The pastor stands in the pulpit, clears his throat, and waits for the congregation’s undivided attention. 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 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 the local Planned Parenthood office. A few miles up the interstate, the pastor is wrestling with whether to speak out on corruption inside the police force.
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.
Here are questions to ask, Pastor, before you take a public stand on an issue facing your community.
Nowhere in Scripture is the servant of the Lord commanded to address every evil he sees, to take a stand against every wrong, to be the moral authority on every sin.
The pastor who tries to do this will have time or energy for nothing else. He has to be selective and discerning.
1. Is there a clear word from Scripture on this subject?
If the issue is honesty or integrity, faithfulness in marriage, or the welfare of a child, the lines are sharp and clear. However, the extent to which you speak out is another matter.
A politician is accused in the newspaper of putting his family on the payroll against the ethical code he had signed. That politician happens to be a regular member of your church. His children are active in the church’s youth program, and his wife—the one he put on the payroll at a high salary—sings in the choir.
What to do? Answer: Obey the law of love. Do the loving thing here.
2. What does the Holy Spirit inside you say?
That is NOT asking, Pastor, whether you are concerned about the matter or feel deeply on certain issues. If you cannot tell whether the urge within you arises from your own convictions or from the Spirit of the Living God, then keep quiet until you can.
The best way to make a difficult situation worse is for a public figure (like yourself, minister of God) to pontificate on an issue in the flesh.
No one loves your congregation more than the Lord Himself. You can trust Him to lead you correctly and wisely.