Pastors Dealing With Controversy

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August 11, 2010 Tags: Pastoral Voices

Today's video features Joel Hunter. Please note the views expressed here are those of the author, not necessarily of The BioLogos Foundation. You can read more about what we believe here.

In this video Conversation, Joel Hunter offers his thoughts on the challenges of preaching on controversial topics and offers advice to pastors who consider introducing these complicated discussions into their own congregations.

“I have a basic motto,” says Hunter, “Never underestimate people’s insecurities.” He explains that even people who are seemingly confident in most areas of their lives often have significant insecurities in anything that might upset or challenge their status quo. Thus, if a pastor tries to bring discussions of science and theology or creation care to the pulpit, this might be met with some resistance by congregants that are looking for scriptural direction and affirmation for issues they are dealing with as individuals. Broadening the scope of the discussion to include something like evolution might then be perceived with skepticism or fear, because it is not the kind of message many are searching for.

Hunter notes that as a pastor himself, he understands this perspective of church members just as he understands the predicament that pastors find themselves in when they think about how to initiate difficult discussions. Most churches are simply trying to survive from week to week, says Hunter, so there is tremendous insecurity on the part of pastors who worry that teaching controversy might lead to their exit.

Pastors are pastors , however, because they care about people and their hurts and concerns. Therefore, one of the things that pastors need to do, Hunter suggests, is to consider all of the issues a congregation is dealing with—and determine how they can introduce controversial topics in such a way that it will help reassert God’s sovereignty and power.

Any introduction must consider the insecurities of the congregation as well as God’s great gift. When approached in this manner and the pastor has a bit of a history, it may be received better. If a congregation knows how strongly a pastor perceives scripture and Jesus Christ, that helps one address things that may make some people uneasy because the pastor has the benefit of a church’s trust that a solid track record may provide.

Commentary written by the BioLogos editorial team.


Joel Hunter is senior pastor at Northland, A Church Distributed in Longwood, Fla. Hunter is also a board member of the World Evangelical Alliance and author of the book A New Kind of Conservative.

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HornSpiel - #25419

August 11th 2010

Thank you Joel, your words are comforting

I wish I had heard this yesterday when I learned that truth the hard way.


Mike Smuts - #25500

August 12th 2010

I am a pastor in the Dutch Reformed Church and fequently have to struggle with this same question.

I fully agree the delicacy of dealing with these issues.  I believe one should be sensitive not to shock to the faith of congregants for whom the issue of evolution is not within their scope of reference.

On the other hand, one also need to be sensitive to the struggles of sientifically minded congregants who struggle with a perceived conflict between what they believe to be scientifically sound and which seems to be in conflict with how they understand Scripture - e.g. Gen 1 & 2.  Pastors should be equipped to engage with them in discussions in which the assumed conflilct can be resolved.  The main issue will be introducing an understanding of Scripture, its message and interpretation.  When we interpret Gen.1 & 2 as parables with the message that God is the Creator of all en that He seeks a relationship with us, we are not downgrading the authority of Scripture is God’s revelation of Himself to us.  When science then comes to insights of how He created, it does not bring any conflict with the message of Scripture that He created.

I do believe that this type of discussion is not for the pulpit, but for teaching and counselling.


conrad - #25669

August 15th 2010

Mike there is a lot of concordance in science and Bible comparisons.
It is being ignored.

I hope to publish something outlining the concordance and I would like to find a few helpers writing it.

I am neither a great scientists nor great Christian but I have walked a path through life that has kept me conversant with an overview of progress in both essential disciplines.

I am amazed at the science-Bible concordance that is being ignored.

IN FACT SOME PEOPLE EVEN THINK “CONCORDANCE” ITSELF IS A DIRTY WORD.

MEANWHILE THE REAL SCIENCE-BIBLE CONCORDANCE IS GROWING EXPONENTIALLY.

The churchmen need to awaken to this. This split is bad and IT CAN BE HEALED.


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