Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Telling the Pastor What to Preach?

Two recent events have generated a little thinking on this subject of who gets to decide what to preach. The first was an online discussion about preaching on pornography on Sunday morning. One person objected that it was not a Sunday morning topic, and furthermore, that people in his congregation would be uncomfortable with that topic in that forum.

The second was a news story on our local Fox affiliate, about Epic Church in Rochester Hills, who is having a six week series on the subject of Pure Sex. I saw this story the night it aired, by accident, since I do not normally watch the news. It was an interesting interview. However, this series (similar to what some other churches have done) has brought a great deal of criticism from some people, complaining that a church should not be having such a series.

Which leads me to two questions ...

First, how do we know a church should not have such a series until we hear the series? How do we know that this series (or any other series) will be inappropriate, too graphic, or anything else? Are some not guilty of answering a matter before they hear it? (I wonder if those who complain will be willing to listen to the series, and then biblically address it. My suspicion is that they will address from their cultural concerns, not biblical ones.)

Second, who gets to decide what is preached in a church? Did not God entrust the pastor with that decision? If preaching about sex (something the Bible clearly addresses that modern culture desperately needs to hear) is taboo to some, what about the fact that the exclusivity of salvation in Christ is offensive to others? What about the truth that God is sovereign? Or the truth that the Bible is inspired? All of these are greatly controversial among professing believers. Should we let anyone or anything but the Bible dictate what we preach? (I wonder if those who object would give us biblical guidelines for what should be preached. My suspicion is that they would only give us cultural guidelines, tied to their unique cultural sensitivities.)

My point here is not to discuss whether or not Epic's series is a good thing, though I have no great problems with it. I object to some of their promotional material. I do not know how the pastor will handle the issue. However, I have done enough counseling, and seen enough of life to know that the people who do not struggle to some degree with some sort of sexual issue is a minority, likely even a vast minority. It is the elephant in the room.

I have seen enough TV, billboards, magazines and the like to know that sex is bombarding us from every angle ... well, every angle except the church. In other words, the one place that has inspired revelation about the issue is too often the only place not talking about it, or only talking about it with apologies and disclaimers.

I am not sure I would preach a series like this. But that is not an objection of principle, but one of practice. My favorite way of preaching is through books of the Bible. I am generally not fond of topical series. I am not that creative, and I find it harder to preach topically. I do not enjoy it, and do not do it much.

But it seems that me that telling (or trying to tell) a pastor what he should or should not preach is no one's business but the Spirit. If the pastor preaches something the Bible does not say, then let's deal with that. But I find it hard to agree to objections to preaching about a biblical issue, that affects people's lives every day, particularly when the messages have not yet been heard (and probably won't by most who complain).

1 comment:

Mark Ward said...

Larry,

You're right on, man. The Spirit of the living God should direct the man of God what to preach. Sex is an issue that isn't discussed much in the churchhouse - but it sure is discussed on the street. God give us men, like you, who will be led by God's spirit and preach the inspired Word of the living God - regardless of what others may say or think! Keep up the good work, man - you're on my side!