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“Dear Dr. North: My Pastor Says . . .”

Written by Gary North on August 6, 2016

Laymen who care about theology are rare.

They tend to hold theologies that differ from their pastors. Pastors rarely care about theology enough to read a theological book a month. Or six months. I mean read it: underline it, make marginal notes, and make notes in Evernote.

About 20% of pastors care about church growth. About 80% of pastors care about avoiding church shrinking. They long ago gave up on the dream of church growth. The typical Protestant congregation had 75 adult members in 1776. Today, it’s about 90, but the standards for membership are a lot lower than in 1776. Not much changes.

Pastors read books on counseling, since troubled marriages are common, and members want free counseling, which they probably will ignore. Since they don’t really want to adjust, they prefer to pay nothing before divorcing, rather than paying $50 an hour for 20 hours before divorcing.

Those few laymen who care about theology assume the following:

1. The pastor is well read on theology in general.
2. He has read at least three or four books on the issue at hand.
3. These books have covered rival views accurately.
4. The pastor recalls the arguments clearly.
5. The pastor wants detailed discussions in a Sunday School.
6. Other people in Sunday School care deeply, one way or the other.

These assumptions are wildly optimistic.

Ask him to recommend a couple of books on the point. If he has none to recommend, then he has not thought through his position. He is making it up as he goes along. His opinion really is not worth considering. After all, he has yet to consider it.

If he has some books that support him, start looking for published responses. The Web is for searching. If there are no published responses, then you had better write something. Post it online.

If you think a four-sentence answer will do the trick, then you are a theological novice. It is time to mature. But if the pastor has only four sentences, then he is the novice. You need not pay much attention to his views. He is simply giving a knee-jerk response based on what little he recalls, from a theology course in seminary 20 years ago. He probably only got a C in it. Those few pastors who got A’s in theology keep reading theology. They can recommend a book on the issue.

The layman is wondering if anyone will ever see things his way. The answer probably is this: “not in this congregation.” Online, yes.

The layman is wondering if his pastor’s view is correct. The answer is: “It probably doesn’t matter for his career or the church’s success.” Churches are only loosely about theology. People rarely join because they have read a book, and then went looking for a church that is in some way connected to the book.

My questions are these:

(For the rest of my article, click the link.)

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