Pastors, you must preach on current social issues. This is my second of three posts explaining how desperately your congregation needs it. Without it they’ll never be ready and equipped to navigate our world’s newly growing anti-Christian hostility.
I stated my overall reasons yesterday in Part 1:
Today I’ll cover points 3 and 4. Yesterday’s article was on points 1 and 2. There I said, in short, that the questions your church members get bombarded with every day have significant spiritual implications. They’re not “political.” They really matter for discipleship, for equipping, and for spiritual readiness.
Later, in my third article, I’ll share thoughts on when and how to teach on tough social topics. To reassure you: It’s no huge disruption. It fits surprisingly well with the preaching schedule you’ve probably already planned. I’ve also got ideas to make your study on these topics go amazingly well for you.
But first we must dwell on why it’s so important. Today’s discussion focuses on points 3 and 4 above. My point, summarized, is this:
The world is lying to you and your people. You’ve got to address the lies the way the biblical authors and prophets addressed the lies of their day: Call out the lies. Address them with real understanding. Then un-teach the lies, so you can teach the truth instead.
For if you don’t do it, who will?
Let me fill that in for you now, please.
We live in a lying world. The greatest lie of all is that the God we worship doesn’t matter. Some say that’s because he doesn’t exist, others say it’s because everyone has their own truth about God. Neither group listens to our sovereign creator God telling the truth about himself.
From that one great lie flow many, many others — as we can also see in Romans 1:18-32. How many lies are we talking about? Too many to count! Let’s give it a quick start, though:
Need I go on?
And these lies fly thick and fast from every direction. They’re on freeway billboards. They’re on YouTube like you wouldn’t believe. They sneak in on the news media. They’re taught openly in college classrooms, and all the way down to kindergarten.
ALA, through its actions and those of its members, is instrumental in creating a more equitable, diverse, and inclusive society. This includes a commitment to combating marginalization and underrepresentation within the communities served by libraries through increased understanding of the effects of historical exclusion.
That makes for a good case study, actually. See how positive they made that sound? These lies wouldn’t sell so well without having some persuasive power behind them.
So how, then, would you answer that ALA statement? Don’t you agree we should live in an equitable, inclusive society? Don’t you know the Bible says we should stand for people who are marginalized?
No. Not in the way they’re pushing it, anyway.
Of course God is for the widow and the orphan, but that doesn’t mean he supports living a lie! But your people may so easily be taken in by this. They don’t know — unless you teach them — the real goodness of God standing in his own holiness. They don’t know how good that holiness is for us, too. They have got to know that’s true, and how and why it is. Otherwise the lies will keep on looking good by comparison.
For the world’s lies really can be attractive. The world is savvy, and they know how to build a persuasive message. Your own congregation stands at risk of being persuaded. The younger the church member, the more at risk he or she is. Honestly, though, everyone is getting blasted with these good-looking lies, so everyone is vulnerable.
The world has nearly overwhelming rhetorical firepower at its disposal. The Church has little of that. How can we reach even our own people with the truth? By counting on three things we have that the world doesn’t:
So therefore the question every pastor and teacher must ask is “What am I going to do to protect my people from these lies, and establish them in truth?”
Do not think that you’ll accomplish that, though, through just teaching the Bible. Yes, the word of God is paramount. I love God’s word. I’ve read it through many times. It is our only solid, reliable, authoritative rock to stand on. It is without error in all it affirms. It is our revelation of Jesus, the Son of God and only Source of salvation.
But we’ve been talking about addressing lies and answering questions — both of which are clearly modeled in the Bible. Paul answered questions, even “secular” ones, for the Corinthians. They asked him about sex, and they asked him about other religions (meat offered to idols). He answered gladly.
Meanwhile, reading the prophets, you’ll find they didn’t just preach “the truth.” They un-taught the lies. (You’ll find examples of this in the New Testament, too.) Isaiah mocked idolatry most deliciously in Isaiah 44:9-20. One scholar has noted how deadly accurate he was in describing this religious lie. Isaiah’s picture of idolatry in that passage was exactly on the mark, down to a level of detail most of us don’t recognize today.
Isaiah named the lie, describing it in enough detail to take it apart in detail. That was part of his preaching ministry.
There’s a teaching principle underneath this. You can’t always just teach new truth. Sometimes you have to un-teach old lies, to allow new truth to be established in its place.
There’s a lie out there today, for example, that says people can choose their own sexual identity. We can teach that God determines that instead, but that runs the severe risk of leaving people with two beliefs competing for space in their minds. They’ve got to learn why the one doesn’t belong there: what’s behind that belief, why it’s not good to view humanity that way, and why it’s actually false.
So if you and I are going to preach biblically, we need to follow the Bible’s example. We’ve got to address people’s questions, and name the lies our people are bombarded with. We’ve got to understand the lies in enough detail to be able to take them apart in detail.
You can ignore all this, but if you do, your members will be confused. They’ll have society’s “truths” rattling around in their heads along with God’s truth. They won’t be secure in the true truth until they feel confident in mentally putting filing the fake “truths” in the file marked “falsehood.”
And who else is going to do that for them but you, pastor? Sure, some people in your church may do their own study. They’ll read the right books, visit the best websites, go to the right conferences.
You might tap some of them to teach youth or adult classes, and in that way you’re fulfilling (some of) your teaching responsibility by delegation. They need support from the pulpit, though, or else it’s going to seem like they’re dealing with side issues.
These aren’t trivial things. They’re not off limits for preaching, either. These lies have spiritual purposes, evil ones: They’re intended to take your people out. To kill them spiritually; or if not that, at least to deaden their effectiveness.
Don’t let that happen! Address the social issues. Speak to the lies. Speak God’s truth.
Next time I’ll share on how and when you can do this — especially when. I don’t want you to think I’m recommending this go in every sermon. Your people need to learn the Bible above all. But there are ways to fit this all together without disrupting your Bible teaching.