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Negative Google reviews show need for the Gospel, and opposition to it

Negative (and positive) comments about Living Stone Church tend to appear more often immediately after the church holds an event like VBS or a community festival. Photo from Facebook

BROOMFIELD, Colo. (BP) — Many conversations come out of The Living Stone Church and its relationship with this city located between Denver and Boulder. The overwhelming majority of them are positive. However, some occur that remind Lead Pastor Keith Baldridge and others that not all are fans of the Gospel.

That became apparent in a surge of negative Google reviews of the church. All but one of those reviews, submitted by people unfamiliar with church leaders, were eventually removed by Google after Baldridge flagged them.

A church’s website is its virtual front door, and people check reviews there just like they do for a restaurant, Baldridge told Baptist Press. It’s an important lesson for other churches to protect their online identity.

Living Stone isn’t the only church in the area to experience such pushback. Those churches tend to preach a Gospel that places Christ above all and a devotion to Scripture – traits that attract attention from people who want to have earnest Gospel conversations but also from those opposed.

“You need to be vigilant,” said Baldridge, who has served in his role since Living Stone launched seven years ago. “We’ve had more negative comments in the last six months than when we first started.”

Those comments tend to appear – alongside positive ones – after the church has had a public outreach such as vacation Bible school or a community festival.

“Since there’s not a church culture here, and Christianity isn’t popular, Jesus followers are confronted with the reality of standing out from everyone else,” said Sherri Baldridge, Keith’s wife and Living Stone’s admin and women’s director.

Any major city in the western United States is going to have a population of 90-95 percent who don’t have a relationship with Christ, Keith Baldridge said. He added that should the Mountain and Pacific time zones be their own country, it would be the fourth-largest concentration in the world of such a group.

It’s an important reminder for those who live in more churched areas.

The summer brings mission teams to churches like Living Stone that are located outside of the Bible Belt. In meeting with these groups, Baldridge reminds them of some things.

“When you’re here, you’re us,” he said. “You are a part of Living Stone.”

That leads into his second point – do no harm. Be vigilant about how you are being perceived, and don’t get locked into an argument with someone who Living Stone will be trying to reach long after the mission team has left.

Those blend into his final word of advice.

“Be flexible,” Baldridge said. “The Lord may open a door while they’re here and we may need to adjust plans.”

An older pastor, one who had served in the state for a long time, talked to Baldridge once about the nature of ministry there. There is an element of spiritual warfare, the man said, with elements of Satanism a part of it. But opponents as well as allies can clarify if you’re standing rightly.

“For every negative comment we get, there are about 50-100 people open to talking about the Gospel,” Baldridge said. “The reality is that pushback will continue or even escalate. But it’s good for us to remember that our battle isn’t against flesh and blood.”