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Published: 17 November 2018 (GMT+10)

Why refer someone to a pastor?

E.S. wrote in with a question regarding referring people to their pastors:


Lita referred a questioner to their pastor to get guidance. In that particular person’s case they may have received good guidance. It saddens me to say it may not be good advice in many churches. Unfortunately, where we live we have been looking for a church than teaches biblical Christianity, starting with Genesis through the death and resurrection of Christ. I know we receive a lot of entertainment, but also some doubtful teaching and man’s word. The evangelical church seems to be dying, as you have pointed out in several articles. I have talked with our pastor, he seemed to suggest we find another church, since we didn’t appear happy, we still attend and don’t make trouble. But it saddens me. I am thankfully for CMI and other sites like it. Unfortunately, Lita C. may want to give more complete answers, as many churches are not doing their basic job. I know it goes beyond the scope of your ministry. God bless.

Lita Cosner, CMI-US, responds:

Thanks for writing in.

Unfortunately, some churches may have pastors who are ill-equipped to answer the hard questions. I prefer not to assume that is the case, however. I have had a lot of people come back and report that their pastors were very helpful. In more than one case, further discussion with a pastor led them to the conclusion that they had never truly believed the Gospel, and that they needed to repent and believe in Christ.

There are a couple reasons I refer people back to their pastors if there is a chance they have a problem that needs more counsel than I can give in a short email message. First, the church is the institution Christ Himself set up for His people to gather to worship and encourage each other, building each other up in the faith. A person’s pastor knows them better than I do, and is more equipped to give personalized, ongoing counsel.

Second, there is a tendency to turn to a stranger on the Internet rather than someone face to face where a relationship of effective discipleship can develop. Often, the ‘stranger on the Internet’ is perceived to be an authority, but it’s irresponsible to encourage that sort of instinct. Tomorrow they could be consulting an ‘authority’ on an atheist website.

Finally, while I conceded that some pastors may be ill-equipped, I don’t think that is the norm. I have never once had someone come back and say, “My pastor couldn’t help me.” But I have had dozens come back and say, “Thank you for telling me to talk to my pastor, he was enormously helpful!”

To give an analogy, sometimes people write in with questions that are medical in nature, and we have to refer them to their doctor. I assume their doctor is competent, even though there is the occasional incompetent doctor. And if their doctor were incompetent, the correct course would be to find a better doctor, not for me to start giving medical consultations. In the same way, if someone did have an incompetent pastor, the answer would be to find a better church, not for me to start counseling them.

Of course, this is something which requires wisdom on a case-by-case basis; we answer many people every day. Not only is our small staff unable to counsel everyone, you are correct that one-on-one in-depth discipleship “goes beyond the scope of your ministry”. Referring them to their pastors means they get the continuing help they need, and it enables us to stay focused on our mandate to equip believers with a defense of their faith regarding the creation/evolution debate.

Helpful Resources

15 Reasons to Take Genesis as History
by Dr Don Batten, Dr Jonathan D Sarfati
US $3.50
Soft Cover
Christianity for Skeptics
by Drs Steve Kumar, Jonathan D Sarfati
US $17.00
Soft Cover

Readers’ comments

Grahame G.
This is very sensible. I particularly like the example of a doctor. If they are no good, find a better one.

If your pastor isn't helpful, find a better church!
John C.
Well said, Lita. One of the themes that does pervade the Creationist movement seemingly throughout (I haven't seen any exceptions, but will allow for them), is the fact that these organizations all seem to desire to be extensions of the Church, and not a new denomination of it. It has been a church-fed love for the Word of God and the Gospel of Christ that has led to the 'creation' (ptp) of many of these ministries. As a former pastor, I encourage all churches I'm involved in that these sites (and by this article alone, CMI) would be worthy of missionary support, as they open up such avenues of witness to the power and love of our Creator, Jesus Christ.
Linda E.
Such wisdom in this answer. Good work as always, Lita.
Dan M.
It is a sad but true trend that some church leaders are abandoning the gospel for a more materialist friendly point of view but there are still true churches out there that defend the bible.How far are you willing to travel on Sunday to attend a true bible believing church? I can't remember ever traveling less than twenty miles, one way. also most churches have on-line recordings of Sunday sermons and other materials that will tell you if it is bible centered or not and help you to grow. Then there are the scriptures and many resources to equip yourself to reach out to church members who still need evangelism. Our churches are comprised of the saved and unsaved alike so it is a fertile ground to evangelize people with the truth and you don't have to go far. Bottom line, if you can't find a bible believing church, become the go to person for biblical truth by properly educating yourself. If they cannot endure the truth, you may be asked to leave but don't forget to knock the dirt from your sandals on the way out. Jesus said, I Am, the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the father except through me. Joh 14:6. Unfortunately some church leaders no longer believe this. Some day all will believe. Isa 45:23.
Mark B.
Great response Lita.
Nichola W.
Lita is right. My own experience is that I've been in the same church over 30 years. In that time there have been about half a dozen pastors including the founding one who was also the longest serving. When he retired we had a series of good and not so good pastors until the present one who is very good. During that time many people moved around either following pastors they liked or leaving because of the bad ones. Some left and later returned. But I stayed because I believe that the local church is more than just the pastor. It is also the people, who are like your family particularly if you have no close family.No pastor is perfect (and it's a very difficult role as they are expected to be everything) and many aren't good Bible teachers. You can find good Bible teachers without leaving your local church. We used tapes and videos before the internet. So unless they are constantly preaching heresy and the rest of the church is happy with that, why leave your home. After all, we have a God who hears our prayers.

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