Freedom of Speech

In the first amendment of the constitution, the government is specifically forbidden to abridge the freedom to speak your mind. Curiously, it was not the government who the first to discover this freedom. It is also found in the Bible.

In Hebrews 10:35, the idea of confidence, or boldness in some translations also translates to freedom to speak. This freedom is not merely guaranteed by a government, but by the Lord God, who expects us to speak on His behalf to this lost and fallen world. We have the freedom, nay, the authority to speak to this world about the grace given to us as Christians and extended to everyone because of the shed blood of God’s most perfect gift, His Son Jesus Christ. Would that we would express this freedom.

But it is not merely evangelism, but a whole life changed and encouraged by this fact. Jesus Christ died for me. He took my penalty upon Himself so that I might live. What does that mean for you? What does that look like to you? Does it mean the same glum and unhappy face from day to day, or do we “count it all joy my brothers when you encounter various trials”? I will agree that life is not always roses, but it is always God’s Into each life, a little rain must fall. But this life isn’t what we’re all about, is it?

Thus we have the freedom and the joy to share our praise, our worship, our exultation of the Lord God. If we don’t, who will? Who on earth has more reason to be glad than we do? We have the answer to life’s question, “Is this all there is? Is there nothing more?” Is life only about stuff? Is life only for the here and now? What happens when I die? We have glorious and amazing answers to all of this and more. But who wants to hear about from the joyless, graceless people we are painted to be?

I have seen a problem among the small churches, both which I have pastored and attended. It is an utter sense of helplessness but ironically pride which many pontificate over, saying that if the lost only knew better, they would come to my church. Many small churches feel helpless because “we just don’t attract new people.” “Nobody comes to church anymore. Aren’t we really friendly?” Blame often shifts to leadership and especially to the Preacher. “If only our preacher were better, or younger, or had a more engaging family, then people would flock to our church.” And so many small churches look for the younger, prettier, less experienced preachers who tend to be black and white in their preaching, passionate for lost souls but poor communicators, and in a few short years, frustrated because the church doesn’t share their vision for the lost. Don’t get me wrong. Preaching ought to be express morality and ethics in stark terms. But there are ways to do that without alienating people, especially people who are hurting. Young preachers just don’t have enough life experience to do that yet, especially when they have been brought up in this small church setting.

Small churches don’t fail because they are small. They fail because they stop participating. The attitude of “let the young people do it because they have the energy” causes the old to simply be, rather than sharing their knowledge and wisdom. As a result, the older people, who have the financial assets and the leadership roles, find the younger people’s direction distasteful, too loud, too expensive, and it is letting in the riff-raff. Because the older members have the purse strings, they disdain and look down their nose at the younger and their ilk. Younger people, including that young pastor with the pretty wife, move on. Some manage to keep their faith and attend another church. Others, finding themselves unwelcome at Church, stop going anywhere.

The lost don’t understand denominations. When the lost are rejected from one church, one single congregation, they feel rejected by all of them. Their defense before God? “We tried, but they rejected us.” You cannot hold that evangelism is all about bringing people to church to hear your preacher (oh, and then they’ll find Jesus when they hear his profound arguments and amazing preaching) and simultaneously reject visitors who come to your church because they’re not like you.

The biggest example of this in my recent memory was a community dinner that a church held, offering free food and activities to any who would come. They decried often how they are friendly church, and people would know this if they would only visit. This after an effort to invite people by going door to door and making personal invitations. Many invitations and visits were made. On the day of the dinner, one couple came. They had heard about it through a friend. That single couple was welcomed, but everyone else who were regular attendees sat on the opposite side of the dining room. They didn’t interact, and the whole thing actually came across as awkward. Only a handful of outgoing members went and sat with the new people. Tell me. What aspect of this story tells you that this is a friendly church that is excited to see new people?

Ok. Enough of my soapbox. We have the freedom and the responsibility to exercise our freedom of speech, not guaranteed by a government, but by God. every aspect of our speech ought to reflect our status as saved people.

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merittmusings

I've been in ministry in the Christian Churches/ Churches of Christ for 20+ years. Finished my doctorate in Biblical Studies in 2015. Serve today as a Hospital Chaplain.

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