A Pennsylvania newspaper recently asked residents which issues were most important to them, encouraging readers to rank 11 issues in order of importance.
“If you were a Pennsylvania state legislator, what would you do?” asked the Morning Call, with publishing history in the Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton area of Pennsylvania. “Vote up or down next to each issue on the list—with number 1 being the highest priority—to reflect the order in which you would address them if you were a state legislator.”
The topics offered in the poll, ranging from reducing property taxes, gas drilling and pension reform to legalizing medical marijuana, privatizing liquor sales, online gambling and increasing education funding, largely omitted moral and social issues—perhaps a commentary on the priorities of most Americans and the lack of influence from churches and pastors.
“To Christians, pressing issues should be the protection of God’s definition of marriage, the sanctity of life, the breakdown of family, godly stewardship and other matters with which we know God will hold us accountable and are at the top of His list,” said Pennsylvania Pastors Network (PPN, www.papastors.net) President Sam Rohrer, who is also president of the American Pastors Network (APN,www.AmericanPastorsNetwork.net). “These are the issues truly affecting our way of life and our faith. While the topics from the poll may be at the top of people’s minds, pastors have the responsibility to also address subjects about which God says we should feel passionate.
“Pennsylvanians should be able to count on their pastors for words of wisdom, guidance and biblical truth on the issues that are most crucial in society,” Rohrer added. “As pastors, we are called to bring to light all the issues from the pulpit—even if they are controversial and especially if they impact how we live out our daily Christian lives.”
Research has shown that pastors are purposefully skirting some controversial topics when preparing their messages for the pulpit, but Rohrer says churches and pastors must address these issues, no matter how uncomfortable it might be.
Last summer, George Barna, founder of the Barna Group, shared research that found a vast majority of theologically conservative pastors believe the Bible speaks to societal issues, but fewer than 10 percent of these pastors are teaching people what the Bible says on these topics.
The research, conducted through the American Culture and Faith Institute, asked pastors across the country about their beliefs regarding the relevancy of Scripture to societal, moral and political issues, and the content of their sermons in light of their beliefs.
“…When we ask them about all the key issues of the day, [90 percent of them are] telling us, ‘Yes, the Bible speaks to every one of these issues,’” Barna told American Family Radio during an interview. “Then we ask them: ‘Well, are you teaching your people what the Bible says about those issues?’ and the numbers drop … to less than 10 percent of pastors who say they will speak to it.”
Barna said many pastors are afraid to get involved in political issues because of the controversy it might create. And, he added, “Controversy keeps people from being in the seats, controversy keeps people from giving money, from attending programs.”
Both APN and PPN offer pastors numerous online resources that help clergy choose sermon topics and find information for other church ministries. With some free and some paid resources, topics include abortion, apologetics, creation, the culture war, economics, education, the environment, history, homosexuality, Islam and marriage, along with many others.