Why Don't More Pastors Speak Out?

Have you ever wondered why more pastors don't speak out about controversial moral and cultural issues? In this 'Consider This' episode Dr. Michael Brown warns about the dangers of staying silent in times of moral and spiritual declension.
Have you ever wondered why more pastors don't speak out about controversial moral and cultural issues? Why it's rare to hear a sermon about abortion or homosexuality?

I'm sure many pastors would say, "That's not my calling. My calling is to preach and teach the Scriptures, not to be a cultural commentator."

But doesn't the Bible itself comment on culture? Doesn't God's Word intersect with society? Didn't the prophets of old confront the evils of their day?

Other pastors might say, "My calling is not to be political. My calling is to make disciples."

But how should disciples live? What happens when we experience injustice in the workplace? What happens when our kids come home from school crying after the latest sex-ed class? What happens when racism raises its ugly head in our community? How do we respond as disciples?

Shouldn't church leaders help us answer these questions?

Looking back on history, how do we feel about pastors and leaders who chose not to speak out during the days of slavery in America? Don't we question their integrity and their courage? Don't we wonder how they could have nothing to say in the light of such evil?

What about those who had no problem with segregation, yet preached from the Scriptures every Sunday morning about God's love and God's goodness? Something just doesn't line up.

What about pastors and leaders who chose to remain silent during the Holocaust, when six million Jews were killed in cold blood? How do we feel about their silence today? And don't we commend leaders like Dietrich Bonhoeffer who refused to compromise their convictions for the sake of safety and career?

A quote widely attributed to Bonhoeffer states, "Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act."

What would Bonhoeffer say to us today when so many of our spiritual leaders choose to stand on the sidelines while our culture crumbles?

But let's put aside the larger culture for a moment. What about our own families? In the world we live in today, our kids and grandkids have to deal with questions about abortion, about drug use, about suicide, about sexuality, about the meaning of gender. These issues are directly affecting them and their friends.

How can we who are leaders not provide solid answers for them? How can we not help equip their parents and teachers? Isn't this also part of our role as shepherds and leaders?

In 2014, George Barna conducted a poll in which he asked American pastors if they believed the Bible addressed the key moral and social issues of our day. Ninety percent of these pastors said that the Bible did, in fact, speak to those issues. Ninety percent!

But when Barna asked them, "Are you teaching your people what the Bible says about those issues?" the number dropped to less than 10 percent.

That is a staggering statistic.

Nine in ten agreed that the Bible spoke to the all the major issues of our day - some of which are highly controversial- but only one in ten was actually willing to address those issues from the pulpit, even with the Bible as their guide. (Barna got the same results when he conducted a similar poll a couple of years later.)

What reasons did these pastors give for their silence? According to Barna, "There are five factors that the vast majority of pastors turn to. Attendance, giving, number of programs, number of staff, and square footage."

In other words, these leaders openly stated that they avoided the controversial issues of our day because, in Barna's words, "Controversy keeps people from being in the seats, controversy keeps people from giving money, from attending programs."

Isn't this like selling your soul for popularity or for money or for influence? Isn't this following more in the footsteps of Judas than of Jesus? Isn't this fearing man more than fearing God, or loving the praise of man more than the praise of God? Isn't this relying on the flesh more than the Spirit?

What makes the situation all the more remarkable is that a 2015 Barna poll indicated that, "Spiritually active Christians who hold politically conservative views believe that churches should be more involved in the political process. In particular, they are eager for their pastors to teach them what the Bible says about today's social and political issues."

So, the congregants want their leaders to address these issues, yet the leaders are afraid to for fear of losing congregants. How ironic!

It's true that pastors are not called to be politicians and that their main focus is teaching and preaching the Scriptures and ministering to the needs of their people.

But their people live in a very real world, and they need answers to the great problems and issues of the day. And the Bible provides answers to those great issues.

To fail to speak is to fail to equip. To fail to speak is to fail to protect. To fail to speak is to fail to love.