3. Do you know what you are talking about?
Recently, a leader in our denomination was reprimanded by his trustees for speaking out hastily and callously on the Trayvon Martin situation (in which a “neighborhood watch” man shot and killed young Martin who happened to be unarmed, was apparently unthreatening, and was black). On his radio program, the leader attacked several well-known black spokesmen for turning everything into a racism issue and seemingly dismissed the entire issue. Repercussions were immediate. He found out in a New York minute that his remarks were not well received, that he was speaking from ignorance, and that he was doing more harm than good. Trustees demanded he apologize, canceled his radio program, and issued a formal reprimand.
Before taking a public stand, Pastor, it’s a good idea to ask if you are well informed. Have you read the controversial book you are considering giving a negative review from the pulpit? Have you actually listened to the press interview given by the public figure that has enraged so many and about which you are planning to comment? Have you seen the movie you are close to condemning? Do you know for certain if the charges against the public official are true?
An old preacher who was attacking a controversial book being used in the local public schools was asked if he had read it. “When you see a crow picking at a carcass on the side of the highway,” he said, “you don’t have to poke it to know it’s dead. You don’t have to smell it to know it’s rotten.”
Maybe not. But nothing holds the church up to ridicule faster than for its leaders to be revealed as ignorant of what they are condemning. (Or endorsing either, for that matter.)
4. Will going public do more damage than good?
There is a time to speak and a time to remain silent (Ecclesiastes 3:7). Sometimes, silence is golden, and at other times, it’s just plain yellow. The Lord will have to show you which is which.
Some pastors take pride in their perceptions of themselves as prophets who, like Amos of old, took no prisoners when it came to condemning sin. In one sermon, he said, “Woe to you cows of Bashan!” (Amos 4:1) Scholars agree he was addressing the housewives of Orange County. Oops. Sorry. He was referring to the women of Samaria who lived in great luxury with no thoughts to the poor and needy.
Good thing Amos did not have to walk into the church board meeting the next day where the enraged bulls of Bashan would have been waiting to scorch his hide.
If addressing a wrong would cause more problems than it would solve, the pastor should move slowly and prayerfully.
Personally, I see no New Testament mandate for the pastor to be a sin-prospectoring prophet. The New Testament pastor is a shepherd of the Lord’s people, a bearer of good news (“Gospel”), sent to bind up the broken-hearted and set the captives free.