Your pastor is not as edgy and provocative as your favorite blogger or writer, and that’s a good thing.
I’m the first guy to advocate Christian preachers and teachers have thoughtful, bold, and worthwhile words to say. I bristle when I hear speakers hunt and peck around important, yet touchy, topics for the sake of their own advancement, brand, pedigree, or future opportunities. I believe it a form of cowardice. It’s not worthy of the gospel.
There is great benefit to Christian leaders and teachers being slow to speak.
Here’s what I mean…
Frequently, writers, speakers, and bloggers inject some new, provocative, stimulating, or unorthodox thought in the Christian blogosphers. Their notion quickly catches fire and goes viral. Ideas about sexuality, the church, other Christian leaders, or just about anything else gets tossed into the online controversy machine and the Christian subculture goes berserk.
It’s Tweeted, retweeted, shared, argued, and rebutted. Sometimes the ideas are interesting, even thought provoking and challenging. We need this kind of discussion. Vital matters should be discussed and debated, but there’s something that all Christian leaders need to keep in mind as we lounge behind our laptops: Someone might believe us.
Someone Might Believe Us
Suppose someone pens a blog post about the uselessness of church life and how he or she doesn’t go to church (unless they’re teaching). Imagine if someone writes how discussions about extra- or pre-marital sex were ham-handed and guilt-ridden when they were teenagers and how they were made to feel more badly than they should. Perhaps in the wake of “purity-culture” they discovered sex felt good after all. Maybe another Christian leader gives a talk to anonymous faces at a conference positing that Christians lean too heavily on the Bible. And suppose hearers, readers, followers, and fans read and hear all this and…believe it!
Your pastor can’t be cavalier! Local church pastors know the ideas and ideals we promote find life in the lives of actual people – living, breathing, people who posses the capacities for both joy and pain. Church member’s lives, to some degree, are based on the choices they make based on the teaching and leading they receive.
The best teachers and leaders can’t grab the indulgence of visiting their personal struggles, questions, and irritations on the church. While experiences must be a part of our ministry and never ignored or papered-over, the mushroom cloud of our teaching produces fallout which touches real flesh and bone.
Who Are You Listening To?
Let’s be clear: I’m not concerned (necessarily) with the content of what various thinkers, bloggers, and writers say, but I do want to force all public Christian leaders to ask a deadly serious question: What if people act on what I say?
What if young women and men chose sexual behavior based on a blog post or sermon? What if people determine their life in and around church should mirror our activities around church because we wrote a post about how we dislike church? What if a mass of men and women, determine they don’t like liberal/conservative/ Calvinists/Anabaptists/ etc…Christians because I eviscerated the weaknesses of their theology in a podcast interview?
In the age of social media, an age wherein so many of us affect the lives of people we don’t know, it is imperative our words carry the weight of people’s lives. We don’t and won’t agree about what we teach, but surely we can agree that our words should be aimed at making the world a better place and not just getting something off our chests.
What if we got away from our egos, career goals, publisher’s demands, selling our next online e-course, and trying to book our next speaking gig long enough to remember that we’re not working for web hits, traffic, retweets, and Facebook shares, but to affect lives? What if we remembered that James, the brother of Jesus, warned teachers to be careful because we will not be judged solely on actions, but also by what we taught others to do?
For my part, there’s a simple one-question measurement determining which Christian voices I attend to: Is this person committed to a local church?
If a writer, blogger, speaker, musician, etc…doesn’t have to look into the eyes of folks with whom they disagree and learn to love them; if they’ve insulated themselves from flesh and blood pushback and not learned to sing with one voice with the Other; if they are not forced to see the outbreak of their ideas in the faces of families sitting on their pew; if they’ve come to call their collection of friends a” spiritual community,” rather than engaging the natural differences which exist in public and open churches, then I’m not interested in their opinions about anything else.
They can blog and speak and sell and platform build all they want about Jesus, but they have no clue about communion.
At the center of my faith is a table not a tablet.
Sean Palmer is the Lead Minister of The Vine Church in Temple, TX. He is a contributing writer to The Voice Bible, author of “Scandalous: Lessons in Redemption From Unlikely Women,” and sought-after speaker and teacher. He writes at www.thepalmerperspective.com and you can follow him on Twitter at @seanpalmer