Preaching through cultural chaos is not easy. Pastors feel pressure to be tough and tender at the same time when addressing various front-page topics. This pressure is both internal and external, which can be overwhelming in times like these. Pastors and leaders often second guess whether we have said enough or too much.
Today I want to offer some encouragement and instruction from God’s Word for those who teach it regularly.
Paul instructs Titus and Timothy to recruit pastors who are not “arrogant or hot-tempered … holding to the faithful message as taught, so that he will be able both to encourage with sound teaching and to rebuke those who contradict it “(Titus 1:8-9); “Say these things, and encourage and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you” (Titus 2:15).
1. Pastors Are Shepherds, Not Sociologists.
Paul’s consistent call to encourage and rebuke usually starts with encouragement.
Encouragement (parakaleo) means to comfort, console or stand alongside. Titus and Timothy were instructed to encourage their people with sound teaching, not scare them senseless.
These young pastors had to address rampant immorality, apostasy and injustices in Ephesus (Timothy) and Crete (Titus), just as you and I do today. Instead of shaking their fists at society, they focused on solving the problems inside the church—where judgement begins.
“For the time has come for judgment to begin with God’s household” (1 Peter 4:17).
2. Pastors Are Apologists, Not Pushovers.
If all we do is encourage our people, we have left our job half done.
Paul challenged Titus to both “encourage with sound teaching and to rebuke those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9). He repeated that same instruction again in chapter two, then also brings it up to Timothy.
This apparent either/or dichotomy is false because the Gospel demands both from us and our preaching. One text can simultaneously “encourage” some and “rebuke” others. For example, whenever we encourage biblical marriage in our sermons, we are simultaneously rebuking any inferior substitutes. In the same way, we rebuke racism by living out and preaching its polar opposite.
Pastors do not need to be pushy, but neither do we need to be pushovers. Jesus authorized and commissioned us to spread, as well as to defend, the Gospel. There is no need to defend our biblical positions defensively either, because there is no lack of clarity in Scripture about most ethical issues.
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