by Wes White
There are so many kinds of Sabbath-keeping Churches of God out there. They vary on doctrine, liturgy, and church government. This variety gives our brethren many choices of where they can attend.
How about your congregation? What kind of people attend there? Does your group encourage people of different persuasions to attend? Or is it possible you are keeping some Sabbath-keepers out of your local group with the words you say?
Let me give you an example.
I was a child of the 1960s. I was a rock-n-roll hippie. After I came into the church, I repented. Cut my hair and started bathing. And in my earliest sermonettes, I railed against the ’60s and pointed out what a horrible time period it was. In my zeal to repent of my hippie past, I would condemn the ’60s because it contained so much illegal drug use and sexual decadence.
But there was more to the ’60s than sex and drugs. Much more. I learned this lesson from an elderly black lady in southern California. Here is what she told me about her experience with the ’60s:
“Sure, the ’60s contained a lot of sinful behavior. But there were millions of us blacks who were not part of illegal drugs and illicit sex. We were hard-working folk. Looking after our families. Trying to make ends meet. Just trying to get thru life.
“To us, the ’60s were not a time of decadence. We weren’t into that stuff. Instead, the ’60s were the time of the passage of the Civil Rights Law of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. To us, the ’60s were a time of new freedom. We no longer had to send our kids to segregated and inferior schools. We could now eat at the lunch counters. We could now ride on the front of the bus. We could now live in any neighborhood where we could afford the housing.
“When we hear someone talk about how bad the ’60s were, we hear a message of wanting to go back to earlier times when widespread racial suppression was practiced legally. To us, rants against the ’60s are sometimes code language against equal rights and our ability to experience improved equality.”
I was embarrassed when this sweet sister pointed this out to me and have tried to be more careful ever since.
When we talk about how bad things were in the ’60s, we must take into consideration the feelings of all people. Failing to do so turns off people who are not like us.
This type of language contributes to the problem of too many churches having people who all look alike. If we are insensitive in our words, we are going to discourage people who look different than us from coming to our church.
Political correctness? No. It’s practicality. It’s a matter of maximizing our ability to serve all people.
Perhaps you want your church to consist of a bunch of angry, old white people. If so, don’t change. See where your demographics take your group in the long run. But if you want to preach the gospel to all people, be more responsible in your communication.
We should always preach against sin. That’s our job. The issue is not whether or not to preach against sin. It’s about being reckless. Our words shouldn’t be so general that they unnecessarily turn off people who might otherwise fellowship with us. One day, we are all going to be held accountable for every word we utter. Let’s always be all things to all people. Let’s make sure all our words are never needlessly offensive and divisive.