Such a Time as This
T. M. Moore is a Fellow of the Wilberforce Forum. He serves as Pastor of Teaching Ministries and Director of the Center for Christian Studies at Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee.
C. S. Lewis wrote, “The right defence against false sentiments is to inculcate just sentiments.”1 Alas, false sentiments regarding the Church, her message, and her role abound; society is desperately lost and confused, all too ready to marginalize and misconstrue the people of God. If just sentiments are to take their proper place in culture, the Church must advance in at least three sectors.
Preaching and teaching
Typically, evangelical pastors shy away from controversial pubic issues in the pulpit, and this for at least two reasons. First, they respect the consensual arrangement, fortified by IRS restrictions, that churches should not take sides on political matters. It is not heartening to think that pastors would avoid proclaiming the Word of truth on issues of contemporary political import simply because they fear the loss of their church’s tax-exempt status. Had such a view obtained during the American Revolution and pastors had kept silent about the greatest issue of the day, the outcome of that struggle might have been different. While it is perhaps not the part of wisdom for pastors to turn their pulpits into campaign stumps, still, we should expect them to enlighten their congregations on the fine points of social, moral, and cultural concern on which politicians stake out their positions.
But this turns our focus to another reason pastors tend not to address such matters from the pulpit: they simply have not evaluated the great issues of the day in the light of God’s Word and are thus unprepared to declare “Thus saith the Lord” with any degree of certainty. Here, it would seem, is a call to more serious study and more considered reflection on the whole counsel of God. Scripture is sufficient to equip the saints of God for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Surely responsible citizenship, carried out in the context of our Kingdom callings, is a good work for which the people of God ought to be equipped.
Pastors need to take a more focused approach to discipling those who lead the churches. A disciple is one who is instructed in all that Christ has commanded us (Matt. 28:20), so that he can teach these truths to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also (2 Tim. 2:2). Disciples don’t just happen; they must be created intentionally, through prayer and teaching, time together with accountability, and active service in ministry. This is a part of the pastoral calling that too often goes unfulfilled in the press of daily duties. Pastors complain that they don’t have enough leaders to fulfill the demands of congregation and community. If that is, indeed, the case, then the buck stops not with those who have not stepped forward to serve, but with those who are called to seek, call, equip, and send them into the work of leading the Church at such a time as this.
Pastors seem always to be looking for the next great program that is going to help them in building their churches to maturity. Most such programs turn out to be flash and ash: the saints get excited about something, flock to it in large numbers for a while, then trickle away to other things when their interest has waned. But congregations can forge programs that demonstrate the holiness, power, witness, and unity of God’s people. And by joining together with other churches in their communities, they can demonstrate the love of God, the power of His fellowship, and the strength of Christian service and witness. These initiatives could include greater diaconal outreach to the needy; new forums for dialog with neighbors over issues of parenting, morality, education, and other public concerns; joint evangelistic endeavors; and common services of prayer and worship.
Mordecai challenged Esther to step forward at a crucial time in Israel’s history by asking her, “Who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14)? We might ask the same question of today’s pastors: Given the opportunity for clarifying and advancing the Christian faith at a time when the eyes of America are scrutinizing the churches as never before, who knows whether God has not brought us to our churches to tackle the false sentiments circulating in our day, through preaching and teaching, focused disciple-making, and cooperative local programming? What a wonderful opportunity we have to exemplify and inculcate just sentiments concerning the faith of Christ.
C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man: Reflections on Education with Special Reference to the Teaching of English in the Upper Forms of Schools (New York: Macmillan Company, 1947), 9.