Jan 302021 0 Responses

Two Main Pressures for Southern Pastors

Every geography has unique attributes. While human nature is universally the same, certain times and places see a greater predisposition toward specific temptations. Materialism is universal, but the opportunity to be materialistic is far greater in modern America. Idolatry has always been an issue, but worshipping a wooden structure crafted by the hands of men is not a great threat today.

The pastorate comes with a variety of temptations. Throughout the centuries, one universal threat has lurked for those in pastoral ministry–mishandling the truth. It was an issue in the first centuries, the middle ages, and today. Yet this particular threat comes in two forms in modern society. As a pastor within southern culture, I have faced and will continue to face two specific pressures when it comes to truth.

External Pressure on Pastors

The first pressure is external pressure. While some inside of our church will push me toward this concept, the primary source of this temptation will come from those outside of our weekly fellowship.

The pressure is to merge God’s Truth to what is socially acceptable in society. Shade some texts. Highlight other texts. Explain away other passages. And completely ignore other passages.

The point–value modern thought over the ancient text. Assume that we are smarter than Jesus.

Gender, the definition of marriage, issues of life, the definition of love are just a few examples of things where outside influences pressure me to ignore Scripture. They assume my education should have trained me to explain away difficult passages and justify modern beliefs on those issues.

Yet the Bible doesn’t pacify modern thought on many issues. While we have made many strides forward in understanding and compassion, many of the things we consider to be true are not. Society has created ideas that make us feel comfortable rather than truthful. To proclaim the truth as presented in the Bible will confront basic thoughts that we hold dear. We will be forced to choose between what we think is right and what the Bible proclaims is right. We will have to choose between our way or God’s way. (See: What You Are Missing and May Not Even Know It)

The temptation is to avoid these topics. The pressure is to pretend as though absolute truth does not exist and that love is whatever makes us feel best. It’s a real pressure pastors feel.

Internal Pressure on Pastors

The second pressure is an internal one. Rather than coming from those who are primarily outside of our fellowship, it comes from those inside the church. The temptation is to make New Testament Christianity align with the prevailing political thought in the South.

While this pressure has always been present, it has grown exponentially over the last four years. Personally, the greatest pressure I feel is from church members who expect me to commend their political belief and verify that it is holy. The problem is that sometimes it is not. Some issues are just political preferences, some truly are aligned with Biblical beliefs, but others stand in complete contradiction of everything Jesus taught. Yet to proclaim that risks not just the comfort of the moment, but the friendship and their presence in our fellowship.

The expectation is that pastors will either justify political beliefs that contradict Scripture or at least ignore those issues where the people are wrong and highlight the failures of their political opponents as a distraction. Southern pastors (more accurately, I should say “white southern pastors”) are expected to align with the prevailing politics of their congregation or face consequences for failing to do so. It’s what Paul warned about, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions.” (2 Timothy 4.3) (See: Jesus Isn’t as Conservative, or Liberal, as You Think)

Racism, greed, welcoming the stranger/alien, loving enemies, character in leadership are all topics we are expected to ignore or whitewash.

The Response

When a pastor resists the temptation to please others, he is certain to face a range of responses. When God’s Truth is proclaimed, some will leave, some will lash out, and some will love it.

Leave. The natural response to things we don’t like is to leave. While in generations past people would have left the Church altogether, now they just start attending another church. Rather than looking at their own lives or even having a conversation with the pastor to understand, they simply walk away.

Lash-out. Some leave quietly. Some lash out as they leave. Others stay, but they lash out as well. They threaten the pastor’s ministry, talk about him behind his back, and try to paint the pastor as wrong in order to justify themselves. They attempt to demonize the pastor. (See: Jerry Seinfeld’s Advice About Preaching)

Love it. While some respond negatively to the truth, others respond positively. They recognize that truth often hurts. They know their need for correction. The old saying that preaching is meant to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable” is something they understand. They lean into the uncomfortableness believing that life is found on the other side of the discomfort.

Pressure Your Pastor

The truth is you need to pressure your pastor. Demand the truth. Beg him to preach–not about the sins of others, but about your sins. Don’t allow him to preach at those outside the walls of the church in order to make those inside feel better about themselves. Instead, encourage him to lovingly preach against his own sins and the sins of the congregation.

And pastors, feel the pressure. Ignore the external and internal pressure of shading the truth to fit a narrative. Instead, feel the pressure of preaching the fullness of God’s Truth to every circumstance and let the chips fall where they may.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Please enter your name, email and a comment.