Dr. Russell Moore—How pastors should approach divisive issues

November 29, 2021

Pastors today face mounting pressure to address today’s socially and politically charged issues. In response, some may choose not to address any of these issues, while others attempt to confront each and every issue as quickly as they arise. 

Dr. Russell Moore, Public Theologian at Christianity Today, recently joined the Subsplash podcast to discuss how these challenges are impacting pastors and church leaders—and what they can do to respond. Check out this episode of Equip & Engage to learn more about navigating today’s hot button issues from a biblical and pastoral perspective!

Episode at a glance

[0:00] Introduction to Dr. Russell Moore, his background with the Southern Baptist Convention, and his new role as Public Theologian at Christianity Today. What is a “public theologian” and why is it needed today?

[2:58] Pastors are facing major challenges addressing hot button issues—vaccine mandates, Critical Race Theory, and “heartbeat laws,” just to name a few. Some have even been publicly confronted over how they approach these issues. What framework can pastors use when navigating these conversations? 

  • Look at the urgency of the issue. What’s really going on here? 
  • Separate yourself from the task of addressing the issues. How do I mitigate the effects for my congregation right now? 
  • Avoid getting on “the hamster wheel.” How do I prepare to address whatever issues may come up without spiraling out of control?  

     “Sometimes a pastor or leader asks me, ‘How do I address this?’ or ‘How do I fix this?’ I say, ‘You can’t.’”    

— Dr. Russell Moore

[7:43] How can pastors be a non-anxious presence in the midst of a culture-wide nervous breakdown? 

Dr. Moore explains that, on top of their traditional duties, pastors are now under additional pressure to take on complex new responsibilities—infectious disease laws, public health policies, political science and state election laws, OSHA regulations, and so on. But pastors need to realize that they can’t address all of these issues at the same time. 

“Work at the principle level instead of the issue level,” he suggests. Get past the inflammatory issues of the moment, and instead use auxiliary issues that address the heart of the topics at hand. 

Pastors should also realize that these challenges aren’t new. Jesus faced similar polemical cultural and political issues. He had the wisdom to decide when to answer a question, when to reframe the question, and when to remain silent. 

[15:54] What are some first steps when considering to say something or remain silent on these issues? 

Dr. Moore notes that pastors already know how to address complex issues. To put this in perspective, pastors need to consider the different situations they already face daily, such as marital counseling or relationship management. Pastors should address these social issues in the same fashion using the same type of wisdom they’ve acquired over time. 

[21:28] Dr. Moore shares that pastors from all corners of the country are facing the same pressure when it comes to addressing sensitive issues today. In other words, pastors need to realize they are not alone in their struggle.

[22:35] What are some practical steps pastors can take today, and what resources can pastors read or listen to in order to grow in their understanding? 

  • Know when to say, “I don’t know.” It’s refreshing to hear someone humbly acknowledge that they don’t have all the answers and reach out to others for help understanding issues. 
  • Know your Bible. The Scriptures help us better understand human nature and recognize the big picture of what is really happening.
  • Spend time with good fiction. Novels enable us to experience people in a variety of different circumstances while our guard is down. 
  • Pay attention to a wide variety of legitimate media sources. Having an array of sources will develop a better understanding of different points of view. 
  • Look at the conversations your community is having on social media. What are they posting about? What ways are they demonstrating (or not demonstrating) the fruits of the Holy Spirit? 

The best discipleship tools to help guide your congregation

Pastors want to guide their congregations to the joy and fullness of life that come from following Jesus. They also know that their gospel-centered messages are often diluted by other messages that their members hear, read, and watch online every day. 

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To discover how your church can provide clear communication for making more and better disciples, let’s chat!

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