Free Advice: Don’t Offend Those You Hope to Reach

December 16, 2009 by

Recently, a church in the San Diego area hosted an event, and then came under some heat. You can read the full story on San Diego’s, but here is the crux of what happened:

A church in San Diego invited folks to their Christmas program, including some 30 Muslims from their community. The program featured a traveling evangelist who described her conversion from Islam to Christianity, and naturally, encouraged others to consider the same option. When she began ridiculing Muslim beliefs and described the Koran as “nonsense,” the Muslim attendees got up to leave. A shouting match ensued and the Muslim group vowed never to return to the church.

The article doesn’t provide enough information to place the blame on either a tricky, manipulative ministry or over-sensitive, hot-headed attendees. But it does allow us to consider three simple questions when planning an event:

  • Are you being respectful of all those you are aiming to reach? Sometimes our good-natured goals of evangelism and outreach can go a bit too far (cf. Crusades, picketing preachers). The Bible calls us to love those around us. Without delving into the efficacy of specific types of evangelism, I’d just love to encourage you to consider which is the most respectful way to share the gospel with them.
  • Are you being completely honest in your marketing? Are you billing the event as a magic show but planning an altar-call for your grand finale? Are you describing your event as family-friendly, but you plan to show The Passion of the Christ? Even though it’s good to share the gospel, it can’t be the culmination of a bait-and-switch technique.
  • Are you prepared for who you might offend, and how you will handle it? The gospel is sure to offend some. But are you prepared to handle the repercussions of your actions? People may want to walk out, but a shouting match isn’t the way to show them love. Have you planned a way to respond in love and engage in direct conversations with those who are hurt by you? Always plan for this worst-case scenario.

This is not to say that the church in San Diego was actually guilty of the things I’ve mentioned above. Someone else can sort that out. But it does serve as an illustrative example for us. As Christians we need to pursue excellence, openness and honesty in the way we plan and market our events. Otherwise, we’ve undermined the very gospel we’re trying to share.

Post By:

Joshua Cody

Josh Cody served as our associate editor for several years before moving on to bigger things. Like Texas. These days he lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife, and you can find him online or on Twitter when he's not wrestling code.
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11 Responses to “Free Advice: Don’t Offend Those You Hope to Reach”

  • Michael Holmes
    December 16, 2009

    That’s like calling people who are openly gay…and then shouting from the pulpit, “That’s why all of you are going to hell!!”

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  • Nick the Geek
    December 16, 2009

    Great post. It’s funny how we say “I want to reach group x” but then act in a way that should be clear obviously offends the group. Like people in my church that say they want to reach the lost but then get grumpy when the lost actually show up. I even had a group in the church call my students “the freak show” and worse because they don’t look like good church kids. Interestingly a lot of them aren’t but why would they want to be part of the church when they are treated like that. I’m glad they still come after these incidents.

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  • bondChristian
    December 16, 2009

    Love those last two questions. Authenticity in church marketing, or any marketing in general, is key to building trust. Fifty year ago, we could get away with it because the word spread slower. Now it’s beyond necessary (okay, if that’s even possible).
    Planning for problems is also such an important point. So often we plan for the best, which is great. But more often than not, redeeming the difficult situations is more powerful than avoiding them altogether. Of course, it’s also more difficult though.
    -Marshall Jones Jr.

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  • Steven Rossi
    December 17, 2009

    It almost sounds like they convinced them to get in the door just so they could hear this Muslim-become-Christian evangelist speak. Sounds sorta deceitful, to me. To me, that’s sorta going against the Santa Claus principle: if you trick them in the small things (getting in the door), why would they believe you in the big things (that your God is the true one)?

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  • Freedy
    December 17, 2009

    But it does serve as an illustrative example for us. As Christians we need to pursue excellence, openness and honesty in the way we plan and market our events. Otherwise, we’ve undermined the very gospel we’re trying to share.

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  • James. Smith
    December 17, 2009

    This is a little off the subject but why is it that. when a great man of God like Orel Roberts goes to be with the Lord, we Christians who are supposed to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world,we say they died or “passed away”.To me this is finality and contrary to what the Lord calls falling asleep. Aren’t we Christians supposed to be a peculiar people in the world, but separated from the world. When are we the Church going to mature and stop being like the world.If I am wrong about this someone enlighten me.

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  • Sean Salter
    December 18, 2009

    Dude, do you EVEN for ONE second know one thing about the Crusades other than what the Muslim world has LIED about and liberals have adopted as their mantra to hate Christianity?
    First off lets back it up a bit. Why does this Omar guy get so many quotes and the church gets one? A tad lop sided? And why is EVERY commenter ASSUMING the Church was deceitful? Because the on muslim guy felt deceived? Do you realize that the ENTIRE religion of Islam is one big deception from Satan? Or have we all gone daft spiritually. Wake up. The very essence of Islam is to lie and deceive and the muslim is blessed when he deceive the Jew first and then The christian, so sayeth THEIR holly filth called the Koran.
    Now back to the Crusades. Are you serious? You just used the crusades as an example of how that was Christians not being respectful to Muslims? Really? Where did you learn History? Because it certainly isn’t ACTUAL history.
    Do you realize that Europe, yes, Almost the ENTIRE continent, Spain, Italy, Germany, England, Greece, etc. etc. etc. Had been in a WAR with Islam for 400 years PRIOR to the Crusades? yes, 400 years, In this 400 years the Muslims invaded Europe, occupied Jerusalem, so on and so forth. Musilms had conquered and occupied many parts of Italy and Spain. And were slaughtering thousands upon thousands of people, raping and pillaging along the way.
    It was a war, a 400 year long war, with an evil blood lust full religion and Europe not only fought back, but after they beat those dogs out of Europe they kept marching to liberate Jerusalem, and to destroy Islam. Why? Because they understood after 400 years how dangerous and evil that religion, those people were.
    yeah bad things happened, Christians aren’t always perfect, but don’t for ONE second preach to me about being respectful and then site the Crusades as an example of being a bad christian.
    The Left lies, the liberals lie, and the musilms play on our desire to be loved and excepted by them, and to be seen as just and good. And they have been crying foul about the crusades for an eternity, and its all one big Lie.
    Don’t believe me, do some research, real research. The real information isn’t hard to find.
    There is a reason my alma matter and so many other schools have Crusaders as their mascot, because at one time the truth was known. Crusaders were holy warriors fighting an EVIL army and an EVIL people.
    Sorry, I am just so sick and tired of liberal leftists poisoning our history, distorting facts, and making up lies to appease a lost people who follow a hateful and murderous religion.

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  • Sean Salter
    December 18, 2009

    How ever in all fairness, I really like where you took this thread Joshua. Really like it a lot.
    Many good points, all to often I think people feel tricked when attending Church public events.
    Its just the crusades thing that irritates me, but thats more of the fact that we are lied to about them and have been for so long.
    Anyways, again, great thread. I like that you are encouraging us all to be authentic.

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  • Mathaias
    December 19, 2009

    speaking about authenticity, I think personally that being straight and plain is the key. Thanks great post!
    NB – Take a look at this story, i like the way it comes across to the reader, its plain, its simple, its truth ! –

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  • Adam Woeger
    December 29, 2009

    The Gospel is offensive to those that don’t believe in Christ. We can’t water down The Gospel, but we can use God’s Wisdom in how to best present The Gospel of Jesus Christ. That is why we need the direction of The Holy Spirit, to show us who we are to reach out to, and how we are to accomplish the work of The Gospel.

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  • Sheila
    January 14, 2010

    A good rule here is to never invite someone you mayn’t know well to speak at an outreach event. Do your research. We once invited someone we didn’t know well to fill in for our vacationing pastor. Our church was seeker sensitive but not that Sunday. Wow, we learned our lesson and never again did we have an unknown speaker at a Sunday service.

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Evangelism & Outreach, Examples