Preachers today walk a precarious tightrope. On one hand, we are commissioned to preach the truth of God’s Word. On the other hand, our culture is extremely politically correct and rejects the idea of absolute truth. Ignore the first part and you will displease God. Ignore the second part and you will preach to an empty church.
Is it possible for a preacher to remain committed to the authority of God’s Word and still connect with a skeptical culture? I believe the answer is yes. In fact, we must pledge ourselves to preach the truth in a way that reaches people; otherwise, the people will be lost.
So how does a pastor preach an unpopular truth in our culture?
- People want the truth. This generation screams for authenticity; anything less will not be tolerated, especially in the church.
- People don’t necessarily like what the Bible says and are hesitant to consider it as relevant in their lives.
- People are being destroyed because they are living outside of Biblical parameters.
How can a pastor remain true to the Word of God while connecting with a culture that rejects it? Is it possible to adhere to the truth and, at the same time, retain a credible voice in our culture? How should we approach preaching on controversial topics?
1. You’re only the messenger.
One of the most difficult parts of preaching the truth about touchy subjects is this: people sometimes get angry. None of us relish the idea of being disliked. It is easier to tell people what they want to hear and keep them as friends. But as the messenger of the Bible, you don’t have the authority to change the message. It is better to let God’s Word stand for itself. It has done so for many generations, it certainly will continue to do so.
Adrian Rogers said, “It is better to speak the truth that hurts and then heals, than falsehood that comforts and then kills. It is better to be hated for telling the truth than to be loved for telling a lie. It is better ultimately to succeed with truth than to temporarily succeed with a lie.” If we speak the truth, the results belong to God. If we faithfully present the truth of God’s Word with grace and love, God will take care of how things turn out. Keep this in mind when you are preaching an unpopular message.
2. Earn the right.
It is amazing what you can say to people if they know for sure that you love them. Many preachers don’t take the time to develop personal relationships with people in the church. They lack the trust of the people and will be limited in what they can say. Invest yourself in order to build trust—you will then be able to speak into the lives of the people.
3. Watch your motives.
The point of preaching is not to prove people wrong. Certainly, Biblical preaching will point out sin, but the point of preaching is to offer the Gospel (Good News) to people. If your motive is to offend people, you will succeed. Pray for a sensitive and compassionate heart that enables you to speak truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).
4. Always give them hope.
A message that only condemns is not a complete message. When preaching on sin, we must follow with forgiveness. A list of “don’ts” needs a list of “do’s. ” Hell requires a heaven. Have the backbone to preach the truth, but please also have the tender heart to preach grace.
5. Be sensitive.
While we must be direct and share the truth, we should do so with respect. There is no need to be rude. Also keep in mind that the topic you are addressing may involve the families of people in the church. They may naturally be defensive and protective. Compassion makes the truth easier to hear.
Don’t be afraid and don’t be discouraged. You are called by God to share His Word. At the conclusion of our ministries, that is what we will be responsible for. Be reminded: You are accountable. We will all, one day, stand before God and give an account of what we said and how we led. Hopefully, God will show us how we preached the truth and people responded to it!