Pastors should be preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ of course. They should lead their people to the Saviour, and help them grow as disciples of Christ. They should be teaching the whole counsel of God as they faithfully exposit Scripture.
But overwhelmingly evangelical pastors have avoided all things political and social. They avoid like the plague the hot potato issues of the day, and prefer silence to prophetic pronouncements. Doug Giles wonders why this is. He asks, “Why Do Pastors Punt On Political Issues?” He offers seven possible reasons:
-They’re scared of Obama & the IRS
-Their Denomination forbids them
-It’ll cost them money
-Some demonized deacon told them, ‘no politics’
-They’re ignorant about the issues
-They believe church and politics don’t mix
-They think the world’s about to end so… ‘who cares?’
One can think of at least seven other reasons:
-They think these are not “spiritual” issues
-They think these are not “gospel” issues
-They have a fear of man
-They don’t want to rock the boat
-They want to keep everyone happy
-They want to keep the money flowing in
-They are cowards
Most pastors refuse to even discuss the important moral issues of our time, whether abortion, the attack on marriage, or the threat of Islam. They want to play it safe, mollycoddle their listeners, and tell them what they want to hear rather than what they need to hear.
For years now I have been urging Christians to be involved in the political, cultural, social and intellectual battles of our day. And pastors have a role to play in this as well. But too many refuse to fulfil their responsibilities here. They will argue that they should only preach on “gospel” issues.
But how is God’s design for human sexuality, marriage and family not a gospel issue, especially when militant minority groups are working overtime to destroy all three? How is the sanctity of human life, and the protection of those being led to the slaughter not a gospel issue?
How is defending each person as made in God’s image not a gospel issue? Wilberforce of course did just this, and saw it as a direct biblical concern which pastors and others must be involved in. And it is a good thing too, or we would still be fighting against slavery today.
But it is not just Giles and I who have been bothered by this, and perceived this glaring need from the pulpits. Research backs up our concerns. American statistician and researcher George Barna has recently looked into this and makes it clear that this is indeed a major omission on the part of most pastors:
On Thursday, George Barna – research expert and founder of The Barna Group – shared with American Family Radio’s “Today’s Issues” about new information he’s compiling at American Culture and Faith Institute over the last two years, gauging where theologically conservative pastors are at politically.
“What we’re finding is that when we ask them about all the key issues of the day, [90 percent of them are] telling us, Yes, the Bible speaks to every one of these issues. Then we ask them: Well, are you teaching your people what the Bible says about those issues? – and the numbers drop…to less than 10 percent of pastors who say they will speak to it.”
When researchers ask those pastors what else they are willing to do to get their people active in the political process, Barna said “it’s almost nothing. So the thing that struck me has been that when we talk about the separation of church and state, it’s that churches have separated themselves from the activities of the state – and that’s to the detriment of the state and its people,” stated the researcher.
Wow, scary stuff. Chuck Baldwin comments on these figures:
Did you get that? Ninety-percent of America’s pastors say they KNOW that the Bible speaks to all of these issues, but they are deliberately determined to NOT teach these Biblical principles. That is an amazing admission!
It would have been one thing if the pastors had said that these political issues were not relevant to scripture, and, therefore, they didn’t feel called to address them. But the pastors are admitting that, yes, they KNOW that the scriptures DO relate to our current political issues, but they are deliberately choosing to NOT teach those scriptural principles. Holy heads-in-the-sand, Batman!
The report goes on: “Why the disconnect? According to Barna, the answer is simple. He suggests asking pastors how someone would know if their church is ‘successful’ – which he did. ‘There are five factors that the vast majority of pastors turn to [when asked that question],’ he explained. ‘Attendance, giving, number of programs, number of staff, and square footage.'”
There you have it: pastors are more concerned about being “successful” than they are being truthful. They believe if they tell their congregations the truth, their churches will not be “successful”… Shazam! Where did pastors come up with this definition of “success?” You know where: from men such as Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, et al.
The megachurch phenomenon of the last several decades transformed how pastors think and behave. Pastors read the “successful church” books and publications; they attend the “successful church” conferences; they watch the “successful church” videos, etc. They then try to mimic the tactics and strategies they have been taught. And if there is one constant theme promulgated by the likes of Osteen, Warren, and Hybels, it is pastors must avoid controversy like the plague. Again, one must realize that the goal is NOT being faithful to Biblical principles; the goal is building a “successful” church as noted above.
It is time for Christians to acknowledge that these ministers are not pastors; they are CEOs. They are not Bible teachers; they are performers. They are not shepherds; they are hirelings. It is also time for Christians to be honest with themselves: do they want a pastor who desires to be faithful to the scriptures, or do they want a pastor who is simply trying to be “successful?”
He contrasts all this to Paul:
When the Apostle Paul listed his ministerial pedigree, here is what it looked like (II Cor. 11):
-Stripes above measure
-In prisons frequently
-In deaths often
-Beaten with rods
-Hunger and thirst
-Cold and nakedness
I don’t see attendance, offerings, programs, staff, or square footage in that list at all, do you?
No wonder we hardly ever hear anything about the crucial issues of our time from the pulpit. Whether it is the homosexual agenda, or the war on the unborn, most pastors prefer to be “successful”. And by that we can only say, they prefer to be men-pleasers.
So what do we do? Baldwin offers this advice: “In the end, it always comes down to We the People, doesn’t it? If you want a church where the pastor is willing to teach the Biblical principles that relate to our everyday lives – including our political lives – you might have to vote with your feet and go find one. That is, if that kind of thing is truly important to you.”