Does your pastor address difficult topics from the pulpit? Probably not, according to research of US pastors. According to George Barna of the Barna Group, “a vast majority of theologically conservative pastors believe the Bible speaks to societal issues, but fewer than 10 percent of these pastors are teaching people what the Bible says on these topics.” American Pastors Network says that even though these pastors know what God’s Word teaches, they don’t want to touch on topics like homosexual behavior, abortion, politics, adultery, and pornography and, I would add, the book of Genesis, because these topics to them are simply too controversial.
So why are pastors afraid to stir up controversy? Well, the American Pastors Network mentions a few reasons, but they basically boil it down to a fear of man rather than a proper fear of God. Pastors are worried about negative feedback from their congregations because “controversy keeps people from being in the seats, controversy keeps people from giving money, from attending programs.” Also, many pastors are graduating from liberal seminaries that don’t take a firm stand on the authority of Scripture and so these pastors likely don’t have a moral compass that relies on the Bible as the ultimate answer for truth and morality. Besides, many pastors have been indoctrinated to believe that taking a strong stand on these topics is supposedly to be intolerant and unloving!
Sadly, when pastors choose to neglect controversial issues, they do great damage to the spiritual growth of their congregates. We have generations of young people in our churches who simply believe what the world believes on social and moral issues (e.g., they are increasingly accepting gay “marriage”), and they don’t think biblically on these matters. In my coauthored book Ready to Return I look at the beliefs of 20-somethings within the church, and the results are shocking. Here are just some of their beliefs:
- Over 40% state they are not born again.
- 35% declare the Bible has errors or they don’t know if it has errors.
- Over 20% left school believing the Bible was less true.
- Over 45% said they were not taught to defend their faith in Sunday school.
- 45% say either homosexual behavior is not a sin or they don’t know if it is a sin.
- 40% believe “gay couples” should be allowed to marry and have legal rights, and an additional 10% say they don’t know if they should or not.
- 20% believe there are books other than the Bible that are inspired by God, and an
- additional 10% don’t know if there are.
- 65% believe if you are a good person you will go to heaven.
Pastors, teaching on controversial issues can certainly be a challenge, but I encourage you not to neglect it! You have a huge responsibility in equipping the church to think biblically about everything—including controversial social issues. If you don’t, who is going to? This is part of making disciples! Don’t neglect your important part in training and equipping the next generation. Remember, God through Jeremiah told King Zedekiah to obey God’s Word and not that of the fallible human officials. Sadly, he did not and as a result opened the door to severe consequences for him, his family, and others.
Every year, we host the Answers for Pastors conference to equip pastors to deal with some of these controversial topics in a way that refuses to compromise on God’s Word. I encourage you, if you’re a pastor or other Christian leader, to attend next October’s conference. One of our great speakers is Dr. Johnny Hunt, former president of the Southern Baptists, and he will bring some practical take-home advice for church leaders. I will also be speaking along with my friends and excellent Bible teachers Pastor Corey Abney and Pastor Brad Bigney.
If you’re not a pastor, encourage your pastor to make the trip to Northern Kentucky for this faith-affirming conference (and tour the Creation Museum next door) that will help him to better present the truth to those he serves. Our website for the October 11-13 conference is still being put together, but please hold the dates. And of course, we always invite you to stop by the Creation Museum, where you’ll be able to walk through the Bible’s history and be equipped to think biblically and scientifically about topics like evolution, the age of the Earth, and the origin of the different people groups. And visit the finished Ark Encounter, opening July 7.
Thanks for stopping by and thanks for praying,
This item was written with the assistance of AiG’s research team.