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Should Pastors Stay Out of Public Debate?

More often than I can count, I see Christians on TV taking a vocal stand on one side of a particular issue—political, ethical or theological.

Television shows have been cancelled, celebrities have been condemned and restaurants have been boycotted—all based on a few hot-button issues that seem to get everyone riled up. More than ever, pastors and Christian leaders are landing themselves in hot water because of their loudly stated beliefs.

The debates are beckoning on Twitter, and television, and within our church walls. The temptation to join in has never been greater.

And in response to these polarizing topics, I’m not willing to say definitively whether pastors should or shouldn’t speak up. I have to leave that to your individual conviction from God. But what I can say is this:

Before you join the debate, here are four things you need to do:

1. Decide what you believe. 

Before stepping into public debate, it’s crucial to have a solid foundation of belief. Discuss the issues with people you trust. Spend time in prayer.

You don’t have to have all the answers, but if you’re going to join in the public conversation, you need to know what you want to say.

2. Decide how publicly you want to debate.

Social media and blogs provide us an instantaneous platform to shout our opinions. It’s a great place to discuss ideas and hear what others have to say (and ultimately move the Kingdom of God forward), but debate on the public stage isn’t something to enter into haphazardly.

The more vocally you participate, the greater the chance the conversation will escalate.

No matter what you decide to do—to enter into the conversation or avoid it—you want to do it on purpose, not during a momentary slip of the tongue (or thumbs). Those unplanned comments are usually the ones that get public figures in the most trouble.

In other words, if you’re going to debate, decide so ahead of time, knowing precisely what you want to say. If debating isn’t your thing, stay out of it. But make that decision with intention and clarity.

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With over a dozen years of local church ministry Justin has spent the last several years starting business' and ministries that partner with pastors and churches to advance the Kingdom. He is the founder of Helpstaff.me (now Vanderbloemen Search), Oaks School of Leadership, and MinistryCoach.tv all while staying involved in the local church. Justin is obsessed with connecting people to people and lives his life daily to make the world a smaller place. He now serves as a consultant in the area of strategic relations predominately working with the Assemblies of God, helping to build bridges with people and ministries to more effectively reach more people. He blogs regularly about what he has learned from making connection at www.justinlathrop.com.