I encourage my pastoral ministry students to become comfortable speaking about issues that are uncomfortable, including addictions, abuse, racial tensions, poverty, and mental illness. Because these issues are often filled with shame for people living in the midst of these issues or wondering if they are the ones perpetuating these issues, pastors need to show that they are safe people to talk to well before someone is deciding whether or not to summon the courage to speak with a pastor. Church planters, especially, must be aware and savvy about controversial subjects because they attract people hoping for a new community to support them or because they have just left a community that was wounded by their actions or wounding in their own lives.
Over the next month, we are going to address issues of reconciliation, race, gender, addictions, mental illness, and other issues to help church planters speak pastorally and with insight.
Speaking pastorally about difficult issues means combining the following traits:
- Passion: Pastors know that controversial issues are important and connect with people at deep levels.
- Empathy: Pastors want to understand issues from multiple angles—even if they are angles they think are fundamentally wrong.
- Gentleness: While passionate, pastors do not to attack rhetorically.
- Humility: Pastors know that they are not qualitatively different from people living with addiction, abuse, racial tension, and mental illness. Their own lives are susceptible to the deepest challenges of life.
- Intelligence: Pastors are not content to limit their talking points to their opinions. Instead, they show that they have researched, thought critically, and gathered resources for their congregations.
We hope that the following month will be helpful in your church planting ministry. We also invite you to share resources that you have found helpful at our Facebook page.