On April 19, 2022, an estimated 12,000 evangelical church leaders from multiple denominations attended Together for the Gospel in downtown Louisville, Kentucky.
For three days, pastors, elders, deacons, youth pastors, church planters, seminary professors, and other leaders descended upon 20 to 30 square blocks of downtown Louisville. Meeting at the Kentucky International Convention Center (KICC), Christian leaders heard sermons from John Piper, Mark Dever, David Platt, H.B. Charles Jr., Ligon Duncan, Sinclair Ferguson, Christian Lwanda, Kevin DeYoung, Shai Linne, Afshin Ziafat, Greg Gilbert, Bobby Scott, Juan Sanchez, and Alistair Begg.
In between sessions, conference goers were given the opportunity to explore downtown Louisville and its vast array of restaurants, eateries, and coffee shops.
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On the afternoon of the third day, a thought came to my 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 in downtown Louisville, wouldn’t the scent of the gospel have been left among those working at these places?”
A friend and fellow conference goer and I got on city scooters and set off on a quest to discover the answer.
What we found was somewhat disheartening.
We visited seven establishments that were impacted by large numbers of conference attendees over the three days, which included dine-in restaurants, fast food restaurants, and well-known coffee shops. We asked the workers two questions: “How were you treated by the mass amounts of people trying to purchase food or coffee?”; and “Did you know why the large groups of people were in town?”
The first place we came to was a dine-in restaurant. When we asked the hostess how she had been treated by the large crowds of people, she quickly told us “not well” and used the word “rude” to describe the Christians who had been eating there. She shared that she felt “suffocated” by their presence, so we asked 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 church goer but was hurt by the church years ago. She said that the last few days triggered past hurt, 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 prepared to leave for the next restaurant, she came outside and told us she greatly appreciated our attitudes, expressing that how we treated her was not what she’d experienced over the last few days. She even offered to sit down to tell us her story after she got off work.