The hardest part of pastoral leadership for me is saying no. I’m a people pleaser, so when people ask me for something my initial response is to just give it to them. But sometimes people ask for things that aren’t healthy for them or healthy for me or healthy for the church. Part of the job of the pastor is being able to say no to things that will steer the church off course. Over the years I’ve had to learn how to go slower (I’m still learning). I’ve had to learn how to take more time to pray about things, think about things, and discuss things before moving forward.
For years I’ve had people ask me to do more preaching about current events. This year has been especially full of huge cultural shifts that could easily take up a 40 minute sermon. I totally understand that people want to be reassured that God is still sovereign and in control. They want to be comforted and encouraged when the world seems to be going crazy around them. They should be able to look to the church for balance and perspective and hope.
But I’m not going to start preaching sermons about current events. I might send out an email or comment on social media. We will likely pray together about it on Sunday. I’ll certainly show how the scripture connects to the world around us, like I always do. But I’m not going to rewrite my sermon on Saturday night to address the thing that just happened earlier that day. Here are my reasons why…
1. I don’t want CNN to dictate the content of my sermons.
It seems like everything has become “breaking news”. With constant access to information there is something major happening every day. I don’t have the ability to filter through it all. And not everything that the major news sources think is vitally important, is actually vitally important. I don’t want to talk about what the news tells me I should talk about; I want to talk about something far more important.
2. I don’t want people to get “politics fatigue” at church.
A recent survey found that the biggest reason people watched less football last year was because of the Anthem protests. It’s a yucky feeling when everywhere we turn we are stirred up and outraged and divided. Hopefully church is a place where we can regain an eternal perspective. I don’t want to keep wallowing in the worries of this world, I want to be reminded of eternal, transcendent, glorious things. I love that there’s an hour when I can gather together with people of all different colors, classes, and political parties and we can all worship God in unity.
3. I’m not a political pundit.
I’m a Bible pundit. A pundit is someone who is called on to publicly speak about their area of expertise. It’s my responsibility to stand up every Sunday and publicly proclaim the Word of God. I’m good at that (thanks to Western Seminary). I don’t watch the news enough to competently speak on current events. I have no problem condemning racism as evil, or denouncing terrorism and murder, or praying in the wake of a natural disaster, but beyond that I am outside of my area of expertise.
4. Good sermons take time to write.
The sermon that you spent 20-40 hours praying over, studying about, talking out, and thinking through will always be better than the one you spent a couple hours writing on Saturday night. Trying to quickly write out a whole sermon that deals with the latest current event will inevitably lead to proof-texting and stretching scripture and bad hermeneutics. Instead, maybe spend a little extra time in prayer and add an application point or adjust an illustration to allow for addressing a contemporary issue without completely rewriting the sermon.
5. The Word of God is Relevant.
There is this faulty idea that what happened yesterday is relevant, and what happened in the pages of scripture thousands of years ago is less relevant. But the whole reason the Bible is still being studied thousands of years later is because it is culturally transcendent. It is the very word of God, and as such it is the only thing that is relevant. There is nothing less relevant than a preacher who only talks about current events in a vain attempt at being more relevant.
In our social media saturated world even good preachers can start to think that they have to talk about what everybody else is talking about. Just because it’s a trending topic on Twitter doesn’t mean that it needs to be talked about in church. Most of us only get about 40 minutes once a week to address the people of God; we must be very discerning about how you use that time!
I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. 2 Timothy 4:1
About Andy Flowers
Andy has served as the senior pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Woodland, California since 2007. He graduated from the Doctor of Ministry program at Western Seminary in 2016. Andy is the author of Leading Through Succession: Why Pastoral Leadership is the Key to a Healthy Transition.