When 12,000 evangelical leaders saturated Louisville, did any impression of the gospel remain?

Photo by Jesse Jackson. Louisville Skyline by Chris Watson, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

On April 19, 2022, approximately 12,000 evangelicals church leaders of several denominations participated in Together for the Gospel in downtown Louisville, Kentucky.

For three days, pastors, elders, deacons, youth pastors, church planters, seminary teachers and other leaders descended on 20 to 30 blocks of downtown Louisville. Gathered at the Kentucky International Convention Center (KICC), Christian leaders heard sermons from John Piper, Mark Dever, David Platt, HB Charles Jr., Ligon Duncan, Sinclair Ferguson, Christian Lwanda, Kevin DeYoung, Shai Linne, Afshin Ziafat, Greg Gilbert, Bobby Scott, Juan Sanchez and Alistair Begg.

Between sessions, conference attendees had the opportunity to explore downtown Louisville and its wide array of eateries, eateries, and cafes.

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On the afternoon of the third day, a thought came to mind while eating at a well-known restaurant chain: “If 12,000 people who love the Lord and have been encouraged by the Word of God over the Last 36 hours visited the establishments of downtown Louisville, wouldn’t the smell of the gospel have been left among those who worked in these places? »

A friend and conference speaker and I got on city scooters and set off in search of the answer.

What we found was somewhat discouraging.

We visited seven establishments that were impacted by a large number of conference attendees over the three days, which included on-site restaurants, fast food restaurants and well-known cafes. We asked the workers two questions: “How were you treated by the massive number of people trying to buy food or coffee? » ; and “Did you know why the large groups of people were in town?”

The first place we came to was a restaurant. When we asked the hostess how she was treated by the large crowd of people, she quickly replied “not well” and used the word “rude” to describe the Christians who had eaten there. She shared that she felt “suffocated” by their presence, so we asked her if she knew who they were. She replied that she knew some of them were Southern Baptists and said that “they are the worst.”

She went on to emotionally explain that she was once a devout follower of the church, but was hurt by the church years ago. She said the past few days had triggered past hurts and she left work with extreme anxiety.

Telling her that we ourselves attended the conference and were Southern Baptists, we expressed that we were truly sorry for the way she was treated, thanking her for her honesty. As we were preparing to leave for the next restaurant, she came out and told us that she greatly appreciated our attitudes, expressing that the way we treated her was not what she had experienced over the years. last days. She even offered to sit down to tell us her story after she left work.

Barry F. Howard