Last week, I wrote about a restaurant in New York City that “evicted” a church that had been renting out space for their Sunday morning meetings. That post generated a good bit of discussion in the comments, some of which contended that the restaurant was within its rights to put the church out. Fox News personality Todd Starnes has since picked up the story, underlining that the church had been “evicted” from the space it was renting. On Friday, the restaurant put out a statement telling their side of the story and apparently objecting to the use of the term “evict.”
Just to clarify, the intent of my original post was not to gin up culture war between evangelicals and a restaurant. In fact, I didn’t even mention the restaurant’s name. My point was simply to highlight the difficulties faced by The Gallery Church in hopes that some readers might be moved to help alleviate the financial need that The Gallery Church is facing. No one at The Gallery Church asked me to do this. I just wanted sympathetic readers to know about the need, not to get outraged about what the restaurant did.
I really appreciate Pastor Freddy T. Wyatt’s response to the whole situation. He’s not angry or bitter about the church’s ouster from their meeting space. In fact, he says that the church still enjoys a friendly relationship with the establishment and that he intends to continue eating there. Wyatt also says that, “We want to maintain good relationships with the people in our neighborhood.” I say amen to that and godspeed in the effort to keep the main thing the main thing—reaching New York City for Christ.
In my view, what the restaurant did is not really the story here. Is anyone really surprised that a business would respond to its customers? It is their right to rent their space (or not rent it) to whomever they choose. The real story here is the community that apparently cannot tolerate Christians meeting in public space. The restaurant says they received an “unanticipated community response” against the church’s meeting there on Sunday mornings. According to Wyatt, the restaurant indicated that “there was an enormous amount of backlash… The restaurant said if it had only been a couple of phone calls it would have been one thing – but it was more than that.”
The community backlash points to the reality that as Christians we are sojourning. At times, we will meet opposition for preaching Christ, but that should be no surprise to us (1 Peter 4:12). Jesus told us that it would be this way (John 15:18-20). The land of the free may become less free for us in some ways, and we won’t be exempt from taking our lumps simply because we live in the United States. Already some of our brothers and sisters are beginning to feel the pinch. And we need to pray for them and support them and to be ready when our time comes.