When Your Preacher Becomes a Social Justice Action Hero

The Aquila Report

The one thing the church offers is an answer to the wrath of God because of sin. As the world remains under judgment, the Christian gospel offers a way of transference out of a kingdom of darkness and into a kingdom of light, out of Babylon and into the heavenly Jerusalem. We do this by faithfully preaching the everlasting gospel made known in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, calling all people to put their trust for life and death in Jesus. “We preach Christ”, in other that “we may present everyone mature in Christ.”

I know it has become en vogue in our day for pastors to think they’re doing their congregations a great service by framing their sermons to deal with the social justice issues of the day. Obviously, the problems are many and we’re never short of issues to address: environmental problems, racial tensions, poverty, a sexual revolution, and more. No one questions, of course, that God’s truth should be applied to the contemporary societal challenges people face. The law of God certainly applies to these issues. A faithful pastor will do this wisely when appropriate.

I fear, however, that a kind of bully pulpit is (re)emerging by pastors who are pushing harder than ever these societal struggles upon their congregation (and everyone else), to the distraction of the one thing that is lasting and eternal. “Gospel” in this scheme is nothing more than the deliverance of people from societal abuses. God’s word is simply a tool of the pastor to fulfill that agenda. The congregation is slowly conditioned to expect the pastoral tangent from the pulpit every Sunday usually over one issue the pastor has become obsessed with.

As times goes on, the people are being programmed to believe that the faithfulness of a church is dependent upon the degree to which these social abuses are addressed. Something happens in the news Saturday night, things are all the worse Sunday morning from the pulpit. Everything must now revolve around solving the new societal evil as the pastor becomes a kind of social justice action hero that everyone else should aspire to be. “A round of applause for the pastor,” they say, “he was very bold today in rising up against injustice.” All of it was very entertaining and socially acceptable, ironically. But the actual consequence is a weariness that envelops the congregation and compromise of the ministry of Christ.

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