a massive “mega-church” in our area. We were presenting what Teen Lifeline does in the school systems as a non-profit and were working to recruit youth ministers to help us. Spending time with students in support groups working though stress, challenges, relationships, and resources seems to be a great fit for a youth minister – if they are able to stay within the boundaries of the public setting.
As we spoke with this youth minister, it became increasingly clear he wasn’t on board with what we were doing. That was fine, but the reason why gave me some pause. He couldn’t see himself having a conversation with a student about the deeper and more meaningful things of life without sharing his faith. even though by him sharing would inevitably get us kicked off campus.
I understand where he came from. Jesus is the ultimate answer to what life throws at us. If we all believed more in Jesus and truly gave our lives over, we would find life to be better.
And don’t get me wrong, I am not faulting either one of these guys. They reflect their institutions and are accountable to their leadership on issues like this.
Yet, there is something about these two encounters with the gathered American church which really discouraged me.
The American church really struggles with stepping out of a position of power.
Both of these situations could have been better handled if those in positions of power and influence if they had considered what it would look like to be in a position of weakness or disadvantage.
In both of these instances the people in question couldn’t fathom how keeping quiet or stepping aside would further the Kingdom.
Tomorrow, I want to explore a little deeper what it means for the gathered church to operate from a position of disadvantage. What would it look like for our churches to intentionally give up some of their power and influence for the sake of the world around them?
This might make all the difference.