Last year gave us all plenty to talk about and discuss, and so far, this new year of 2021 has not disappointed. Whether you are logging on to your favorite social media site, sitting down at a bar rail with a stranger, or enjoying a family dinner, headlines have left you with plenty of topics for conversation. Truly, you could select any number of options from the menu of buzzwords and talking points. A menu that includes the pandemic, Trump, AmericasChoice2020, “A-woman,” Black Lives Matter, insurrection, impeachment, and the list goes on. With so many things to talk about, everyone feels the need to say something, everyone feels the need to be heard, and everyone expects you to speak. This mentality of course bled right into the church, and of course into the pulpit.
There is so much political discourse happening that it feels nearly impossible to escape. It seems like every kind of media taken in is just another opinion piece on the current headline of the day. Pastors are not immune to the happenings of society and politics, nor should they be. But there is a time and a place for pastors, and church workers alike to comment on such things and I am not sure it is the pulpit. This past summer there was a sentiment going around that said, “If your pastor didn’t preach about (insert issue here), then you should find a new church.” What a statement. What a demand. The pastor has a voice, and he ought to use it, but this is a lot of undue, unbiblical, and unnecessary pressure on those who strive to proclaim God’s truth to starving and thirsting souls. God’s Word is our authority after all, it is His Word that we follow and listen to, not political parties and talking heads.
So, this is what I want to say to all those who feel the weight of having to address the headlines: You do not have to say anything. That is, you do not need to directly address every political take, every headline, or even every tragedy that happens. The world does not dictate the church’s voice, God’s Word does. There are certainly times for God’s Word to be proclaimed addressing the sins of culture, political leaders, as well as addressing tragedy and destruction. Yet, there are also times for the church to do what the church does best, that is to forgive sins. To preach Christ, and Him crucified. There used to be a time when pastors were expected to be silent on political issues. It now seems, at least from my observation, that this expectation has shifted. Just as social media has risen in popularity, so has the idea that pastors must address the current news cycle as a top priority each week.
To the pastors who might be reading this, let me encourage you. You don’t have to say anything. This does not mean you cannot or should not apply God’s word to the culture, you absolutely can, and you absolutely should. In fact, use your pastoral discretion to determine what your sheep need to hear. But do not let secular demands and expectations dictate your proclamation, but Scripture. Instead, I would encourage you to do the unexpected; proclaim the death and resurrection of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins. Regardless of the chaos and absurdity in the world around us, we all need to hear this word. Not everyone will like it, some people might even be disappointed. Yet, it is the job of the pastor to stubbornly point people to Jesus in this unraveling world. To proclaim His word among the false truths that scroll across the headlines.
If you are a hearer, more than a preacher, I want to remind you that the church is not just one more voice in a sea of conflicting opinions. The church is the only voice that truly matters and lasts far longer than any headlines of any news cycle. So, know that your pastor writes with you in mind. He is working to proclaim the truth that he truly believes will benefit you not only physically but spiritually. He is doing his best to feed you, and the flock he serves. This means that from time to time, your pastor will not say anything. Sometimes, that means your pastor will stubbornly point you to Jesus even when you expect him to preach on the headlines. Do not run off to find a new church when your pastor does not address every hot button issue you expect him to. Sit and receive God’s Word for you, receive the forgiveness of sins through Christ crucified and risen for you and the assurance that brings. But if you do not hear this good news of Christ’s death and resurrection, then maybe, it is time to find a new church.