My fear today is that the gospel being preached from Baptist pulpits is all too often an appeal to self-interest rather than to conscience. When the gospel of God’s grace comes home to the human heart, it does not appeal to our self-interests but rather to our sense of sin.
What if preachers quit trying to be clever or to control outcomes and instead simply led with sincere vulnerability? It would require trusting the congregation to receive you with kindness and, for your part, a self-compassion for your own tenderness.
In the aftermath of mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, I read and heard exhortations along these lines: “If your pastor does not call out white supremacy and gun violence tomorrow in worship, it’s time to find another church.” Please, can we stop doing this?
I believe in the power of the Gospel. I believe Jesus changes hearts, and that his calling is a daring summons to a truly social justice – to a salvation that changes our minds as well as our souls. But much of the preaching I hear these days makes me cringe.
Congregations have a right to expect their pastor to be real while also respecting appropriate boundaries. In turn, pastors have a right to embrace their humanity and for their churches to remember that the Word became flesh, not marble.
Many of President Trump’s actions are antithetical to the Gospel. But anger cannot be everything that Trump’s backers hear from us. Ministers would be better off, at times, asking the Spirit to help the president and his defenders understand that God loves all people.
The next time you think your pastor is being “too political” or “not evangelistic enough” or should “preach the gospel more,” give yourself a simple test: How does what your pastor preaches line up with the words of Jesus?
Pray regularly for your pastor, week in and week out, because discerning and speaking a word from the Lord is an ever-present challenge and sometimes a heavy burden.
We’re going to have to do more, to move past talking (even preaching!) and into the messy and painful work of deep conversation held together by real relationship. In fact, it’s increasingly my conviction that this may be the heart of the faith community’s work in this moment: building authentic relationships upon which these difficult conversations can rest.