In my first years as a pastor, I had the idea that to openly oppose a societal ill would create problems for me from people within the congregation who felt uncomfortable with their pastor talking about "news" type subjects. And I was right. I was hammered from all sides and I became somewhat reluctant to even speak my conscience. I eventually worked myself out of that corner and took stands on public policy that would have made me feel less than honest had I not done so.
There were also many occasions when I felt lonely and exposed because it was difficult for me to know where I stood with those who mattered most to me — my congregation. Then it dawned on me that I should not stand alone, nor take the abuse for my well-intentioned convictions. Thus the genesis of a Social Concern Committee.
What is it?
Every congregation has a nucleus of people who care deeply about the signs of the times. They are motivated, bothered and concerned when society begins to move in a direction that could be detrimental to the institution of the family, the church and our children. Call them together around a cause and you have the simple beginnings of a Social Concern Committee.
What does it do?
A Social Concern Committee can be used as a research and information source for the whole church body. They can attend meetings of the city council, school board, library board, etc. They can gather pertinent information related to social issues. They can meet each month to discuss whether or not the issue is worthy of further action. They can make telephone calls and visits to the "significant players" in the community who have influence on policy matters. They can formulate lists of telephone numbers and names of those who need to be contacted and whose opinions can be influenced by public opinion. They can write letters. Further, they can provide to the congregation pertinent material filled with issue-related information that can be easily digested by those within the church body who need to become better informed. In short, the Social Concern Committee is like Nehemiah on the wall — a watchman on behalf of the church and the community it serves.
How can it affect and assist the pastor?
First: It can provide you with a group of people to run point for you on issues about which you might be uncertain.
Second: It can give you a point of reference or serve as a resource reservoir. They can do research on your behalf, in order to serve information that is accurate and not skewed by the liberal press. They can go to the source and ask hard questions. They can stimulate interest within your congregation that might be difficult for you to do.
Third: They can keep their thumbs in your back. When you grow weary, they can hold your arms up, and when you are discouraged, they can be a Gideon's army — not many, but very dedicated. In addition they can prove to be a source of great prayer support.
Contrary to what many might say, I do not believe that everyone can be an activist. Not all in your church family have the gift of evangelism. But I do believe that everyone in your church can have a witness, just as I believe all in your church can have an opinion or ultimately a vote on social issues. Why stand alone when, in front of you every week, there is a small remnant of people who are just waiting to be challenged to exercise their passion for the cause of Christ in the interest of righteousness and godliness?
"With the 300 men that lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands"(Judges 7:7).
"Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people"(Psalm 14:34).
Have pastors today compromised the gospel and their callings to avoid hardship, criticism and involvement? Are they too comfortable in their isolated offices to mingle with their beloved as did the Great Shepherd?
I think the one thing that I prayed for most often during the three decades of my pastoral ministry was revival in the church I pastored. I remember praying at first for a return to something, although I wasn't exactly sure what — just something that once was, a happening, a spirit, a feeling.