Churches Refusing to be Salt and Light (Or, Why So Many Pastors are Gutless Wonders)

OK, so we have some new research just out on the American church scene, and boy am I ever surprised – not. The research data is quite simple: most pastors refuse to speak out on the important issues of the day for fear of being controversial. Um, tell me something I don’t already know.

While it is nice to have a bit of social science data confirming what we already knew, it certainly comes as no surprise. I and others have been saying this for years now. Most churches are filled with spineless wonders who would never rock the boat for any reason.

salt and lightThey will never speak out on absolutely vital issues like abortion or the homosexual agenda for fear of getting folks upset, losing their audience, and worst of all, seeing a big drop in the weekly offering. For these and other reasons the cowards in our pulpits are denying truth and denying Christ.

Although this research has to do with the church scene in America, it would be just as true of other Western nations, including Australia. As Sir Weary Dunlop is purported to have once said, “The problem with Australia is that we have wimps in the pulpits and cowards in the pews.”

So just what does this research have to say? Let me quote from one religious news item on this:

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.
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.
“Now all of those things are good measures, except for one tiny fact: Jesus didn’t die for any of them,” Barna continued. “What I’m suggesting is [those pastors] won’t probably get involved in politics because it’s very controversial. Controversy keeps people from being in the seats, controversy keeps people from giving money, from attending programs.

Here are some of the numbers:

Many theologically conservative pastors agree the Bible speaks to key issues of the day, but research indicates only a handful of them say they will speak to it.
What are the most likely reasons a pastor might refrain from preaching what the Bible says about controversial political issues? (Select up to three)
-Distaste for politics 9.03% (265 votes)
-Threat of punishment by ACLU or IRS 31.86% (935 votes)
-Unfamiliar with those issues 7.53% (221 votes)
-Told to do so by elders/deacons 15.78% (463 votes)
-Denominational constraints 13.15% (386 votes)
-Believes politics, church are separate 23% (665 votes)
Total Votes: 2,935

Wow, those are some rather damning stats. I am not alone in being concerned about the deliberate refusal of most pastors to speak out on some of the things that really matter. Chuck Baldwin has also just written a column on this and is worth quoting:

That 90% of America’s pastors are not addressing any of the salient issues affecting Christian people’s political or societal lives should surprise no one–especially the readers of this column. It has been decades since even a sizeable minority of pastors have bothered to educate and inform their congregations as to the Biblical principles relating to America’s political, cultural, and societal lives. But the part of the research that did somewhat surprise me was this statement by Barna: “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.”
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!
I confess: this statistic caught me off-guard. So, we can forever dismiss ignorance as justification for pastors remaining silent.
Now, all of the church members out there who have been forgiving of their ministers for not speaking out on the issues by saying things like, “He really doesn’t understand what’s going on,” need to reevaluate their leniency–if they are intellectually honest, that is–and if they truly care about the future of their country.
Church member, admit it: that pastor of yours who refuses to speak out on the issues KNOWS the Bible speaks to these issues, and he is DELIBERATELY refusing to teach those Biblical principles to you and your family.
So, we are not dealing with IGNORANT pastors; we are dealing with DELIBERATELY DISOBEDIENT pastors. They are PURPOSELY CHOOSING to remain silent. Will that make any difference to the Christians in the pews who say they want their pastor to take a stand but are willing to overlook his “ignorance?” Probably not. But, at least, we now know what the real issue is, don’t we?

As to the findings about what pastors regard as success, he says this:

Where do you find anything in the New Testament that measures a pastor’s success by the number of people attending his church? Or by how large his offerings are? Or by how many programs his church has? Or by how many staff members he has? Or by how large his facilities are? In fact, the early New Testament church didn’t even own property or buildings.
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?
When Paul wrote his own epitaph, it read, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” (II Timothy 4:7). He didn’t say, “I had a large congregation, we had big offerings, we had a lot of programs, I had a large staff, and we had large facilities.”
In the world of Osteen, Warren, and Hybels (and 90% of America’s pastors), the Apostle Paul’s ministry must have been a dismal failure. And how many church pulpit committees would even consider the pastoral résumé such as what the Apostle Paul wrote above?
Please understand this: America’s malaise is directly due to the deliberate disobedience of America’s pastors–and the willingness of the Christians in the pews to tolerate the disobedience of their pastor. Nothing more! Nothing less!
Oh, and get this: according to the survey conducted by Barna, guess what the number one reason is why pastors choose to be “successful” and not “controversial?” You guessed it: fear of the IRS 501c3 tax-exempt status. Who would have thought it? (Yes, that question is deliberately facetious.)

Yes all this simply confirms yet again what many of us have already known for a long time now. The churches are losing big time in the West because we have cowards leading our congregations, and the evangellyfish in the pews are quite happy with things that way.

No wonder we are making almost no difference in the surrounding culture. No wonder much of the church is seen as just a joke. No wonder it is increasingly without any godly influence. We have simply told Jesus we will not obey his clear command to be salt and light.

A disobedient church is never a true church. A disobedient pastor is never a true pastor. A disobedient Christian is never a true Christian.

Repent church.

[1531 words]

14 Replies to “Churches Refusing to be Salt and Light (Or, Why So Many Pastors are Gutless Wonders)”

  1. G’day Bill,

    The church I pastor addressed this issue last Sunday, along with many Presbyterian churches.

    You may or may not know that the Presbyterian Church of NSW is making a stand on this issue.

    The NSW church is asking the Presbyterian Church of Australia that, should the state change the definition of ‘marriage’ to include homosexual couples, we withdraw from conducting ‘marriages’ according to Commonwealth law.

    We can marry people according to God’s law, and if they want to register with the state, before or after the Christian ceremony, they can.

    Should they decide not to, the couple can change their name by Deed Poll, write new wills, and set up house etc. which comes under the NSW definition of a de facto (of the fact) marriage.

    I’m not a legal expert, but it seems that this is a good way forward for Christians (though I’m not admitting defeat!)

    The church is suggesting that we going back to the situation before 1856 in NSW where churches conducted marriages, fully recognised as marriage. The requirement to register with the state only came in that year.

    Not all ministers and pastors are taking up this issue, regardless of the consequences, being like salt and light as best as we can be.

    (Rev.) Andrew Campbell

  2. For those in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne looking for a church committed to preaching the whole counsel of God to every sphere of life and aspect of our culture; check out Acts Bible Church: a family integrated church, which I co-pastor, in Lilydale.

    More details and recent sermons at our website:

    Mansel Rogerson

  3. Anyone know of a family integrated church northside of Brisbane? I have really, really looked. It is exactly as you say. The church leaders say they are against abortion, homosexuality, immodesty, that they preach a biblical world view but they never preach against sin – ‘I wouldn’t want to make someone uncomfortable’ one church leader told me.

    We have women pastors; youth groups full of immodest girls and immoral, crude, crass boys; 90% or so of children educated in state schools in humanism and atheism who then fill the churches with their indoctrination, parents encouraging youth to watch movies with ungodly content. i could go on and on. My children complain that when they hang around ‘church kids’ they want to start dressing immodestly and behaving in an ungodly manner! What’s with that! Why would we attend there? Talk about causing little ones to stumble.

    Then there’s the whole issue of vaccination. When I discovered that vaccines were derived from aborted foetal tissue (yes, even now in Australia), I sent the supporting medical journal articles to at least 7 pastors and church leaders that I knew. I said, this has to be told. The people need to be warned. All I could hear in response was crickets chirping.

    There comes a time when there are more tares than wheat in the church. There is a two tiered system of church in China for a reason. I believe in Australia a transition is taking place, where here also a 2 tiered church system will emerge – the current situation just can’t continue. It’s not sustainable.

  4. The issue of the silence of the pastors is not a recent phenomena. At least since the 17thC (even earlier) have the churches been beaten into silence – and irrelevance.

  5. One Law – God’s, One Marriage Ceremony, One man to One women, One Church, One Shepherd – Jesus, One Government – The Word of God!

  6. Truth Watch NZ has, in various ways, been calling on Church leaders to properly equip Christians to stand for truth in the world, but we have found pastors reject our calls out of hand. They are both deaf and blind to the state of the Church – deliberately so. Is this all part of the ‘great falling away’ prophesied in the NT?

  7. Hi folks! At least it is in encouraging that we are being made to think really hard about our faith and about what we can do to be more in tune with Jesus. I’m as guilty as anyone of being a comfy christian who thinks a bit of bible skim reading late at night and a once-a-week visit to a church makes me a “Good Christian” but even me, I’m starting to ask the big questions. That can only be a good thing. It’s also important to remember – and Bill is great at reminding us – that there is nothing happening here that would have surprised Jesus and he gave us the weapons to survive it. Exciting times ahead!

  8. I agree many pastors are ‘gutless wonders’ but not because of they’re not speaking out against the vital issues, but many pastors are also silent on preaching sin, the Gospel and making disciples. Which this article is void of even mentioning once. God isn’t even mentioned once. With out the Gospel no church is a true church of Jesus Christ.

  9. There is a word to describe these types of pastors, “Hirelings”, as they care not for the sheep (John 10:12-13, only money. Instead they just end up with a flock of goats.

  10. Thanks Scott. But of course had you bothered to read the 3,366 other articles found on this site you would have discovered that I mention “sin, the Gospel and making disciples” in over half of them, and in at least several hundred of them I have castigated preachers for not speaking out on these things, eg:

    It of course goes without saying that the reason so few are speaking on the vital issues of the day is because few are actually proclaiming the gospel.

  11. Scott, this site is not a church for the preaching of the Word to a congregation.

    It is a blog site of application of the Word to real life situations.

    That is similar to what a pastor should be doing with his sermons, but different in that there is no direct relationship of pastor to congregation here.

    You application is amiss.

  12. Now I get it! There are huge issues in churches with family and friends of homosexuals who have “come out.” While family and friends struggle as to what to do with this, how to be loving but call it the sin that it is,churches are largely silent. Meantime other churches that accept gay marriage are welcoming homosexuals to take part I their church, seeing this lifestyle not as a sin, but as something they must do. The longer we remain silent on this, the more difficult things will become. Christianity is quickly becoming irrelevant.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: