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.
They 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.