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Podcast Episode 5 | 14 min

Preaching on Controversial Topics

Answering the questions of when, why, what, and how to preach on difficult topics.

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Average Rating:  [see ratings/reviews]Preaching on Controversial Topics

Matt Woodley: This is Matt Woodley, editor of PreachingToday.com, on Monday Morning Preacher. I'm here with my guest host, Dr. Kevin Miller. He's not really a doctor, but he's really smart.

Kevin Miller: Well, thanks for that.

MW: So Kevin, true story about some interesting stats: In August 2016 the Pew Research Center released a very interesting study. They polled over 4,000 people who had regularly attended church—loosely defined, that is—and they asked those folks if they could recall their preacher talking or even mentioning a polarizing political or social issue, a hot potato issue. What do you think happened?

KM: My guess is not many said they'd heard one.

MW: You are absolutely correct. In short, the big survey concluded that preachers don't like touching hot potato issues. Religious liberty, hot potato. Homosexuality, hot potato. Abortion, hot potato. Or it could be something else like maybe race relations or some kind of theological issue, but we want to get those hot potatoes off our plate.

KM: Well, you know, it makes sense. A topic like that takes so much additional work, as hard as preaching is, then it requires a lot more research into sociology and culture and all that. You know it's going to upset some people so you're not going to win a lot of points with some people. You put that all together for a pastor who has a lot going on, and it makes sense.

MW: There might be another reason too. Sometimes as pastors we really care about people and these controversial issues are painful, like abortion and like homosexuality, and we don't want to pile more bad stuff on people. So we have a great clip here today from one of our preachers at PreachingToday.com—Rick McKinley. Now, let me give you a little context to this clip. Rick pastors Imago Dei in Portland, “Oregone,” and you know I've traveled around the world a little bit and I have to say that Portland is one of the weirdest cities in the world. I mean, it's so weird that if you tell someone that their city is weird they will hug you and thank you.

KM: Although they will not hug you and thank you for saying Oregon as you just did.

MW: Well, I'm from the East Coast, that's the way we say it out there.

So anyway, Portland is also a very liberal unchurched city, so Rick just plowed into a sermon on Romans 1, on homosexuality, a solid exegetical sermon. But here's something else you have to know about Rick, Rick loves the LGBTQ community. And he put himself out there building bridges, he built some partnerships with the former mayor of Portland who was gay. He has street cred with gay people. So with that background, let's listen to this clip.

Rick McKinley:Romans 1 is not only talking to homosexuals. The church is really good at pulling out the sins we think are the big bad ones. That makes the other sins less atrocious—and they just happen to always be my sins. My sins aren't so bad. Yours are tragic and appalling. Paul is saying that this entire culture has turned away from God, and one of the signs of this is homosexuality becoming normative. When he says "even,"—"even the women exchanged natural for unnatural, men exchanged natural for unnatural"—in reality, sex is a gift. It's not God. This is true no matter what your orientation is. When sexual hope and freedom moves into normative homosexual expression, it's a sign that the culture has created a false freedom—not only the people who see themselves as gay, but the entire culture. In our culture sexuality is seen as ultimate instead of secondary. We have replaced God as ultimate.

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January 04, 2017  4:11pm

As a pastor and licensed clinical social worker, I also appreciate this article and interview. It's interesting how folks who most want me to preach on "hot potatoes" are usually the ones who also want me to HAMMER "those people". So, admittedly, I rarely plunge my fork into a hot potato, knowing how alienating it can be. But when I HAVE tackled a tough issue (e.g., abortion) in a way that doesn't single out anyone, but acknowledges the very real and painful struggles people face in such an area, the response I hear (at least directly) is usually appreciative.

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January 04, 2017  10:28am

Thank you for this article and podcast! And I thank you, Dr. Miller, for taking on such a great challenge. I pray that more pastors and church leaders will do the same, especially in the area of race relations which is much-needed and overdue.

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