I was reading a statement from a former pastor who had begun a new work over the last few years, dedicated to the influence and discipleship of governmental leaders. (It’s an incredible work that has found a home in the halls of Congress, the UN, and the Knesset in Israel (their parliament or “congress”).) This pastor’s statement was that millennials who have left the church have done so because they feel the church is not relevant to their lives. However, contrary to church growth ideas, this relevance has nothing to do with music or style but has everything to do with the church not being willing to address the issues of the day. In short, those who leave do not want to waste their time with something they don’t feel matters… and issues of the day matter to them. The premise he addresses led to the idea that the church needs to address political and societal issues in sermons, taking a stand (hopefully biblically) regarding what a Christian should think and do about the issues of the day.
I don’t disagree and do believe that there are times we (pastors) try to walk the line of seeing and thinking through every side of an issue so as to not alienate a segment of our society. I don’t believe we do this in the church because we are afraid of taking a stand, but I believe we walk this tightrope carefully because we really are trying to live out the encouragement of Paul to be, “all things to all people so that we might save some.”
That said, I have found that as we touch on issues we should be careful to not simply preach to address a moment, but preach to reveal the heart. Here’s the deal, if we simply take each moment as it comes, and develop our sermons to exhort after the fact how God would have us respond, we will never be able to catch up. There always be moments to address, so we will spend all of our energy and time being reactionary instead of being prophetic voices leading into the future, while constantly being hit in the face with the next moment that needs to be addressed. However, if we craft our messages and ministries to speak to the heart, then perhaps we can stop the moments from ever happening in the first place.
We find ourselves fighting the same battles daily in our society in the war against sin, but instead, what if we found against sin in the heart… and thereby limiting the future battles we will face? If we simply touch the mind with truth, emotions will overwhelm rational thought and cause damaging action when the crisis develops beyond our breaking point. But, if we touch the heart with THE Truth (the Truth of Christ) then there will be a heart change, and those with a new heart are not so quick to respond out of the old sinful one. When our response is based on the heart of God within us, rather than reacting out of emotions in a crisis moment, perhaps there will not be so much the church has to clean up in our world after the fact.
Relevance does come from addressing that which matters. However, what matters today is not so much what you see on the news or hear from the halls of Congress, but from what is whispered and heard as you get closer to the heartbeat of God Himself. Preachers, talk about the issues, but introduce your people to the heart of God. The more we get close to His heart the more ours will change to mimic what we are close to.
Preach for heart change.