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Preaching About It *IS* Doing Something About It

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It seems like all “we” do is preach about problems without actually doing something about them. If you’ve been a church leader for four or five years or more, you know how significantly the year 2020 changed everything about ministry, at least for a long season.

The Covid-19 pandemic changed how we gathered, preached, and did discipleship. It challenged how we would show love in practical ways to our neighbors. And it proved to be oddly polarizing along political lines. The deaths of Amhaud Arberry, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd followed by ensuing protests instigated a swell of conversation about social and racial justice and policing. And that year’s presidential election was the most divisive in a few generations.

Pastors found themselves in impossible conversations navigating issues they often felt ill-equipped to handle. The whole year was a wake-up call to the church to take notice of society’s problems and address them with spiritual wisdom. But pastors often found themselves saying one thing while congregations were hearing an opposing message from their favorite media sources.

It’s hard for a half-hour sermon on Sunday to influence someone who is ingesting multiple hours of talk radio, cable news, and social media. But we are messengers. We are ambassadors. We are spokespeople and therefore, we must speak.

One of the deflections often offered to pastors by sensitive church members whose egos have been irritated by being confronted with their own apathy and complicity is the accusation that you should preach less about those topics because…

“All we’re doing is talking about it and not acting on it.”

And to that point, I have a word for you who preach, teach, and lead congregations. Let this be clear in your mind.

Preaching About It *IS* Doing Something About It

Otherwise, most prophets were wasting their time addressing the problems of their day. According to this logic, Isaiah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Elijah, and dozens of others who delivered messages about injustice and inequality were wasting their time. They could have been doing something about those issues instead of just talking.

But, as Abraham Heschel said, “words create worlds.”

Culture is something that is cultivated (notice those are two words from the same root). Culture gets created, and one of the primary ways culture gets created is through words. Both the written word and the spoken word are powerful instruments for moving entire generations of people to alter the direction of society for the next.