My friend’s intentions were in the right place, but the second service began in forty-five seconds, and we still stood in the foyer. The event was not large enough that anyone else mentioned it to me. Right or wrong, I made the decision not to address the event in the second service. I wrestle with scenarios like this fifty times a year, especially in the wake of the coronavirus and George Floyd’s death. I’ve probably used the word pandemic in my sermons three dozen times in the last few months.
In May of 2012, a sitting American President publicly and favorably addressed same-sex marriage for the very first time. I didn’t mention this historic event in church the very next Sunday, or any Sunday for that matter.
A year or two after that particular event, I sat at a roundtable discussion with a dozen pastors. One of the leading pastors in our city told the rest of us that he had set aside his prepared sermon to address President Obama’s remarks and instead talk about marriage. The way he relayed this detail more than implied, “All good pastors do the same,” and I wasn’t a good pastor.
I used to wonder if he was right.
One Question Unearths a Dozen
This experience and many others like them get me thinking. Answering the one question of whether to address an event involves asking and answering many other questions.
If a pastor does address a current event, when should he do it? Should he address it with the church’s weekly email and Facebook page? Addressing events this way allows us to do so outside of the regular worship service, which has advantages.
But if the event should be addressed during the service, should this happen between worship songs, within the announcements, during the pastoral prayer, or in the sermon? And if during the sermon, how much time should it receive? A passing comment to show awareness or an in-depth analysis?
Here’s another layer of complexity. Was the current event a national or global event, such as a hurricane, wildfire, shooting, or airplane crash, and thus not specifically related to your city? Or, is the current event a local one, such as the terrorist shooting around Christmas two years ago in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania where I live? On a lighter note, when the Penn State football team wins their bowl game, should I mention that? (I did last year but not this year.)