Guilt by association or by affiliation? Recently a group of ministries in our local area received an email from Lifest a regional summer music festival where they’ve typically purchased booth space and tables to share the Gospel and their ministry opportunities.
The email strongly warned the ministry vendors:
As a member of the Christian Festival Association, Lifest exists principally to bring
glory to God and to his son, Jesus Christ. We want to love and make all of our guests feel welcome and safe.
Put another way, we want our event to be a place where sinners can find healing and hope, rather than condemnation and judgment. As such, we want the focus of Lifest to be who we are for, not who or what we are against. Therefore, we ask that our exhibitors, vendors and sponsors refrain from displaying or selling items that are inconsistent with this goal.
Examples of items not allowed at Lifest: T-shirts, banners or other printed materials that judge or condemn people or behaviors (e.g. “Abortion is Murder”, “Homosexuality is a sin”) or may make our guest feel uncomfortable (e.g. “Free Hugs”).
We trust that our valued vendors, exhibitors and sponsors will honor our wishes and use their good judgment in this regard. However, festival management reserves the irrefutable right to insist that objectionable items be removed from display.
Obviously, this is a disturbing request. After all, this particular music festival has been a longstanding opportunity for local and regional ministries to share Christ with young people, and involve them in a number of different outreach organizations. What many ministries have turned a blind eye to in the past about this organization (i.e. inviting Jim Wallis, Tony Campolo, Shane Claiborne, and The Shack author William Paul Young as past speakers, or selling Sarah Young’s book Jesus Calling, etc.,), are now starting to tie together in a “why
didn’t I see this coming” moment?
Sharing the Gospel is a must, and yet the entire Gospel involves telling them about our need (our sin), repentance and forgiveness. How do we do that to reach young people with the truth in love?
1. You could reluctantly partner with, affiliate with, hold hands with, a group or organization that you strongly feel is known for being problematic or supports unbiblical issues.
2. You could reach the same audience on your own individually or with your team, without partnering with said group.
Obviously I’m into Option#2, so here’s what I’m thinking. What if:
- You pay for an event ticket, wear your ministry logo and intentionally strike up conversations about God with young people. On your own.
- You purchase a stack of $5 coffee gift cards, ask kids if they’d mind answering a few questions from your survey and give them this gift. (Rarely would they turn it down, and cheaper than sponsoring the event.)
That last gift card idea from a featured speaker at the Great Lakes Pastor’s Conference, so I gladly want to give credit where credit is due!