How “Sensitivity” Led Pastors Away From Their Duty
The senior pastor of Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, Jim Garlow chairs Renewing American Leadership (ReAL), a national organization committed to defending families, free enterprise, and religious liberty. He was one of the evangelical leaders of the effort to enact Proposition 8 in California – a voter initiative to legally define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
What does it mean to be a pastor in the 21st century? There are 350,000-400,000 churches in the U.S., and perhaps a half-million “pastors.” What do we need to succeed? Training. Biblical knowledge. Integrity. Leadership. A high sense of calling. And one more thing: an attorney.
I’m not being facetious. As pastors, we need lawyers to help us be able to continue to preach and to function for the reason for which God put us on earth. That’s why I’m so grateful for Alliance Defending Freedom. They are helping to sustain biblical, authentic, truly free preaching. They’re helping us as pastors to be what we were supposed to be. We find ourselves in a new era. For years, we were urged to be “seeker-sensitive,” and rightly so (who would want to be “seeker-insensitive?”) But we’ve taken that paradigm in an unintended direction, and it’s revealed a glaring weakness in our understanding of what it is to be a pastor.
It goes like this: Pastors, by nature, are people who love and care about other people. That’s a good thing – unless we mistake that love for people as meaning that we are also to be loved by all people. That desire to be liked can reduce the boldness that’s demanded from the pulpit.
“It’s not that complex,” a man told me, as we discussed how so many Christian institutions have become compromised by the culture. “It happens as soon as the desire for the respectability of humans outweighs the hunger to please God.” That said, I have to ask: How has our preaching worked out for us over the last 40 years? Are our communities more righteous? Or less so?
"How's this seeker-sensitivity, which sounded good...worked out for us over the last 40 years?"
Fifty years ago, people understood that killing a baby in the womb is wrong. Preach that today, and you’re being “too political.” Say that homosexual behavior is unacceptable, or that marriage means one man and one woman: again, you’re too political. What has happened?
A friend of mine lost a lot of weight and became very athletic, a runner. People started worrying, saying, “You’re way too thin.” She finally told them, “You’ve never seen me healthy.” Well, when people tell me, “You’re too political,” my response is, “You’ve never seen biblical.”
As pastors, are we such clear disseminators of truth that we pose a threat to those who would try to oppress freedom, truth, and righteousness in our culture? For so many years, we’ve failed to provide biblical preaching in America. Now, when our people hear biblical preaching, they don’t recognize it as being biblical. They think it’s somehow “political.”
That’s largely our own fault, for caring more about the affection of the culture than the truth of the Gospel. Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, recently said, “Pastors are the last line of defense.” He’s right – but weren’t we supposed to be the first line of defense?
We’re at a point where we must see spiritual renewal across our land. I’m convinced it won’t happen unless pulpits – i.e, pastors – are absolutely free. We won’t have what we must have to change the hearts of Americans until our pastors are free with the boldness we had in America’s past … until our fear of the culture matters less than our healthy, awesome, reverent fear of God.