The man who was my pastor growing up just recently walked his daughter down the aisle, and gave her away at a same-sex wedding. This man who had a great influence in shaping my Christian faith and was primarily responsible for me entering the ministry was now a participant in something he stood against when I was growing up. What changed inside him to make this theological leap and support something he knows is a sin? I haven’t asked him, but if I had to guess the reply would be something like “love trumps everything.”
He is not alone in this view. It is a change among many older pastors as their children become adults. They change their theology as they try to balance the work of ministry and being allowed to see their grandchildren. Andy Stanley recently caused an uproar when he encouraged the church to affirm the homosexual lifestyle. Stanley is the most visible example of a growing number of pastors and Christian leaders acquiescing to the thought of the day. You could make excuses for them, but Stanley is too well-versed in the Bible and polished as a communicator to fall under that category.
What is causing this theological slide? Why are so many seasoned ministers changing their theology? There is not one specific cause. There is a shift going on within the church culture. Churches are becoming progressive, and some pastors are “deconstructing” their faith over issues like homosexuality and transgenderism. In the name of “loving your neighbor,” they exchange Biblical truth for pop ideology and long-held tradition for felt experience.
Many of these older ministers started pastoring during less connected times. Their messages and mannerisms weren’t displayed on the internet, where they can be critiqued years later. They could say what they wanted from the pulpit and receive little pushback. Digital media has changed all that and can produce a firestorm many are unwilling to stand against.
One reason I have heard for the theological shift is the “grandkid effect.” As the minister’s children become adults, get married, and have their children, the dynamic of the family changes. Many of these adult children have different beliefs, values, and sometimes lifestyles than their parents. For these pastors to see their grandchildren, they must soften their scripture stance. They change their theology because acceptance and approval are more important than truth. What they stood against decades ago has become personal, and they don’t want to ostracize their children or upset their wives. It is subtle at first. They start by softening their language and changing their tone. They say, “God tells us to love our neighbor.” After that, it moves into affirming the lifestyle.
It is not easy to practice what you preach. Ministry wears on your after time. The pain from rifts in the church and lost friendships takes its toll. The easy thing to do is circle the wagons of the family and do everything to keep it intact. The danger is that you do everything you can to keep it together. This can lead people to overlook issues that pop up. This overlooking can lead to overcompensating for a grown child who has wandered off the path. Trying to keep up appearances that everything is okay can only exacerbate the situation.
How do you handle controversial issues with your children? Let us turn to God’s Word. In Luke 12:51-53, Jesus said,
Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.
Following Jesus will cause division. The integrity required from elders and pastors means they will have a unique challenge. People are offended whenever you call sin for what it is.
We must take a stand when dealing with people close to us who oppose the truth of God’s Word. Do it with grace and a loving tone, but stand firm. Stay who you were before the issue became known. You are likely to be accused of being unloving and hateful, but by word and deed, do your best to make that charge baseless. They are trying to pin you in a corner and manipulate you. Gently respond with the truth that disproves their accusations.
When words no longer have their desired effect, they often turn to leverage. They will use whatever means they have to force you to approve their choices. This is especially true when it comes to grandchildren. I have seen this over and over. The quickest way to break a grandmother’s heart is to prevent her from seeing her grandchildren. Wives quickly turn on their husbands. This is where it is essential to be united and have patience. We need to call their bluff. It may take time, but I have found most parents enjoy the blessings of having grandparents around to go without it for too long. Some are outright dependent upon them.
Finally, don’t waddle in the mud. It is said, “Don’t wrestle with a pig. You both will get muddy, but he will enjoy it.” Don’t get caught up in petty arguments. Your grown child will pull out every mistake you made as a parent, bring up every bit of hypocrisy, and remind you of all the sacrifices they made as a pastor’s kid. Stay above the fray. You don’t have to pay reparations for your past mistakes. The blood of Jesus Christ covers you. There has never been a perfect parent to walk this earth. Freely admit your mistakes but remember that is not enough leverage to change your mind on what is and is not true. Even if you did something to damage your child, the choices they now make are entirely on them. Stay true to Christ, love them like you always have, and pray that God will redeem the situation.
Photo by Mikhail Nilov