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When I don’t have to watch lectures for class over my lunch hour, I like watching TED Talks. If you’ve never heard of TED Talks, learn about them here. Though some raise healthy cautions about the TED Talk concept, they get me thinking, which is always good (and dangerous).
Last year I watched a great TED Talk by Margaret Heffernan, world-renowned writer and speaker (among other things), on the topic of “willful blindness.” The video is at the bottom of the post if you’re interested.
What is “willful blindness,” you ask? Ms. Heffernan defines it, in short, as “information that you should know and could know, but somehow manage not to know.” It is a legal term, basically saying that you have chosen not to know.
It’s everywhere, she says, citing a number of different cases of corruption and abuse in business, religion, government, and otherwise.
Stop sacrificing the Great Commission on the altar of the status quo
Studies have shown that 85% of employees in the United States and Europe know there is a problem in their workplace, but choose to do nothing about it. It is a human problem, she says, not a regional problem. Some people are willfully blind because of fear, feelings of helplessness, or the thought of becoming a whistleblower. And no one likes whistleblowers–those are slimy folks right?
My question is this: are we willfully blind in our churches? As the body of Christ, do we intentionally turn a blind eye to problems in the Church as a whole, or more specifically, in our local congregations? Why do we ignore problems that persist in our churches? Are we like the rest of the world, afraid of being labeled as some sort of pharisaical whistleblower in our church?
What if your church would be better off if you had the courage to speak up and help solve problems that may plague your congregation? Can you think of a persistent issue in your church that needs to be dealt with? Why aren’t you dealing with it?
Let’s focus the questions a bit. Pastors, are you willfully blind toward the needs of the young people in your church or toward reaching young people in general? You think things like:
“I know we’re having trouble reaching young people, but that’s their problem, not ours.”
“Reaching young people would make us have to change, which would make our congregation uncomfortable.”
“We’re happy with the people we’re reaching. Young people can find churches of other young people.”
Pastors, if you’re willfully blind to the Millennial generation, you cannot be surprised when you don’t reach them. Stop complaining about them and start loving them.
Reaching young people is hard. They can be fickle. They can be dodgy. They can be cheap. They will require you to change and maybe even take a hit on your bottom line.
Stop sacrificing the Great Commission on the altar of the status quo and do the hard work of reaching young people!
Seeking to only serve those like us is a chronic human problem. It is not simply a pastor problem, a white problem, or an American problem. Pastors, be brave, depend on Jesus, and attempt to reach people unlike yourself. Older pastors need to reach younger people. White pastors need to reach black people. Latino pastors need to reach Asian people. Young pastors reach older people.
Reaching people unlike yourself is going to force you to rely on someone other than yourself. Stop pushing people to trust Jesus from your pulpit if you’re not willing to trust him yourself.
Don’t let your comfort zone kill your church. Stop turning a blind eye to those unlike yourself. Reach other ages, reach other races, reach other cultures.
Don’t be the 85%. Challenge the normal. Be uncomfortable. Trust Jesus.