The Future of Pastoral Ministry: Are we Really Up to This? (by Joel Rainey)

  • Joel Rainey blogs at Themelios. He is the Executive Director of the Mid-Maryland Baptist Association.

I spent this morning with a colleague working on the contours of a potential Doctor of Ministry program for Maryland pastors, and among other things, we discussed the future of pastoral ministry.  For a few semesters, I’ve had the honor of teaching Pastoral Theology at a local seminary,and one of the units we cover relates to the task of leadership in emerging culture.  As an introduction to this unit, I give the students a description of what the world will look like in the not-too-distant future.  We look at shifts that are coming in the area of population, family dynamics, medicine, sexuality, environmental concerns, technology and religion, and then discuss how these shifts should affect the way we lead churches to make disciples in the future.

Once during this presentation, I had a young man come up to me after class and say “wow!  I’m not sure I’m ready for this!”

How about you?  Are you ready for ministry in the 21st century?  What follows are nine scenarios that WILL take place in most churches within the next 20 years.  It is likely that many of these have already taken place, and if pastors are going to lead well, and in a way that honors Jesus, they need to be ready for how to minister among the following:

Scenario One:  A pastor is called to a church with the expectation that he will “help us reach the young families.”  Problem is, everyone in the church is over the age of 60, and more than 50% of the community within 10 minutes of the church is also in that age range.  

By 2030, it is estimated that more than half of the U.S. population will be over the age of 50.  This “graying” of America is presently going almost completely unnoticed by most churches, who tend to go after the prized “young families with children” category.  Yet 80% of those over 50 live in a multi-housing situation (“55 and older” apartments, duplex communities, retirement and assisted living communities), and 98% of all multi-housing residents are without a relationship to Jesus.  Are you keeping pace with the generational shifts that are taking place around your church, and how your church should respond to those shifts?  In the future, if you really want to penetrate your community, chances are you won’t be reaching that many “young people.”  Are you thinking through how this affects programming, staffing, facility usage?

Scenario Two:  Multiple families visit the church who do not speak English, politely nod and smile, and never return. 

 By 2025, Hispanics will outnumber African Americans by 3 to 2, and will comprise approximately 40% of the U.S. population.  Over a decade ago, Oscar Romo noted that America, “hardly the ‘melting pot’ described by history texts, has become a land marked more by diversity than homogeneity.”  In no area is this fact more clear than in the area of language.  A guest speaker at our Association’s annual meeting three years ago told me that he walked into one of our malls, ate lunch, and walked back to his car, and never during that time heard anyone speaking English.  I responded by saying “welcome to central Maryland!”  And this dynamic is eventually coming to nearly every part of the United States!

Is there an unreached pocket of people in your area for whom language is a barrier.  God doesn’t intend for linguistics to be a stumbling block to the cross.  Are you capable of helping raise up ministries to help people from other nations who speak other languages to more easily assimilate?  Conversely, are you willing to greet them in their own language and make them feel welcome?

Scenario Three:  A married homosexual couple with three adopted children visit your church.  

This is one of those issues when if you are a pastor, you need to go ahead and check all your political arguments at the door.  What we believe society should or shouldn’t do in this situation is of absolutely no consequence, because they are doing it anyway!  The fact is that homosexual marriage is, well, a fact.  Its true here in Maryland, in six other states, and is likely to be true nationwide in a very short time.  Truth is, we live in a nation and culture in which our understanding of marriage has been devolving for decades.

Now that this is a reality, how will we minister to the parents and their children?  How should our children’s departments be equipped to minister to the kids?  How are you equipping other couples in your church to interact with and minister to these precious souls? How can you uphold clear Biblical standards in love?  How will you help these parents and their children navigate what it means to follow Jesus, and what implications that decision may have on family dynamics?  Are you ready to admit that you don’t even have all the answers to these questions, and walk slowly and in love with those who seek your counsel?

Scenario Four:  A young person who has visited your church for a while repents of her sin and receives Jesus as Lord and Savior.  As you prepare for her baptism, you discover through her testimony that she was born male, but had gender-reassignment surgery a few years ago.  

Scripture has no category for an “androgynous Christian.”  There are Christian men, and Christian women, and the discipleship models spelled out for us in the New Testament tend to be described in conjunction with one’s gender.  Sometimes the church argues forcefully over the appropriate “role” of men and women in the life of the church.  But regardless of what you believe on that issue, we can agree on this:  The reason the argument is sometimes so intense is that we all recognize that gender identity matters!

Therefore, in a situation like this, you have someone created in God’s image and likeness who has become a follower of Jesus, and how must now be discipled in accordance with her/his gender identity.  Are you prepared for the Biblical, moral, psychological and bioethics questions that will necessarily be part of that conversation?

Scenario Five:   More and more people, it seems, are asking you to perform funeral ceremonies for their pets.  You have noticed over time that the grieving process for a family losing a pet, as well as the elements of the funeral itself (pictures, memorials, poems, etc.) indicate a much greater value on animals than in the past.  

We are already witnessing attitudes in our culture that betray a gravitation towards increased “equalizing” of animals and humans, and too many in the church have bought into this idea.  Are you prepared to lovingly confront the false idea that “all dogs go to heaven,” and re-assert the essential distinction between human beings, who are created in God’s own image and likeness, and pets, who are not?  Are you ready for the backlash that is likely to come from supposed “mature” Christians for simply asserting the Biblical truth that their pet doesn’t possess an eternal soul?  Are you ready to point your people to the serious theological implications of believing otherwise? (Did Jesus really die for a DOG?  Seriously?!)

Scenario Six:  Because of growth, your church starts a “video venue,” and begins live-streaming worship and sermons via the internet.  You notice that you have a growing “online” audience, many of whom log in every Sunday, and who financially support the ministry.  Through connections with these people on social media you discover that, although they may live hundreds or even thousands of miles away, they consider your church their “church home.”  

Today’s advanced and inexpensive technology means that churches are asking questions that would never have been considered even 20 years ago, and one of the biggest questions today has to do with the legitimacy of the so-called “internet church.”  In the future, how will your church ensure that the Biblical principles and practices commensurate with a covenant community are observed in this environment?

Are you ready for the conversations church leadership must have in the future related to how everything from church discipline to fellowship can be achieved in this context?  The most obvious pitfall of social media is that our society has never been more exposed to each other, and simultaneously, never been more alone.  How can the church be truly “counter-cultural” in this environment?  At what point should we say “no” to certain forms of technology because they threaten sound ecclesiology?

Scenario Seven:  You discover through casual conversation that a yoga class has been started by leaders in the church, that participants freely greet one another with “namaste,” and that Christian meditation has been confused with the emptying of the mind that is endorsed in many Hindu communities.  

Over the past decade, there has been a huge increase in ancient pagan practices, much like those that occurred in the days of the Old Testament.  The digital age, among other things, presents opportunities for the “blending” of faiths that was unheard of even two decades ago.  In what ways should you be prepared to bifurcate for your people between what can, and cannot, be part of the life of someone who follows Jesus according to Scripture?  Are you equipped to help your people understand the difference between “form” and “meaning” when it comes to practices, so that they can separate the truly harmless from the “seemingly harmless,” the latter of which has deep roots in ancient paganism?

Scenario Eight:  You receive a call from a mainline church in town.  The size of their congregation has dropped to less than 20 members. They are fearful for their future, and they ask for your help.  It is simply a statistical fact that theological liberalism kills churches.  As such, expect the mainline protestant churches in your town to continue slowly bleeding to death.  Yet, the people in those dying churches need someone to love them by ministering to their needs and reminding them of what their faith once stood for.  Are you prepared to raise up leaders who can utilize those facilities to start a second campus for your church, or start a new church altogether?  Are you now able to be friends with these people, and love them through their struggles while holding firmly to your faith?

Scenario Nine:  Parents come to you for counseling regarding their son, who has been diagnosed with multiple “generic” disorders, but doctors have been incapable of specifying the problem, and the child has been largely un-treatable by psychiatrists.  You suspect the presence of demonic activity.  

I truly believe that we will see a sharp rise in obvious demonic activity in the west, and I believe it will unfortunately be mis-diagnosed as a solely medical or psychiatric problem.  As a result, too many children will grow up expressing the personality of a psychotrophic drug unless wise and godly pastors in the west learn to recognize the presence of demonic activity, lead families past the “exorcism” nonsense of Benny Hinn and the Church of Rome, and confront it head-on with the Gospel.

Scenario Ten:  In this “brave new world,” God continues to seek worshippers, and Jesus continues to save people from sin, Satan, death, and hell in miraculous ways. 

I’m sure some of what I’ve written above scares some readers.  I’m equally certain that some of you are angry, and for various reasons.  As lovingly as I can say it, I don’t care.  What I’ve described above is a culture that is emerging, and that is filled with people Jesus died to save.   And it is in this environment when I hear evangelical Christians having the dumbest arguments!

Where the Mid-Maryland Association is concerned, I want us to be ready for that world so we can be faithful to Jesus.  So many of the arguments and “controversies” we have these days  are proven in contrast to the realities above to be as ridiculous as they appear to be.

We have some pure, honest, real-world “issues” coming, and we don’t have time for the cosmetic ones.  Are we prepared to stop pining for the world as we wished it was, and begin preparing to reach the world as we know it will soon be?  I hope so.

Comments

  1. Bruce H. says

    Scenario Six is one that affects the local church if it doesn’t have a gifted preacher. Many people hear these internet and TV preachers and wonder why their pastor cannot preach like that. They are not truly satisfied with their preacher and we see apathy in many churches. Personally, for the money spent, I do not think the internet or airways have benefited the church.

    Here’s another scenario. A salesman comes by to see the pastor or education director and shows him a DVD series on Marriage, Raising Your Children, Finances, The Book of Romans and How to Win in an Atheist Debate. They want the best for the church and purchase The Book of Romans for Sunday night Bible Study. A teacher is selected to “facilitate” the study and the date is scheduled. What is wrong with this picture? You’re not properly using the gift of teacher in the local church. Using someone from another church is ineffective because they are not there to reinforce the truths taught. I have been in a church that went through the Dave Ramsey financial series. The leadership proceeded to build a new educational wing at the tune of $6 million with no down payment and $36K monthly payment on an extremely tight budget and no savings account. That seems to contradict Dave Ramsey. We simply need to exercise the gifts within the local body and grow with what God has provided and we are not doing that very well.

    • Dave Miller says

      There are some great Bible Study curricula out there. But I prefer when someone just studies the Bible and teaches it to the people. Seems like a better plan!

      • says

        I’ve actually had a salesperson say to me,

        “Pastor, I know what you really want to do is spend time with your teenagers. We’ve got this phenomenal curriculum that will allow you to do just that. Leave the Bible study to us and you can go and do what you really love–hanging out with teenagers”.

        What kind of sick freak did this lady think that I am?

  2. Dave Miller says

    My dad said one time that ministry today meant regularly involvement in situations he would have considered unthinkable in the early days of his ministry. Sin breaks people and our culture, full of sin, is leaving people broken and hurting. These broken, hurting people come to church.

    Well written, Joel. Well stated. Great post!

    • says

      Dave,

      Your dad was completely right. More right then he knew. Sin is leaving a trail of broken and hurting people inside churches.

      On the plus side, as we address sin we might finally put to rest all those “hypocrisy” charges from the world.

  3. says

    I’m of the opinion that the task of the church is determined by the giftedness of the people God has placed in the church. When the church in Scenario #1 said they wanted the pastor to reach young people, that tells me none of them think they are. If they’re right, then the task assigned by God, to the church, must be something else.

    Good post. I suspect it’s info Seminary professors aren’t going to spend much time on.

  4. Bruce H. says

    Joel,

    I really like that you have brought up many of the things we are facing now and in the future. I want to comment on a few more.

    Scenario One and Eight have similarities and the answer found in Eight seems to be a better approach to One. A pastor would be wise to discuss options with the church before taking on an impossible task unless there was a burning bush in his back yard. There is nothing right or wrong with seeking the elderly of that community exclusively. A second campus alternative with an elderly ministry would be great.

    Scenario Two: There should be a community of churches around your church. The pastor and deacons should have a good relation with all of them and they should communicate with one another. If someone does not speak the language, have a church they can be directed to. Remember the movie “Miracle on 34th Street” where Santa sent customers to Gimbles? There are other churches equipped to minister to them rather than starting a ministry for them to hear our preaching. Being prepared for this is what is important.

    The church has simple preparedness built in; Prayer, Bible Study, Evangelism, Ministry and Fellowship. Grounding ourselves in this on a daily basis will assure that our attempt to address each scenario above will be part of conforming us to the image of Christ and bringing glory to God.

  5. volfan007 says

    Joel,

    One thing….the scenario about the homosexual couple coming to Church. I’ll bet’cha they would leave the Church after hearing you preach that homosexuality is a sin against God. Unless they repented, I’ll bet you a Krispy Kreme donut that they would hit the door and not come back.

    The other alternative…to not preach the passages that deal with homosexuality would be be much, much more worse…to skip Romans 1 and 1 Corinthians 6 would be tragic….

    Also, preach funerals for pets? Seriously? Here, today, we gather to honor the memory of Fluffy. She was a good cat. She loved mice, and a ball of twine just drove her wild….. lol.

    Also, I find myself agreeing more and more with John McArthur about satellite Churches….about people looking at thier “Pastor” on a screen, rather than have one, who is up close and personal….one they can actually see ministering to the flock….they actually see his family…they can actually shake his hand, etc. I just really dont see the satellite campuses as a good thing….not a sinful thing…but, not a good direction….

    But, overall, you are correct that Pastors are gonna be dealing with a whole lot more stuff in the days ahead. We’re gonna be dealing with a lot more issues than just a couple living together, unmarried…or adultery in the Church. It’s gonna be interesting to say the least. And, we do need to love people. And, we do need to go where the sinners are…like Jesus did.
    David

    • Dave Miller says

      If all the church does is preach that homosexuality is a sin, it fails in its duty. It cannot accept sin as okay, but it must be a place that welcomes sinners. That is a very difficult challenge. But I am afraid that all too often, the church’s voice has simply been one of condemnation, not of love and hope.

      That is a fine line to walk. Not disagreeing with your statement as much as saying that there is another side to it.

      • volfan007 says

        Dave,

        I understand what you’re saying. BUT, do you really think that when homosexuality is preached about…after loving the homosexual couple and trying be friendly to them….that they’ll want to keep coming to your Church. Or, how about when they talk about joining your Church? And, you tell them that they cant be a member, unless they repent of thier homosexual life, and stop living that way? What do you honestly think is gonna happen?

        David

        • says

          Thanks for having such confidence in the power of the Spirit to change lives Volfan. Why even invite sinful people to church anyhow? Do you really think that the drug abuser, the liar, the thief, the adulterer is any less offended when their sin is confronted in love by the truth of the Gospel?

          Why do you treat homosexuals as a special class of dinner that is unreachable by the convictional power of the Spirit? What makes them so much worse than anyone else?

          It’s funny to me that Jesus reserved His most harsh judgments for the self righteous and religious and yet in our day and time we reserve out most harsh judgments for a group of people who struggle with their sexual identity. That says something about out churches and it is not good. Didn’t Jesus say something about a plank and a splinter?

          • Dave Miller says

            Let’s not get argumentative folks. I’m tired of that and not very patient. We can talk to each other respectfully.

          • says

            David and Ryan,

            One of the challenges of communicating electronically without the body language and general presence of another human being is that of expressing your thoughts fully. And I think if we were all sitting at Starbucks together we might see how terribly close we are to each other.

            The issues in scenario three should never prompt us to revert from the clear teaching of Scripture, and David knows me well enough to know I mean that. Calling sinners to repentance is a non-negotiable that I’m sure Ryan affirms also. Unfortunately, in our present context there is far more “heat” than “light” where the issue of homosexuality is concerned, and that also causes confusion regarding how high our expectations should be for both the timing and intensity of said repentance. Matt Chandler said it this way a few years ago. “Christians LOVE to hear the story about the 55 year old gay male prostitute who come to faith in Jesus. NO ONE wants to hear the story about the next year after his conversion.”

            For those of us who confess and seek to live the authority of Scripture , this means walking the tight rope between what we know to be abundant moral clarity in regard to sin and repentance, while simultaneously understanding the moral complexities involved in helping people walk from A to B, including the understanding that they (and if we are honest, WE) sometimes take detours. Full “repentance” in situations like this don’t happen in a punctiliar moment, but over time, and with lots and lots of compassion and grace extended by the church. This means, among other things, that we must be much more concerned about whether someone actually repents than we are about whatever political differences we may have in the beginning, or for that matter, what other churches think about us.

            This is where the discussion has to take place. David is absolutely correct that anything less than a clear call to repentance is unfaithfulness to Jesus. (although I’d encourage David to have a bit more hope in the power of the Gospel, and a bit more understanding of the diverse struggles that go on in the souls of individuals.). Ryan is absolutely correct that a lack of compassion and understanding (which would most likely include hearing people’s stories, struggles, and particular situations before “preaching” at them) is equally unfaithful to the Great Commission.

            Somehow homosexuality has become the “evangelical whipping boy,” and I sense its probably because we are intimidated by the cultural forces that surround us, and believe we have to “yell louder” and constantly point out what we believe about it. Trust me, our culture knows full well where Southern Baptists and evangelicals in general stand on this issue. We don’t have to treat it differently to be faithful to what Scripture teachers us about it. But we do have to love the men and women who have same-sex attractions as Jesus does, which means incarnating ourselves among them, living life with them, and seeing them as far more than simply “gay.” Come to think of it, I think that’s the same thing others did for me to bring me to Jesus. And, I think its exactly what Jesus has done for all of us, and expects us to do as well (John 20:21)

          • volfan007 says

            Ryan,

            The scenario was about a homosexual couple….that’s the scenario that was given to us by Joel. If he’d said a drug abuser, or a thief, or an adulterer, then I would have talked about them.

            And, Ryan, I believe strongly that God can save the worst sinner in this world….after all, he saved me!

            David

          • volfan007 says

            Joel,

            Nothing would thrill me more than to see my church full next Sunday….with every drug head, homosexual, adulterer, drunk, and every kind of sinner there is my County filling the pews. I would love to see it.

            I believe strongly that God can save gays, and turn them around.

            Now, when these sinners are sitting in your church, and the light of God’s Word shines brightly upon them….they’ll either get saved, or get out. I really dont see a homosexual couple remaining in a Church that’s truly preaching the Gospel and teaching the Bible…..I think they’ll either get saved, or get out….it’ll get too hot for them.

            David

  6. Bennett Willis says

    By 2025, Hispanics will outnumber African Americans by 3 to 2, and will comprise approximately 40% of the U.S. population.

    This would make African Americans be 26% of the population for a total of “major minority” of 66%. This would leave 33% for all others. This can’t be right.

    http://www.pewhispanic.org/2008/02/11/us-population-projections-2005-2050/ This appears to be a better estimate of the demographics in 2050.

    The point is valid, but the numbers are not quite right.

  7. says

    Bennett, I studied math in public school….in South Carolina. So, you know, cut me some slack! ;-)

    Seriously, the figures I cited regarding that scenario were taken from bullet points I used in lecture material probably 6 years ago. They were both approximate and predictive in nature, so I’m not surprised that half a decade later they don’t totally add up.

    The figures you supply are, I am sure, valuable. Your correction is much appreciated, and thanks for reading.

  8. Debbie Kaufman says

    The church is now dealing with or getting ready to deal with all the above scenarios that Christians who have been going to public schools and work in the public have been dealing with and witnessing to the above people for years. We also have Jehovah Witnesses, Mormons, and Muslims, even Muslim women as co-workers. We have been given this mission field for a long time, therefore, we could also help the church to deal with this. This is where the pastoral team can go to the people for help and Joel is right, you have to love unconditionally, leaving all agendas except Christ and the Cross at the door.

    I want the above scenarios in our churches. I want people most are uncomfortable with to hear the message of Christ. I have given the message of Christ to these people without preaching sin of whatever they are involved in. That will send them out the door and then the message is lost.

    We need to get out of our ivory towers of our own little worlds and reach out to these people who expect rejection from us, sin preached in their face and hatred spewed at them aka Westboro style. They don’t expect Christ and his love for them to be given to them. I say this from experience.

    • Debbie Kaufman says

      As an addition, that is not to say we do not preach or teach about sin or turning from it. But that is not the way to start.

  9. Bruce H. says

    Scenario Three: A homosexual couple with three adopted children would be difficult. If they are open about their homosexuality it I would have to address it by taking them aside and asking them if I could talk to them. First, I would graciously ask them why it was important for them to acknowledge their homosexuality in our church. The answer to that question would determine their sincerity and how I would proceed with the conversation. Ultimately, we would be seeking their repentance and salvation which would break up that, so-called, family. The Kingdom does not recognize that union and it has too much conflict compared to all the other sins in scripture. One who has a “reprobate” mind is already a “castaway” as stated in Romans 1:28. If it is the Holy Spirit administering grace to them, their sincerity would be obvious and salvation imminent.

  10. Jess Alford says

    Scenario 3,

    How should we minister to homosexual couples and their adopted children?

    Ans. We are not to change one thing, forget about being politically
    correct, and preach and teach the truth.

    Again I say that the true church will end up in the homes, and not a
    public place of worship.

    I wonder how many of us are willing to go to jail for the gospel of
    Jesus Christ. It would mean no more salary, losing our homes, and
    maybe our families going hungry. This will be where the rubber meets
    the highway.

  11. Bob says

    Just for the record I think this has been one of the most beneficial posts I’ve seen ANYWHERE in a long time. And, yes, that includes even Mohler’s blog. ;)

    These are the kinds of issues we need to be discussing. I fully confess that most of these questions give me great anxiety, but this is greatly edifying in that it drives me back to the gospel itself.

    Thanks Joel for raising these questions.

  12. says

    Bob, thanks for reading. I’m grateful to be able to contribute, and honored that you were edified and encouraged.

    To Bruce and Jesus above: no one in this thread–least of all me–is suggesting we change the clear teaching of Scripture on this subject. However, given the clarity and simplicity of your answers, I’m genuinely curious as to how the particular approach you commend on this thread has been received by those in the gay community to whom you have sought to minister. Also, do you both see your approaches as the only way to truly honor the Scripture? And how did you prepare those who work with children in your church to counsel with the kids after their parents broke up? Have they appeared to adjust ok after being removed from the only two-parent environment they have ever known? Thanks in advance for what you are willing to share from the wisdom of your own experiences.

  13. volfan007 says

    I know that back in my BC days(Before Christ)….when I was living for the pleasures of the flesh and this world…..lost as I could be….I did not like going to Church, because too much light was shed on my ugly sins. And, when the Pastor would come to our house….as nice and friendly as he was….I would jump on my 3 wheeler and head off into the Tennessee pines to hide from him….I didnt want to be around him….it was too convicting….and he is one of the nicest, most loving, greatest guys you’d ever want to meet. But, I had to get away from the conviction…..I thought I could run from God…..on a 3 wheeler….

    David

  14. Jon says

    We really have to rethink our conception of many things. I wonder, given the assumption of increased demonic activity–which may be true–whether we will have people gifted in the area of prayer and exorcism, not in some superstitious or ‘charismatic’ way, but in a way that reflects Scripture and sound church tradition.

  15. says

    Great article Joel. However, these are definitely not scenarios in-the-making:

    I’m the youth pastor at Scenario 1, our community is Scenario 1 and 2, and Scenario 3 will hopefully be coming to a youth group near me very soon.

  16. says

    Thanks for reading and commenting Greg. You are correct, and in fact all of these scenarios are present tense in my area. I spoke in future tense to apply it to all areas of our culture. It won’t be long before all of these are evident everywhere.

  17. William Thornton says

    Those of the brethren who haven’t learned a good answer to “Will my beloved poochie be with me in heaven?” better get on it.

    I have done pet funerals only for my own young children. It would be demeaning to do a serious pet funeral for a church member, although I would not be dismissive that the death of a pet causes considerable and genuine grief to many in our churches.

    • says

      Thanks William, for reminding us of this delicate balance. I too have ministered to folks who lost a precious pet. In particular, older individuals who live alone with only their dog or cat are particularly wounded when that animal dies, and compassion in that situation is simply common sense. Suffering with them through their grief is a far cry from advocating ontological and spiritual equivalency between human beings and animals, and we should not hesitate to do the former for our people. Good reminder.

  18. says

    Each one of these scenarios could be a separate post. There is a lot to talk about here.

    On the other hand, however, not being a pastor, I guess I imagined that these kinds of issues were already standard fare for pastors. I see these out in the “real world” already every day, and I’m in the buckle of the Bible Belt. This is precisely the stuff that pastors should be equipping their members to deal with. I’ve tried to equip my kids to handle these issues. My 16-year-old son, for example, as a trained teacher and counselor with CEF has most recently encountered a little boy in one of the Bible clubs who regularly comes to him for counseling. The boy is being raised in a Mormon family. Wade through those dynamics: A) Answer the boy’s questions with truth. B) Keep the boy in the club so he gets the truth week after week, which means: C) Answering him in such a way as his parents are also captivated with the truth when the boy talks to them about what happened in club. If my 16-year-old son can think through this, why should handling these sorts of things be an issue with pastors?

    • says

      Thanks so much for your input Jim. The challenge your son faces is precisely the kind of thing I’m talking about. Believing the right things and having Biblical clarity on these things isn’t the issue. The issue is understanding that striking the appropriate balance between grace and truth requires an understanding of the complexities involved in our current age in bringing people to Jesus. Unfortunately, your observations are correct. These scenarios have been present for some time outside of our churches, and I fear that too many pastors are ill-prepared to equip the people in their churches with what they need to penetrate that lostness. To a large extent, this is because we know far more about proclaiming truth from a pulpit than we do applying it in the indescribably messy maze of people’s lives. We need to get on these and other things, and we need to do it yesterday. Again, thanks for your insight, and the challenge it should bring to those of us whose responsibility is to equip you for Gospel effectiveness in the marketplace.

    • Mitch says

      Jim,
      I am so thankful that your 16 year old is trained to deal with things like this and recognises that the place this young boy is hearing truth is in the club. If your son decided to deal with this child in a condemning manor, that child would be removed from the club and from the only voice of truth in his life.
      It does us absolutely no good to have the truth if we cannot present it and ourselves in such a way that people will stay around to hear it.

      Joel,
      Thank you for this post. We need to spend much more time discussing topics such as this. For me this is where all of the arguments of theology, ecclesiology, ect ect meet the road. People will argue and comment over and over on those other topics, your post is about practical, relevant, present day situations we all face or will soon face and it gets barely 50 comments. That to me is sad.