The pastor stands in the pulpit, clears his throat, and waits for the undivided attention of the congregation. His silence signals the membership that something big is up, that what the preacher is about to say will be long remembered.
He begins, “As most of you know, the local school board has decided that Gideons International will no longer be allowed to distribute New Testaments to the children in this district. This greatly concerns me. I will admit that I am angrier than I have been in a long time.”
Seated in his congregation are three of the six members of the local school board. As the preacher continues, they can feel all eyes turned in their direction. They become fidgety and wish the pastor would “just preach the Bible.”
In another community, the pastor announces his opposition to the United Way budget which devotes a portion of its income to Planned Parenthood. A few miles up the interstate, the pastor is wrestling with whether to speak out on corruption inside the police force.
Across town, a pastor wants to address the racial divide that is paralyzing this country. He has deep convictions and something to say. He’s been waiting for the Spirit’s leadership on when to preach on it and what to say. The time, he feels, is now.
These are major decisions leaders of the Lord’s churches must make. The stakes are high, the issues are important, and the ramifications may be severe. Going public on controversial matters can make or break a pastor’s ministry in a church.
Let’s remind ourselves that nowhere in scripture are we commanded to address every evil, take a stand against every wrong, or be the moral authority on every sin.
The pastor who attempts this will have time or energy for nothing else. He has to be selective and discerning, wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove.
Here are questions pastors should ask before taking a public stand on issues dividing the community.