As pastors, we have a responsibility to feed the people of God. But as people of God we all also have a responsibility to feed ourselves. One of the joys of being a pastor is watching people grow and strengthen their faith. One of the ways I help them grow is by recommending resources. Stimulating books, thought provoking articles, and engaging podcasts are just some of the wonderful tools we have as pastors to help our people grow. Here are some helpful ways that pastors can integrate BioLogos resources into the ministry of their church.
Use the Stories
Stories are a powerful tool for communicating truth. For millennia people have used stories to share experiences and communicate truth. We love to hear and tell stories. It has been and still is an essential part of our culture. Whether it is simple Monday morning office conversation about our weekend, or dramatic fictional stories of heroes and villains, our culture loves stories. BioLogos regularly shares real life stories from people who have come to understand and appreciate the evolutionary creationist perspective. My own story is also included.
Some people will remain unmoved by persuasive arguments and sound logic, but many people can resonate with a story. I have a pastor friend who is a master storyteller. He regularly uses stories in his sermons to drive home his points. One day a woman in his congregation came up to him after a service and said to him, “I love your sermons. I don’t always understand everything you say in your sermon, but then you tell a story and it all makes sense to me.” Integrating BioLogos stories into your sermons, discipleship meetings, and general ministry can be an encouragement to your people. And, when appropriate, sharing a BioLogos story as a sermon illustration can bring to life powerful biblical truth that can give hope and inspire change.
Proactively Inspire Worship
Sometimes, we can spend so much time responding to questions or concerns that we forget to be proactive. Pastoral ministry is about more than response, it is about proactive care and teaching. One way we can proactively lead our church to worship God is by showing them the wonder of creation.
So many times, Scripture calls our attention to the things that God has made in order to inspire us toward worship. The Psalmist feels as much when he writes,
“When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained; What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him?… O LORD, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth!” (Psalm 8:3-4, 9).
A sermon may seem, at first, like an odd place to talk about the wonders of nature, but with well over 100 references to nature in the Bible, it is actually a wonder that more sermons do not include them! Describing the wonders of nature is a powerful way to direct our thoughts and hearts to our Creator.
By showing people in our sermons how great God is through the things he has made, we can inspire people toward worship. We can help them catch a bigger and fresher vision of the amazing-ness of God. We can move them to worship God as Creator and King.
Address Theological Questions
If there is one thing that I have learned over the last 12 years of pastoral ministry, it is that when people show up on Sunday morning, they don’t check their baggage at the door. They carry the weight of their disappointments, trials, struggles, and temptations with them into the pew. They are keenly aware of their own brokenness and the brokenness of the world around them. What they are looking for is a little understanding and encouragement.
More and more it seems that people are asking about the goodness of God and the suffering in the world. With so much turmoil in the news (politics, natural disasters, wars, terrorism, etc.) people’s thoughts are often turned to God’s place in it all. First, it is important that our churches are safe places for people to ask those questions. Second, it is important that our churches are places for people to receive thoughtful, biblical answers.
Our people deserve to be listened to and they need more than trite clichés as answers. Many people ask difficult questions in the aftermath of losing a loved one. How can a good God allow suffering and pain in the world? They deserve a sensitive and caring response to their questions. There are many ways to thoughtfully approach answering these difficult questions. Including a variety of perspectives is the most effective way of reaching the widest audience. Because people think differently and have different experiences the more perspectives your share, the more thoughtful you are, and the more caring you are, the more effective you can be.
Address Cultural Questions
So much of the culture is influenced by media sources. Social media, news outlets, network television shows, and even Netflix Original Series influence the values and thinking of our society. One common misconception continually propagated (almost ad nauseam) is that science and Christianity are in conflict. I was recently watching a crime drama on Netflix about the FBI and serial killers. Even in this fictional story, science and Christianity were portrayed as in conflict at worst and unrelated at best.
This constant narrative has raised all sorts of questions in our culture: Why believe in God when we live in a world of science? Or, Isn’t believing in the resurrection of Jesus a pre-scientific idea? And, hasn’t science disproved the miracles of the Bible? All of these cultural objections should be thoughtfully answered by the church. But the church (as a people) also needs to be equipped to respond to them.
With so much influence coming from media sources, it is easy to feel like the church and culture are locked in a never-ending war. I’ve talked to several Christians recently who have begun to question the historical authenticity of the resurrection of Jesus and the reliability of the Bible. They have not been equipped to respond to objections about the “absurdity” of Christianity. Without such equipping, their faith suffers.
But the culture isn’t exactly buying into New Atheism hook, line, and sinker. For all the influence of the media, the vast majority of people in our culture believe that religion does more good than harm. The culture war isn’t lost. But the church must equip the people to know how to think and respond to cultural questions about the Christian faith.
Address Social Concerns
The discussion on science and faith is tackling new challenges. New concerns about bioethics, care for the environment, and pop culture are being raised. As pastors, our congregations need to hear our voices on these topics. We need to provide theologically informed pastoral insight. We must help our churches to think through the implications of not caring for the environment and the ethics behind applied technology.
I know this may sound like a daunting task. I never took a course on technological ethics or environmentalism in seminary. I’m guessing most pastors haven’t received any training on how to think about these issues, let alone help others think biblically about them. But seminary should only be one of the first places pastors learn, not the last. Whether you view culture as inherently in conflict with the church or not, one thing we can agree on is that if the church is to reach the culture, it must understand it. It is hard to make sense of something we don’t understand. Pastors must be constant students of culture. If we are not actively seeking to understand the questions of our culture, we will never be able to show how Christianity makes sense of them. We can’t provide answers if we don’t know the questions.
Reading and incorporating resources on these topics into our sermons will help people gain a new appreciation for the natural world, and prepare them to discuss with their coworkers, family, and friends how Christianity makes sense of current questions and problems. We don’t have to pretend that we have all the answers, but it is important to show that we are willing to consider the questions.
As pastors, we must take the lead in responding to questions. Not as authoritative know-it-alls, but as patient listeners. We give thoughtful responses to those who ask tough, but good questions. But we are also responsible to equip God’s people to give an answer for the hope that lies within them. Integrating BioLogos resources into your sermons is one effective way that you can do that.
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At BioLogos, “gracious dialogue” means demonstrating the grace of Christ as we dialogue together about the tough issues of science and faith.