My Question: Lay pastor who doesn't do research

Hi everyone, please excuse if this has been asked before. This is my mandatory question.

My church is a very small one that is headed by two lay pastors. The associate lay pastor is basically a southern “good ole boy” who preaches every other week. He often makes statements that are patently false and easily disproven. Two from this week: 1) Jews were only allowed to walk around their houses on the sabbath - like 20 feet (a sabbath’s day journey is 2-4000 cubits or 1/2 to one mile) and 2) if I tell my child that if they do (a bad thing) again, I’m going to slap their teeth out of their head, I am lying and that is sin because it is a lie (no, that isn’t a lie because your child knows full well that you are not going to slap their teeth out of their head - a lie requires deception. That is just hyperbole. Look up the definition of lie in the dictionary).

This week was more mild than usual; often the errors he makes are important scriptural mistakes - mistranslations of words, taking things out of context, failing to cross reference and understand the historical background to the scripture, etc. I am relatively new to this church and from my previous church, am accustomed to challenging the pastor when he is in error.

What is the best way of approaching this situation?


Susan: I am, I guess you could say a lay Sunday speaker. I speak on occasion at 4 different denominations throughout the year. The one thing the I personally miss is people coming up to me later and saying that perhaps I made a mistake. Either in my theology or in my research. I find that all too often, and I love all these people, they don’t want to offend me lest I don’t come back. Pastors are relatively few out here.
I rather appreciate the one on one approach. Emails and texts are too impersonal for me. I’d rather sit down over a cup of coffee and have a discussion of where the other person thought I was wrong or where they have a different understanding of what I had said. Here I would encourage you to do your homework first. Understand your argument, not for the purpose of winning, but in order to have a constructive discussion. Then just ask if you could meet over coffee to discuss some of the finer points of the message.
The other thing consider is how the rest of the congregation is feeling about the Sunday messages. My wife and I found out that a previous pastor was using other peoples work and claiming it to be his own. We approached him privately at first as per scripture. Matthew chapter 18. When there was no correction or admission of wrongdoing we took it to the Chairman of the board of elders. The elders and the congregation chose to sweep his actions under the rug. This became a fight that we were not willing to take on. We then took the difficult decision to worship elsewhere. Sometimes its just better to walk away.
Just a couple of thoughts.


Hello, Susan. May I ask if you are originally from the South?

Cindi, I am not originally from the south, but have lived in various places in the south for more than a decade - currently residing in south Alabama, but have lived in TX, NC, and the panhandle of FL as well. I am far more comfortable in the south than the north at this point.

Well there are different ways to approach this. Personally I would weigh first if its worth bringing up, if so, then I would think of one topic that concerned me the most that he got wrong and then try to talk to him about it one on one. If you bring up a bunch of topics all at once it can be taken the wrong way of what you’re trying to do.

Ultimately that doesn’t mean it will change anything and if it doesn’t I would then find another church to go to. Going against leadership can end badly for most members of a church. Of course before you do anything pray about it first.

Thanks. BTW, love your little dancing guys next to your name. That is so clever!

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I really liked Philips (@ps32vs8) response. I watched the Ravi Z and Tim Tebow live stream discussion (Discuss: Face to Face with Ravi Zacharias and Tim Tebow), and one of the things that really stood out to me was setting the tone in a discussion or organisation. Here is the transcript from the video (copied and pasted from youtube).

I was at Michigan State University along with Abdul Maria Abdul went to University of Michigan and we’d done the first night University of Michigan next night forum at Michigan State; about 9,000 out for that open forum it is a snowy night and we had a fantastic forum.

The students were courteous they were very gracious and the way they asked and we were there probably for three hours for the evening and a lot of wonderful things happened after that forum which I won’t go into, but I remember meeting the vice president of the university afterwards a lovely african-american woman, highly qualified in her educational background, and spoke at such excellent terms of their goals of Education and all of that and I said

I just want to say something to you your students were remarkable ma’am the way they treated us with courtesy and respect through the whole evening she said this and it got me completely by surprise, she said you two men set the tone when you spoke and they were just reciprocating and responding to the tone that you’d said and boy that that was wise caution to us from a very fine scholar herself you set the tone what’s happening in Washington today who sets the tone what’s happened to the tone even if they were to agree on something they won’t because they disagree with the person so much leave alone the ideas and I think this is the lost art of true dialogue in our time and we have lost civility because nobody is there to set the tone anymore and say let us talk in the terms that I think we need to understand with each other one congressman wrote to me after a recent forum we did in DC called at the table and he’s been in Congress for many years he wrote to me and he said Ravi years ago when President Reagan was shot Tip O’Neill went to the (continues)

I also think that this principle can be carried into our own conversations, if we are the one starting a discussion.

If we (rightly) want to have a followup discussion with a speaker, we need to think how we are approaching topics before we even speak. Our body language, and manner of speaking set the tone even before we get to a topic.

If a lay pastor (or even a paid pastor), senses that someone is genuinely interested in the topic they’ve spoken on and would like to further their own understanding; and if that person asks questions in order to learn more about how each other thinks, then the pastor/speaker will naturally be keen to have a friendly chat over a cup of coffee (this was a good insight by Philip as I’m also learning how to improve in this area).

If the approach sensed by a pastor/speaker is more a ‘you are wrong, and I’m right’ they naturally, because they are just as human and fallen as everyone else, will have their guard up and the conversation may not be that productive. No-one likes conversations like this when they’ve just put their best effort forward to speak.

and that’s before you’ve even discussed a topic of interest. :slight_smile:

I’ve heard plenty of messages where the pastor tries their best to share from their heart but says things I disagree with (or for a lay pastor who has a full time day job to pay the bills, doesn’t even have time to do large amounts of research of a topic) ; I notice this especially in areas of very high academic or heavy theology/philosophy which we all struggle with such as free will vs God’s sovereignty, a proper understanding of the complexities of mental illness, and other areas of specialty.

Also, speakers are at a disadvantage now. They speak on a topic and everyone in the audience pulls our their mobile and googles every available alternative view while they are speaking. :slight_smile::slight_smile:

I reckon we, as listeners, can set a positive tone by first appreciating the work that goes into preparing a message, and can ask questions and learn together from a humble perspective; I would say, also pick your battles, and before even raising a topic ask what is the outcome you want yourself from this discussion. Start discussions from a point of agreement, and then move to a disagreement, and finish conversation on a point of encouragement?

Now of course, if the tone set by the speaker is a little negative, it takes a lot of maturity and humility to then turn this into a positive tone of conversation…

I’m writing from the perspective of a pastor’s son-in-law; pastors, and lay pastors, need all the encouragement they can get to continue the work of sharing the Gospel…

I hope this is a helpful post… and I really hope my own ‘tone’ in this post is positive!! :slight_smile: