I was recently asked to offer my opinion on the following story: Missouri Pastor Is on Leave after a Sexist Sermon Saying Wives Should Lose Weight to Look Like Melania Trump.
Upon reading this, my heart breaks for the church ... I don’t write these types of reaction articles joyfully, but painfully. But at the same time, it’s important to voice concerns over certain matters in the church and to share constructive criticism.
While I am an imperfect man trying to follow a perfect God. I'm often reminded of the words of the 19th Century pastor, Charles Spurgeon, 'Brother, if any man thinks ill of you do not be angry with him; for you are worse than he thinks you to be'."
With that said, the short answer to the pastor’s statement is that it's very distasteful and a terrible thing to say, especially in a sermon. Not only is the statement misleading, but it’s also not biblical.
We definitely want to steward the wonderful body that God has given us (it is a precious gift), but this pastor seems to have been guided more by Hollywood than the Holy Spirit.
However, I would need to know a lot more before drawing any hard lines in the sand. Was this an off-the-cuff statement? If so, why didn’t he catch himself mid-way through and apologize? Or is this statement typical of his preaching style? Either way, my guess is that there are underlying issues going on in his life, which is why taking a leave is the best option. He needs our prayers more than our protest.
But How Can a Pastor Say Such a Thing?
Pastors fail just like everyone else. If we don’t guard our heart, build our intimacy with Christ, and surrender to the work of the Spirit, our sermons will be lifeless. As I have said before, there is a very troubling trend toward moral compromise in the evangelical church. I’ve witnessed soft porn images on Christian websites, questionable movie clips during sermons, and youth pastors talk about their favorite sexually charged TV show or movie with the youth—all under the guise of “relating” to the culture.
Pastors must take responsibility for the spiritual health of today’s church, and the nation. We don’t need more marketing plans, slick sermon titles, and poor sermon analogies; we need men filled with the Spirit of God. This was the problem in this pastor’s case. Like Samson, he “knew not that the Spirit of the Lord had departed” (cf. Judge 16:20).
But praise God ... this pastor, as well as all Christians, can get back on track. Here are four ways that I have shared before (you can find more here):
1. Return to the prayer closet
Without prayer, “the church becomes a graveyard, not an embattled army. Praise and prayer are stifled; worship is dead. The preacher and the preaching encourage sin, not holiness…preaching which kills is prayerless preaching. Without prayer, the preacher creates death, and not life” (E.M. Bounds).
Sermons should not come from pop-psychology and the latest fad; they must come from the prayer closet where God prepares the messenger before we prepare the message. It takes broken men to break men. Unplug the tv, turn off Facebook, and get back into the Word of God, prayer, and worship.
2. Return to a separated life
If a pastor fills his mind with the world all week and expects the Spirit of God to speak boldly through him from the pulpit, he will be gravely mistaken. “The sermon cannot rise in its life-giving forces above the man. Dead men give out dead sermons, and dead sermons kill. Everything depends on the spiritual character of the preacher” (E.M. Bounds). Who he is all week is who he will be when he steps to the pulpit.
3. Worship must be a priority
A pastor who does not worship is not prepared to preach. Many sing “about” God but they have never truly experienced Him—head knowledge without heart knowledge. Styles of worship range from the old, beloved hymns to contemporary. All worship should be God-centered, Christ exalted, and doctrinally sound.
4. Preach the difficult truths – they set people free
The church cannot neglect, water-down, or avoid preaching sin, repentance, or the fear of the Lord in the hope of not offending or securing an audience. This also reminds pastors of the magnitude of their responsibility. We need to step to the pulpit in fear and trembling, not with jokes and silly statements. The goal of preaching is faithfulness to God, not crowd appeal. The church, as a whole, may have forgotten the fear of the Lord, but it doesn’t follow that we should.
Photo courtesy: ©Juan Pablo Rodriguez/Unsplash
The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Christian Headlines.
Shane Idleman is the founder and lead pastor of Westside Christian Fellowship in Southern California and the WCF Radio Network. More can be found at ShaneIdleman.com, including free downloads of his eBooks. Visit him on Facebook and Twitter. Subscribe to his new podcast, Idleman Unplugged. You can also follow Pastor Shane on the new free speech platform Parler.