Pastors see importance of discipleship in dealing with social issues

by Ferrell Foster on February 1, 2019 in Ethical Living Blog

A new Barna report shows that pastors “place a premium on discipleship when it comes to social issues.”

At this point, I have read only a sample of their findings, not the full report, but I wanted Texas Baptists to be aware of it. “Faith Leadership in a Divided Culture” includes these details:

Nine in 10 pastors (90%) say it is a major part of their role to help Christians have biblical beliefs about specific social issues. Just under three-quarters (72%) say helping Christians think well about culture in general is a major part of their job.

Pastors believe they can make a real difference when it comes to developing this kind of cultural discernment. More than nine in 10 believe they have influence with their congregants when it comes to how they think about current issues in society (31% say “a lot” of influence, 60% “some” influence). Most leaders express optimism that their congregants are prepared for a divided culture—a majority of pastors says their congregants are somewhat (55%) or very (7%) well-equipped to have conversations on sensitive topics.

We can be thankful most pastors say it is a “major part” of their work to help believers develop a biblically informed view of social issues. Also, most see themselves having at least “some” influence on how church members think about current issues.

I’m not as confident as the pastors who say their congregants are well-equipped to have conversations on sensitive cultural topics.

There are two things Christians need for well-equipped conversations. They need an understanding of the current issues, plus an understanding of what the Bible says that might speak to that issue.

On the former, many people today are primarily listening to people with whom they already agree. As a result, they can come to a one-sided view of an issue, and most topics are complex. Even if broader understanding doesn’t cause a person to change his or her position, it would that person to better understand those with a differing viewpoint before they pursue a conversation on the topic.

On the latter, biblical understanding is declining. Even people who regularly attend church often have not read the Bible for themselves. And even more have not studied it in-depth on key societal issues. It is easy to grab a verse or two here or there in the Bible to support a variety of positions; it is not so easy to think about the biblical revelation more broadly.

Because of this situation, pastors can be of great help to congregants by seeking to broadly understand cultural issues and to study the biblical revelation related to it. In this process, I think it is essential to read, listen to, and watch people who have a view different than the one a pastor has at the beginning of such study.

True study is work, but it pays great dividends for both the minister and his or her congregants.

Jesus showed us the way. He knew his culture well, as reflected in his parables and other teachings. He also knew the Hebrew Bible well. He coupled those two aspects of knowledge with a deep prayer walk with God.

Knowledge and spiritual wisdom create a powerful combination for touching the world with God’s good news of love, grace, hope, forgiveness, and empowerment for living.

When we do these things -- pursue knowledge and spiritual wisdom -- we will surprise the world, as did Jesus even as a boy.

“Why were you searching for me?” he asked them. “Didn’t you know that it was necessary for me to be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them.

Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was obedient to them. His mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and with people (Luke 2:49-52, CSB).

Note: I have developed an approach to Christian living that is rooted Scripture. I am happy to come to any Texas Baptist church and share parts of this material. If a church leader is interested, I would be happy to talk about the details so you can see if it might be helpful to you and those to whom you minister. Email me at

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