5 Topics Preachers Can No Longer IgnoreJan 19, 2023
We live in a time of great polarization, hedonism, hatred, hurt, and delusion. And the church, for the most part, isn’t helping.
While our society is fracturing, some preachers and churches are burrowing their heads in the sand, hoping that things will dramatically change without considering that they may need to participate in the change they so desperately want.
Depending on where you look, you may see churches caving to the culture’s standards or you may see churches doing their best to not offend people with the Bible, dancing around the questions their congregants and guests so desperately want them to address.
If you don’t see that, you may see churches maintaining their focus on creeds without addressing any of the critical cultural questions of our day.
But if you squint, you may see a few churches, a few preachers doing their best to preach powerful biblical sermons that are addressing the topics they have recognized they can no longer ignore.
I promise you: while many preachers have ignored these topics, millions of musicians, actors, media companies, and social media influencers are not ignoring these topics. They have become better disciple-making disciples than we have. The problem is, they’re not pointing people to Jesus.
But this can change.
5 Topics Preachers Can No Longer Ignore
I understand why this has been a topic that is rarely taught on in a church sanctuary. People get uncomfortable. Many preachers themselves may be uncomfortable talking about it.
And to add to the complexity of talking about sexuality, for many people, the church gathering is the time to be the most ‘put together.’ It’s the last place people want to get personal or get real. Everyone’s doing great in the foyer and in the halls. Everyone seems to be well behaved. Marriages seem strong in the sanctuary. Single people seem to be doing just fine in the church building.
But let’s make no mistake. The sexual distortions of our day are alive and well (casual sex, pornography, sex abuse, adultery, and homosexuality). And I’m not talking about merely things that are only out their in society but things that are happening even within the church.
Sexuality is a topic preachers can no longer ignore. So what should you do? Develop a robust theology of sexuality from the Scriptures (there’s plenty there), point out the sexual distortions of our day, and then (and this is really important) preach the biblical vision for God’s design for sex within the life-uniting covenant of marriage.
And no, I’m not talking about the sad excuse for biblical teaching we see in many Christian marriage best-selling books where sex is postured as a man’s need and a woman’s duty. I’m talking about the kind of love and intimacy God gives married people as a gift.
If there’s one topic that is most divisive and polarizing, it’s politics. And that’s why this is often ignored by preachers.
But I get it. You didn’t get into this to become a political pundit. And I’m not encouraging you to do become one.
The thing is, though, politics flow from values and following Jesus should re-shape and re-form our values in light of God’s word.
The problem is, politics is a sphere in which fear and anger are constantly stoked by political pundits for political gain and the ones on the receiving end of that fear and anger are citizens—just like the people in your church’s pews on Sundays.
And at the same time, real people are impacted by the actions and initiatives of government.
So what can we do?
I believe there is an opportunity for us to disciple our people in this area of their lives by developing a biblical political theology, by pointing out the values Christ followers should bring to politics and warning people of the vices that come with political engagement, and by offering a biblical vision of a political path forward as people whom Jesus called the salt of the earth and the light of the world.
Historically, racism is an unfortunately common thing in the world. One people group hating and dehumanizing another people group. And as a Christ follower who is also an American, I’m well aware of the church’s complicated past of participation in Antebellum slavery and post-war segregation on one hand and participation in the abolitionist movement and civil rights movement on the other hand.
And while plenty of progress seems to have been made in America, prejudices still exist.
But what’s fascinatingly frustrating is the extent in which we see the topic of racism addressed in the New Testament (Jew vs Gentile) and the abundance of silence in many pulpits on the subject.
In fact, one the most prized passages of Scriptures for many Christians comes from Ephesians chapter two. Which, in that same chapter, one of the most beautiful implications of the gospel is revealed in addition to us being saved by grace through faith. What is it? That the dividing wall of hostility has been torn down. That Christ has taken the two men and made them one. Jews and Gentiles are brought together in Jesus.
We, the church, have the answer to racism. It’s the gospel of Jesus.
Because only in Jesus are hearts changed. It’s only in Jesus where people from all walks of life can be brought together forever. It’s time the people in our churches understand this deeply.
Our society has gone off the rails. Some of the most fundamental norms and agreed-upon truths are being questioned or thrown out altogether.
Think about it: the question used to be what does it mean to be a man? What does it mean to be a woman? Today, the question is, what is a man? What is a woman? And quite frankly, in some circles, those questions have been thrown out through circular reasoning, you’re a man if you say you are… you’re a woman if you say you are… or feel you are…
You may believe that your church members don’t need you to tell them what God’s word says about gender. But think about it: your people are being bombarded with the attempt to normalize this. For the young people in your congregation, it’s a full on onslaught—especially through social media. And whether you want to believe it or not, your people would really like thoughtful, biblical teaching about this so that they can think more deeply about it, converse graciously with others, and love those who don’t agree with them.
So do your due diligence. Understand the arguments. Understand the history. Point people to truth. Point people to grace.
Help your people listen well, love well, and always speak the truth in love.
And never forget: A confused world needs perfect grace and truth—Jesus Christ.
It broke my heart when I heard him tell me his story. We sat in a coffee shop on the east side of Cincinnati on a Saturday morning which had become our ritual. He told me of his experience in a youth group as a teenager. He is an inquisitive person, constantly curious, and extraordinarily intelligent. And this was the case as a teenager. So when he would go to youth group, he brought lots of question.
As he learned about science, that would spark more questions.
While the youth leaders were talking about the basics of faith, he wanted to go deeper and deeper and deeper on how Christianity could make sense of the world.
And eventually, he was told to stop asking questions because his questions were making the youth leaders nervous that his questions might lead to other kids doubting the truth of what they were being taught.
Never did he get his questions truly addressed.
The church he was a part of wasn’t interested in digging into areas that they were unsure about. And eventually, he stopped going to the church for answers because they weren’t willing to even engage his questions.
Deconstruction is wide-ranging. Each story is different. And reasons for it are vast. For some, it’s the process of correcting their prior naive beliefs. For others, it’s the process of deepening their surface beliefs. For others, it’s stripping away the extras to see the main thing. For many, it’s spurred on through a crisis of faith because of abuse. And the reasons go on and on and on.
To preach on this topic, be sure to read up on a variety of stories. Be ready to acknowledge the failures of the church to love people well. Be ready to deal with difficult questions.
But be encouraged with this: If Jesus is the truth, we shouldn’t be afraid of difficult questions.
For many, deconstruction is painful but it doesn’t have to lead them away from Jesus. Especially when they have a church family that isn’t afraid of them asking questions. Sometimes it takes some disillusionment to strip away all the illusions and get closer to what is true.
May we do what Dionysius urged people who seek knowledge of God to do:
Leave behind everything perceived and understood, all that is not and all that is, and, with your understanding laid aside, to strive upward as much as you can toward union with him who is beyond all being and knowledge.
Have you preached on these topics?
If you have, let me know on Twitter or in our Facebook group. Send me a link to your messages. And if you want to see how I approached these topics, you can click here.
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