I hate when I see churches and Christian organizations engaged in hype, in PR. I think it is contrary to the way of Christ.
We are used to hype and PR in the secular world. Lance Armstrong engaged in a massive campaign of PR hype for years, claiming to be clean, to be a victim of a massive conspiracy. Then the truth came out. How many times heave politicians or businessmen or sports executives played the “nothing is wrong” or “deny, deny, deny” game right up until the world crashes around them. And then the truth comes out.
Now, instead of following Scripture, the church has bought into the hype game. “What an awesome week we had on Sunday.” Maybe they did, but even if they didn’t, the hype machine keeps on churning.
In my through-the-Bible reading today, I was in Psalm 38. David was a world-class sinner. When he sinned, he sinned big. But, while David was a big-time sinner, he was also arguably the best repenter of all time. Look at Psalm 51, the magnum opus of repentance, after his sin with Bathsheba. But even in Psalm 38, his humble heart came through. He looked at his sin with horror. He admitted it – publicly. He rejected it publicly, repented of it publicly, and he cast himself publicly on the mercy and restoring grace of God.
3 There is no soundness in my flesh because of your indignation; there is no health in my bones because of my sin.
4 For my iniquities have gone over my head; like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me.
5 My wounds stink and fester because of my foolishness,
6 I am utterly bowed down and prostrate; all the day I go about mourning.
7 For my sides are filled with burning, and there is no soundness in my flesh.
8 I am feeble and crushed; I groan because of the tumult of my heart.
Maybe his utter rejection of hype and artifice was one of the reasons he was described as a man after God’s own heart.
He dealt with it. He admitted it. He repented of it. And he was freed of it.
Now, my friends, here is a fact. You are a sinner. But I think we have to extend that truth corporately. Organizations and institutions made up of sinful people will also show effects of sin. Your church, your organization, your Christian school – they will all give evidence of sin and it is neither godly or productive to pretend as if they do not. The very human tendency to try to put a good face on our sin, to hype our way through opposition, to pretend that nothing is wrong even when something is wrong, is that not just a manifestation of the sin of lying. Can you see Christ engaging in hype? Trying to put a good face on a bad situation? He spoke truth, even when the truth hurt.
God is truth. Satan is a liar and the father of lies. Christians, churches and Christian institutions ought to reflect the truth of God rather than the lying (hyping) ways of our enemy. If we are covering over the truth, trying to hide it from others, we are not engaging in Christlike behavior, but imitating the serpent in the garden.
A Shaping Experience
Some years ago in one of my previous ministries, the treasurer leveled some serious charges against me and the leadership of the church. We brought in an expert to sort through things and the expert sided with us instead of with her. She left in a snit. That left our church in a mess. No one really understood what was going on in our books. What were we to do?
The normal course of affairs would have been to keep the problems quiet and hope no one found out about them. But we went a different direction. At the next business meeting, I stood in front of the church and told them that we had a mess on our hands. Because of the situation, we did not know exactly what was in the books, and the financial report was our best guess of what is really going on. We promised to sort things out as quickly as we could, and we did. Once we got it figured out, we made sure that this kind of thing never happened again.
And there was no uproar at all. The result of honesty was peace. I remember a pearl of wisdom I learned from my dad.
An informed people is a happy people.
Too many Christians in power look at the people of God and tell them “You can’t handle the truth.” My experience is that God’s people handle the truth much better than they handle having the truth shielded from them by the PR process. That tends to breed suspicious, anger and division.
I have seen a couple of instances of Christian PR recently that bother me, both in Christian colleges.
I am an unabashed fan of Cedarville University, where my daughter attends. Recently, though, the campus has been thrown into an uproar by the “resignations” key members of the administration. These “resignations” were presented as completely voluntary and explained in “nothing to see here” email and press releases from the school.
But at a small Christian school, it is hard to keep a lid on things. Everyone pretty much knows that the administrators were forced out. A former trustee member has confirmed those perceptions. These administration members, beloved by the students, did not simply decide to leave school mid-year. Pressure was placed on them for reasons no one knows (but many suspect). No surprise to anyone, a website has formed to try to “shed light” on the situation. It is called “Let There Be Light.”
I understand that the administration cannot reveal confidential employment issues. But is it right to publicly announce that these personnel left of their own volition when they almost certainly did not? Could they not have found a way to announce this without shielding people from the truth?
I found this video to be inspirational. When Dr. Carl Ruby, who was Vice President for Student Life, left on his final day, the students at Cedarville lined the hallways and sidewalks of the school and applauded him as he left. You can see the video here. It is moving.
Louisiana College, affiliated with the Louisiana Baptist Convention, is in a state of turmoil. I only know anything about this school because of friends who are students there. In recent days, several very popular professors have been informed that their contracts will not be renewed next year. Some students believe it is a purge against Calvinists in the school. Joshua Breland at “The Daily Bleat” and Drew Wales at “SBC Heritage” are writing on this. They are, obviously, the counterpoint to the school’s point.
But the brouhaha became public when the President, Joe Aguillard, published a “President’s Pen” article in which he said there would be no tolerance of Calvinism “being advocated at Louisiana College.” No one knows exactly why he decided to pick this fight now. Louisiana College, as I understand it, has had a mixture of Calvinists and non-Calvinists teaching at the school. Now, evidently, that will no longer be true.
Aguillard’s article raised quite a ruckus, and he backtracked a little in an interview when he said he was only talking about hyper-Calvinism, not Calvinism. But one can read the article at the LC website and see that he never discussed hyper-Calvinism.
I contacted Dr. Aguillard with some questions about this, but he did not respond. The truth is, I don’t really know the ins and outs of the administration and their decisions. But from contacts I have had with students and a former professor, I know that things are in an uproar there.
But if you look at the President’s Pen article at the website, you would think that all was well and that the college’s future couldn’t be brighter. From all I have been told, that is simply not the case.
This kind of thing is so common in churches, in Christian colleges and parachurch organizations. Don’t admit there is a problem. Put a good face on it. Tell everyone all is well even when everyone knows that things are tough.
That’s not how David handled his problems. He repented. He expressed confidence in God’s ability to make sense out of the mess. But he never pretended as if everything was okay when it wasn’t.
Health does not come from the denial of sickness, but from dealing with it head on!