TGC put forward an article by Patrick Miller ‘I Lost my Mom to Facebook’ and it was for all intents and purposes fine. I’m not looking to critique but merely to flog a dead horse some more. Pastors do the hard work of making your church a reading church.
Couple of things on the front end. 1. The QAnon cult is real and dangerous. I get why pastors are so freaked out over it. However, it is time that they start owning their part in feeding this monster in the first place. What was fringe and would have stayed that way grew because it was offered up the lambs, who were supposed to be shepherded, on the alter of COVID. Sheep are prone to wander and they while shepherds were sheltering in place, the sheep strayed far afield and joined new flocks. Admitting you were wrong is never easy and I also know that most of them don’t want to hear the I told you so’s from people like me. I will reassure them now with the words of Tom Reagan from Millers Crossing, “I don’t say that and I don’t like people who do.”
But I told you so.
2. I have said perviously that my suspicion is that the pews of the average evangelical church are filled with non Christians who think they are christians. Frequently I apply this to the left leaning people in the congregation whose idols are easy to spot and are frequently ignored by pastors. Their hearts are hardened as the pharisees were on false righteousness and works salvation. The conservatives in good size evangelical churches are usually the ones getting the short end of the stick, over their lack of kindness, legalisms, unloving tone, refusal to accept diversity so therefore race or sexism; the list can go on. And so when a real apostasy or a real unsaved conservative shows up they are already primed to not hear the bad news of their dangerous state so that they are joyfully receive the good news of the gospel. Their hearts are hardened like the sinners of old were, in the vein of, “well if I am to be hanged as a horse thief I might as well go ahead and steal a few horses.” It would be best for pastors to start cleaning house on the left a bit more clearly and often so when they clean to the right no one can reasonably accuse them of partisanship. Basically, the word needs to be taught straight up, pastors need to recalibrate their theological plumb lines.
Now to the article. Good suggestions all round. I vote yes on all of them. But I would add one. Pastors need to build reading congregations. Reading congregations end up fortified against stupid because they have a broad knowledge base. They overlap in areas of reading, people with a view of history will talk with those who are armchair theologians for example. Attention spans are longer, and their memory is too, they know that we have seen these kinds of things before. They see hot takes for what they are, uninformed drivel. The news cycle will seem so fast that it is clearly unreliable. Pastors, make your church a reading church. Have a book stall, recommend books in every sermon, talk about what you are reading, give away books in group settings, Let people see you with books. One that last one, I realize what a powerful tool Logos is, and that moving books from place to place is a pain, but people seeing books worn with your use on a shelf reinforces that this is what they should aspire to. Preach from a physical Bible, I would even suggest paper notes over notes on a iPad. Yes those last few things are tiny details, but details can matter, and they communicate. Fortify your people with books and the chances that they will be discipled by social media, or algorithms drops significantly.
Briefly, I know all of this is long haul hard work. But it is worth it, and no one should go into the pastorate looking for an easy gig. The job of a pastor is not just to stand in a pulpit for fifteen to forty-five minutes and inspire people. It is to open The Book, and to teach, rebuke, encourage, and train in righteousness, so that the people of God will be adequate, well equipped for every good work. How will they hear if there is not a teacher? In fact if you give them other good teachers then eventually your job gets easier! The ease can be short on the front end or long on the back end. Do the hard work up front, labor to make your church a reading church. Lead them to Jesus, then put in their hands the centuries of good gifts God has given. Never forget God loves books, He wrote a library of them. We serve God the writer, God the written, and God the Reader.*
Doug Wilson wrote that, see Undragoned