Whenever something significant happens in our day we can count on the fact that the various media outlets will be flooded with both the details of and opinions about the events. There is no shortage of either. But there’s something else we can count on. And I don’t think this is necessarily a positive development. Many pastors and church leaders will also be weighing in with their thoughts on the various events.
Dear brother pastors, why have we become so compelled to let everyone know what we think about so many issues peripheral to our calling?
Realizing that neither consuming news nor processing how to think through it biblically is wrong or unwise, I want to gently encourage ministers to pump the brakes on what they react to online. Below are a few reasons why.
(1) Your job is tough enough.
Pastoral ministry is hard enough without complicating it with issues that are not primary. If faithful, you’ll likely offend people with your preaching and shepherding. Why spend ministerial capital on things you don’t have to? It seems unwise to further complicate an already difficult profession.
(2) You might actually be wrong.
I am wrong on like 12 things a day (that I know of!). I’m just trying to keep the law and the gospel straight. I can’t imagine if I started pontificating about politics and various social issues in real time. I was reminded of this earlier this week when I read a number of people I follow expressing their public change of opinion on an issue that first surfaced late last week. They were evidently quick to make a public take on the issue and then when more information was made public their initial position had changed. While I applaud their humility to own their mistake, I also cringe a bit wondering why they had to react in the first place. It seems like a bit of an unnecessary risk to take, in light of everything else. And, we should know better (Prov. 18:17, 26:17; James 1:19-20).
(3) You risk becoming known for something that is not central.
I’m thankful for the internet because I can listen to sermons, read blogs, and purchase books from many different people whom I might not normally come in contact with. But I am also interacting with lots of other things these brothers are writing. In a number of cases, I want to unring some of the cultural and social bells and focus on the symphony of the broader pastoral ministry. As time goes on, and the takes persist, this becomes increasingly difficult.
(4) You may be scratching the itch for relevance.
I don’t know this for sure but it is possible and therefore, at least worth considering. Pastoral ministry is a quiet work. We are often alone. Our labor produces mostly invisible fruit. We deal with a fair amount of opposition. Culturally speaking, we are the punchline. But, if we can bound out into the public sphere and agree with the broader culture we might receive a pat on the back. We might gain some acceptance. The thirst for honor and acceptance is real. Evangelicals have always been haunted by a lack of acceptance from those outside of our tribe. We should be careful and at least check ourselves.
(5) You may be distracting yourself from what you should be doing.
Let’s face it: it’s easy to waste time on social media or in political debate. But how much margin do we really have in our schedules to absorb all that it takes to be so up to date on the news, pithy in our social media posts, arresting in our replies, and clever in our blogs? Most pastors I know seem to be running on fumes. Why are we wasting time on this stuff? Imagine setting up the board for a game of The Settlers of Catan in your study a couple of times a week or playing a round of golf in the afternoons. Of course not. This would be a foolish waste of time. But we can somehow convince ourselves that it’s a noble thing we are doing. Maybe. But you might be distracting yourself from what you should be doing.
(6) You may be distracting your sheep as to what the primary battles are.
Pastors are examples to the flock (1 Pet. 5:4). This is supposed to be for the good. But, sometimes, regrettably, it can have a negative result. We need to be careful that we are not teaching our people to be engaged about whatever is on the media’s menu for the day. Instead, we could be helping them to see the clear, timeless, important biblical issues that are facing us daily. Also, if you’ve noticed, the media love to villainize. And rarely does the diagnosis of the problem find its rightful place. We must be careful that we are not parroting the media by projecting evil onto society “out there” rather than the sin inside of each of us.
(7) You look like you’re not busy.
If you are always commenting on issues and your online presence is filled with “hot takes” you just don’t look like you are doing a lot. Maybe no one has pointed this out to you before. But you should know. It’s not a good look for us as pastors. Remember, we’re not accountable for the editorials, but we are accountable for our time, talents, and the tending of the sheep God has entrusted to us (Heb. 13:17). We are accountable to our congregations but ultimately, we are accountable to God. This warrants some prayerful reflection.
I think our churches would be better served if pastors spent a bit less time reacting to stuff online and more time in prayer, study, and the work of caring for people. I would love to see pastors pump the breaks on their public comments while doubling down in private prayer and personal study. Let the talking heads be pithy with their hot takes. Pastors need to be faithful with the Scriptures and careful about getting entangled in matters that distract us (2 Tim. 2:4).