The last 30 years of church history could be called the “inspiration” decades. It’s been a period where pastors were more likely to be inspirational speakers than prophetic voices.
And I get it. Most people are beat up from life, they feel unworthy and need to be encouraged. But the truth is, the Bible isn’t exactly the most inspirational book ever written. The Bible is focused more on reality, and in the New Testament, Jesus tells it like it is.
When I mentioned this fact recently, a friend said, “But what about how Jesus dealt with the woman caught in adultery? The religious leaders were going to stone her, and Jesus had compassion.” Bravo. Yes, He probably saved her life, but then He didn’t empathize about her problems, encourage her to try harder or become the best she could be. Instead, He said quite directly, “Neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.”
Jesus didn’t condemn the woman, but He also didn’t cut her any slack. She had made mistakes, and it was time to get serious. I think we worry so much about being “relevant,” not hurting feelings or turning off our contemporary audiences that we’re not giving them the one thing they need the most—reality. Today we live in the most distracted and disrupted culture in history, and when someone visits your church, they don’t have a lot of time to waste.
Let’s not go overboard and be a jerk. Let’s be inviting, responsive and sensitive. But perhaps more important, let’s cut to the chase.
The age of pastor as motivational speaker should be over.
What do you think about the issue?
Phil Cooke is a filmmaker, media critic and adviser to some of the largest churches, ministries and nonprofit organizations in the world. He's the founder of the Influence Lab.