3 Questions Your Church Should Ask Before Speaking Out on Social Issues
The Gen Z Insights blog published an article, “Three Questions Brands Should Ask Before Speaking Out on Social Issues.” We’ve all seen businesses get this wrong. Consider Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner ad.
When Nike launched their Colin Kaepernick ad, they received more cheers than jeers, and while some boycotted the shoe manufacturer, they didn’t sweat too much after turning a $6 billion profit.
Gen Z Insights encourages businesses to examine their brand narrative to ensure the social message they send aligns with who they are, to be authentic, and to make sure their audience finds the issue important. They criticize Pepsi and Gillette for producing advertisements that had an ulterior motive (too pandering, inauthentic), and praised Patagonia for their environmentally friendly messages that seem to come directly from their company values.
Jacqi Levy, writing for Gen Z Insights, says “At the end of the day, standing up doesn’t have to be political or extreme. It does, however, have to be driven by values that are true to your brand and shared with your audience—not by next quarter’s revenue targets.” But I’m not so sure that is true. If it didn’t help them sell, I don’t think businesses would be doing it. The values a company champions are driven by markets.
But churches are not, or at least they should not be. Churches should be concerned foremost with what is true, and should be asking themselves how best they can provide a gospel witness in their generation. A survey of church history shows that Christian social witness has taken different shape at different times and in different cultures. That’s the kingdom of God. But there have also been common threads, ideas that trace across time and place.
Churches will at times be required to speak out on social issues. What questions should guide them as they determine how best to proclaim the truths of Scripture and give witness to God? Here are three questions you can ask:
Is the way you plan to speak about this particular social issue grounded in historic Christian teaching and confession?
Will the issue you plan to speak out on align with existing congregational values and practices, or will it require you to launch a new initiative?
Is the issue already important to those in your congregation? If not, are you convinced God is calling you to put the matter before the people?
Millennials and Generation Zers are looking for substance and authenticity. The are seeking to connect with others who are real and grounded in reality. That’s a case you’ll need to make in word and by demonstration. They will examine the overall life of the congregation in light of what you say, and they look for integrity. Are you practicing what you preach? Does your church need to begin a new initiative in order to put your faith into action? If so, do it.
Lastly, you need to know your people. Know what God is stirring in their hearts as well as your own. If there is alignment, pay attention to the movement of the Spirit. If there is resistance, discern if God is calling you to be an agent for change.
These decisions aren’t market driven. They are based on conviction and truth. Do what God calls you to do. Preach what God calls you to preach. Speak out on social issues God calls you to speak out on.
But do so with humility, love, gentleness, firmness, and faith.