The role of values–and ministry related crises

Sitting at SeaTac waiting for another flight–this was never going to be my life. This time to Nashville to speak at a conference of communicators who work for megachurches and large ministry organizations. It’s been interesting to contemplate the specific issues these organizations face when confronted with a reputation crisis.

The issue again is trust and what is needed to keep it and build it. The challenge for Christian organizations is somewhat unique in this culture at this time because of the basic animosity of the mainstream media and cultural elite including higher education toward anything deemed evangelical or conservative.

It comes down to a very basic conflict in values and how that conflict is played out in media coverage. Particularly when the event involves the moral downfall of a celebrity Christian leader. Value conflicts include the perception of a “holier than thou” attitude. Anyone who says, in effect, I’m going to heaven and you’re not is open to such a charge. It comes to a basic misunderstanding of the evangelical concept of grace, but the problem is culturally we equate going to heaven with righteousness or goodness and therefore when someone suggests they are going to heaven and you are not, it is understood as saying: I’m good enough and you are not. That does not sit well. And when such message comes from very high profile individuals whom many flock to, there is a certain glee in the media and in the cultural elite public when such a person demonstrates moral failing.

This basic conflict in values makes responding to a major crisis event involving moral failure also more challenging, because the internal audiences and key stakeholders subscribe to very different values than those outside. But you cannot have two messages. So bringing the basic messages and actions to be taken together in a way that has integrity and recognizes the difference in values is quite a challenge.

It will be fun exploring these ideas with a room full of ministry organization communicators.