Preaching through cultural chaos is not easy. Pastors feel pressure to be tough and tender at the same time when addressing various front-page topics. This pressure is both internal and external, which can be overwhelming in times like these. Pastors and leaders often second guess whether we have said enough or too much.
Today I want to offer some encouragement and instruction from God’s Word for those who teach it regularly.
Paul instructs Titus and Timothy to recruit pastors who are not “arrogant or hot-tempered … holding to the faithful message as taught, so that he will be able both to encourage with sound teaching and to rebuke those who contradict it “(Titus 1:8-9); “Say these things, and encourage and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you” (Titus 2:15).
1. Pastors Are Shepherds, Not Sociologists.
Paul’s consistent call to encourage and rebuke usually starts with encouragement.
Encouragement (parakaleo) means to comfort, console or stand alongside. Titus and Timothy were instructed to encourage their people with sound teaching, not scare them senseless.
These young pastors had to address rampant immorality, apostasy and injustices in Ephesus (Timothy) and Crete (Titus), just as you and I do today. Instead of shaking their fists at society, they focused on solving the problems inside the church—where judgement begins.
“For the time has come for judgment to begin with God’s household” (1 Peter 4:17).
Ed Stetzer addresses the “what now?” question for leaders in his helpful blogpost.
2. Pastors Are Apologists, Not Pushovers.
If all we do is encourage our people, we have left our job half done.
Paul challenged Titus to both “encourage with sound teaching and to rebuke those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9). He repeated that same instruction again in chapter two, then also brings it up to Timothy.
This apparent either/or dichotomy is false because the Gospel demands both from us and our preaching. One text can simultaneously “encourage” some and “rebuke” others. For example, whenever we encourage biblical marriage in our sermons, we are simultaneously rebuking any inferior substitutes. In the same way, we rebuke racism by living out and preaching its polar opposite.
Pastors do not need to be pushy, but neither do we need to be pushovers. Jesus authorized and commissioned us to spread, as well as to defend, the Gospel. There is no need to defend our biblical positions defensively either, because there is no lack of clarity in Scripture about most ethical issues.
3. Pastors Are Evangelists, Not Experts.
I have grown weary of TV talking heads that posture themselves as “pundits.” The dictionary defines pundits as “experts” who criticize and commentate.
Whatever. I’m sick of watching these folks.
I am also tired of seeing people wave their divisive confederate and rainbow flags while they argue about their rights. I would rather spend my energy lifting up the cross.
“Do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:5).
Our lost neighbors are VIPs in God’s eyes. We are to love them before they get their moral and spiritual compass at conversion, not just afterward. If you don’t have or want any gay or racist friends, then you have less in common with Jesus than you thought.
4. Pastors Are Preachers, Not Politicians.
“Preach the Word, be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke, and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2).
We again see the words “encourage” and “rebuke.” This time in the specific context of preaching. At the end of the day, that is what we are called to do—preach the Word. Whether to adults, youth, kids or the lost, just preach on friends.
Russell Moore made a helpful, short video on how the Supreme Court’s decision should affect our preaching.
So in conclusion, every pastor is a shepherd, an evangelist, an apologist and a preacher. We should stand firm without strutting, and preach with authority not arrogance.
“The courts wither and the flags fade, but the word of our God remains forever” (Isaiah 40:8 Dance paraphrase).