“Why can’t I use it? There’s nothing really wrong with it. Why should I be confined by someone else’s conviction?”
Because you’re a leader---that’s all there is to it.
It was a hard answer to take, but an answer that we needed to hear.
At the time, we were doing some video work for the opening of an upcoming event.
The pictures were great. The theme of the video flowed together beautifully, and the music was powerful and dynamic.
Unfortunately, we’d also chosen to use a song by a secular group who didn’t have the greatest reputation 20-30 years ago.
Even though the finished product looked AMAZING, the question had to be asked, “Are too many people going to be offended if we use this song?”
Right off the bat let me say that I like the song. The message is inspiring and there are no sinful lyrics or messages in it. Growing up in the church, neither my brother nor myself really knew the history of the band that sang the song---we just heard it one day and thought, “Great song!”
Quite frankly, from my naïve state, I really don’t feel convicted listening to it.
However, because we were leading the event, we needed to remember that there would be people in the audience whose lives hadn’t been quite so sheltered, and for them, this song might be a real stumbling block.
Still, we battled back and forth with the question thinking, “Really? My freedom has to be hindered by their hang-up?” Doesn’t seem fair.
And then, the Holy Spirit, as He so often does, gently reminded me of a time when I’d been on the other side of this fence. This memory reminded me that sometimes leaders have to put their own personal freedoms and preferences aside to avoid placing a stumbling block in front of another person.
Within a few moments, I was thinking back to a time when I was sitting in the congregation when a guest speaker came to the pulpit.
Let me say that before this gentleman opened his mouth, I was fully prepared to make a donation to the cause he was at the church promoting. I literally had the money in my hand.
And then he spoke.
Within 3 minutes, he made a comment mocking people who held a particular conviction. Using humor he basically said, “Isn’t that ridiculous? Who would ever think that was wrong?”
Quickly, I felt my back begin to tighten as I realized that I’d just been insulted. You see, I happened to hold that personal conviction. Still, I told myself, “It’s a gray area---let it go.”
And I did, until he said it again. Only this time it was in an even far more condescending, mocking tone.
As if that wasn’t enough, he repeated his opinion yet a third time---openly making fun of people who didn’t hold his particular view on this issue.
From that point on, I don’t know what he said.
My brain shut down and I tuned him out.
My donation went back into my wallet.
Honestly, it wasn’t because he disagreed with me (I knew it was a gray area). The real problem was that he didn’t respect my right to have a genuine conviction. It wasn’t like I was forcing him to abide by my rules; I just didn’t like being publically mocked because I choose to adhere to certain principles.
Remembering that incident, I knew exactly what the Holy Spirit meant when He said, “Remember So and So? Remember how you felt? Why would you want to make someone else feel that way?”
Obviously, we changed the song, and we were reminded of a very important lesson:
As a leader, it’s your job to present your message in the most effective way possible to people. You don’t want your personal preference or freedom to be thing that causes them to completely miss the point of your message. Even more, you don’t want to create a stumbling block that keeps God from being able to do whatever He needs to do in their lives.
The Apostle Paul addresses this very issue in 1 Corinthians 8. (He talks about eating meat that was sacrificed to idols, but it can be applied to any questionable area that is not specifically addressed in the Bible.)
“So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that “An idol is nothing at all in the world” and that “There is no God but one.” For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.
But not everyone possesses this knowledge. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat sacrificial food they think of it as having been sacrificed to a god, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.” (I Corinthians 8:4-8)
The thing that we as leaders need to recognize is this:
“Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols?
So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge.
When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.
Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.” (1 Corinthians 8:9-13)
Paul’s answer to this age-old problem is simple: When it comes to questionable things, do whatever benefits the Christian with the weaker conscience. Don’t cause someone to sin just because you don’t have a problem with it.
As leaders, we need to be especially careful to follow Paul’s example and make the commitment that if our freedom is going to keep someone from hearing our message or following Jesus, than we need to give up our freedom because the price isn’t worth it.
For us, it meant changing songs.
For the person who offended me, it probably means that he should find something else to tell a joke about in his presentation.
What does it mean to you?
Even more importantly, the question all of us as leaders need to ask ourselves is, “Is expressing my personal freedom or lack of conviction in a gray area worth the cost of keeping someone from following Jesus?”
Is that a tremendous amount of responsibility?
Yes---but that’s what it means to be a leader---that’s all there is to it.