How do I approach my pastor about Genesis?
Published: 19 January 2017 (GMT+10)
Compromise or confusion? Backed by prayer and a considered approach, you may be able to positively influence your church leaders on the creation issue.
At Creation Ministries International we often have people contact us for advice on how to approach their pastor/elder/church leader regarding the crucial topic of origins. Oftentimes, the scenario goes like this: the pastor preaches a ‘compromised’ message on Genesis and some church members (hopefully more than just you)1 are alarmed. But how do they go about approaching their pastor?
Firstly, we would suggest that before you do anything else, that you pray about the situation.
Secondly, the instructions found in 1 Peter 3:15 must always be adhered to:
“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15)
Be respectful and genuine
Please note that the ‘always’ applies not only to our preparedness to give an answer but also to the way we go about this—with gentleness and respect. Every encounter we have with our church leaders over this issue must be done in this way—and the respectfulness must be genuine. We may be distressed about what was said, even angry when we heard it. But if we approach our pastor with this anger still in our hearts then he may well interpret our anger about his message as anger towards him personally. Obviously this is counter-productive.
Thirdly, we suggest that you take someone along with you. This is not only for your own moral support but also to ensure that you are not later misquoted. Unfortunately, this does sometimes happen, and it does not necessarily imply that it was deliberate. In a stressful situation, we are all capable of understanding (and later remembering) things that may differ substantially from what was actually said. On the other hand, it is wise to avoid taking more than one person with you. To the beleaguered pastor this can appear to be a posse and he may fear that he is about to be lynched!
Our biblical model here is that of Priscilla and Aquilla.
Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately (Acts 18:24–26).
Note, they approached Apollos privately; they invited him to their home. They did not confront him in front of others. Perhaps you could invite your pastor to your home for a meal or take him out to lunch?
Use our resources
While he eats you could share why the creation/evolution issue is so important to the Gospel, biblical authority, etc. The impact of the issue in your own experience could be a good connecting point. We would suggest giving your church leaders some of our resources like our new DVD Fallout which shows the link between the teaching of evolution and youth leaving the church.
If that is well accepted, it could be followed by our acclaimed documentary Evolution’s Achilles’ Heels, which explains the weakness of many of evolution’s claims.
This will help give your pastor more of an understanding as to the relevance of this issue, and the fact that there is real science behind the arguments. Thank your church leader for his time and let him know that you are praying for him (sincerely, so make sure it is true).2 It is important for him to know that although you may disagree with him on this issue, you are not against him personally.
Journey to understanding
And again, make it plain in everything that you are approaching him very respectfully. Remember too that many of us, maybe even you, have had to go through a journey of understanding on this issue.
Many genuine believers are compromising biblical truth without even being aware that this is what they are doing. So referring to his position as ‘compromise’ (even when that is what it is, and we use that word in this article) may be counterproductive and perceived as an unfair accusation/attack.
Lastly, consider his situation. Your pastor may well come to agree with you on the origins issue but feel that his hands are tied by eldership/church leaders/powerbrokers in the fellowship who compromise over this important issue. His position could feel even more tenuous if his children attend a school that is attached to the church. Your pastor may feel that he has much to lose and simply not want to stake everything on this issue (although when it comes to origins there is an awful lot at stake!).
So, to sum up:
- Pray for your pastor and the meeting you hope to have
- Contact him with gentleness and respect
- Take someone else along with you
- Let him know why this is such an important issue, preferably relying on well-produced materials to help make the points
- Thank him for his time
But what if he simply refuses to accept what I am saying?
It seems you have two choices; to stay, agreeing to disagree, or to quietly and respectfully take yourself and your family to another fellowship where the importance of biblical creation is clearly understood. Every situation is different, and the Bible promises wisdom in decision-making to those who seek it from God (James 1:5). Whichever route you take, presumably you will all along have been seeking to help others in the fellowship know of the importance of the issue—and will want to continue to do so if staying. But it is vital to do this without implying disrespect to or undermining the church leadership. This is more readily achieved by the use of preprepared materials that are generic and focused on the issues, not aimed at anyone personally.
References and notes
- If it is only you, consider the importance of taking the message of creation (its relevance and some evidence—see later in the article) to your fellow congregants. Return to text.
- It’s very important to say this in a way which is not patronizing (‘You poor unspiritual thing, you desperately need my prayers’) or formulaic (‘I’m saying this because that’s what Christians are supposed to say’). Return to text.
Excellent article, except two small issues. The trivial issue is the form of the summary at the end, which I found slightly burdensome to interpret. I would render its current substance as:
You can either: (A) choose to agree to disagree over this issue, and hopefully you will have the opportunity to help let others in the fellowship know of the importance of the issue if you have not already been doing so (remember to do that without implying disrespect to or undermining the church leadership; by using materials that are generic and focused on the issues, like those mentioned, you can do so more readily); Or (B) you can quietly and respectfully take yourself and your family to another fellowship where the importance of biblical creation is clearly understood.
The non-trivial issue is my opinion on the exact relation between (A) and (B): I think that, at least normally, one should first do (A) before actually opting for (B). I suppose the article implies as much, but I'm sure too many people today would miss that implication.
Further to my first comment:
Using an illustration can be helpful.
Eg. Anyone could build a suspension bridge, but an engineer will do it quickly, efficiently, economically, safely and fit for purpose. Or would you prefer the evolutionary approach: almost endless mistakes, dead ends, death and disaster?
Perhaps you'd like to take your car to an evolutionary mechanic? He'd use any old part on any old location, may try water in the petrol tank...just trial an error for a couple of years, instead of an expert service that would have your car back in a day.
Contrast Proverbs 3:22: The LORD by wisdom founded the earth, By understanding He established the heavens.
People will talk of using 'evolutionary' processes: I quip "oh, full of waste, frustration, dead ends, delay and mistakes; how is that good?"
Compare Romans 4:17b: there's no foolish delay here, but God creating through his call.
Creation is full of purpose; evolution is devoid of it.
The ethical differences between a world that starts with God and a world that starts with aimless, meaningless evolution are diametrically opposed. The logic of evolution leads to pain suffering and death, and morals reducing to power and force. We see this in Stalin, Pol Pot, and so on.
The logic of creation as Mr G. says is that love is real and leads to completely different results.
We know them by their fruits.
How then can evolution be god-like when (as Paul reminds us in Romans) what we see points to God. How can evolution's death and destruction, cruelty and aimlessness point to God?
Firstly, I'd ask why he sees a difference in the Scriptures between God's action in respect of the physical world, and his action in the spiritual world when God integrates the two from the start. If God can't tell us what really happened and the factual basis for relationship with him (and each other) and what his love 'really' did, then how can we have any faith, given that God as creator is the basis and starting point of faith? The creation account demonstrates our link with God, it doesn't merely assert in in story-book fashion, or as an illustration with a tenuous link with the real world, but tells us how it came about, with objective clarity and detail that dismisses any attempt to 'paganise' it.
Many ministers split the two, in a move that has more to do with philosophical Idealism than the 'concrete realism' of the Bible. This allows them to follow pagan philosophy and split the 'world' into a 'really real' spiritual world, and an unimportant physical world, where God is not as serious as he is in the spiritual world. But, they have to tell us what the real really is: is it as per evolution, where material is the final basis for reality, and love, relationship, and moral meaning are just stuck onto it for no particular reason, or is it as per creation, where the personal God: wisdom acting in loving relationship is the starting point of all being and the one in whom all being makes sense and coheres together.
The Scriptures belie any attempt to graft the personal onto the material, but turn this over and make the material reliant on the personal God. The Genesis creation account, aside from anything else, puts God's creative intention in the very physical world where his spiritual intent plays out. The two are intertwined.