Intersection of Life and Faith

10 Uncomfortable Topics Pastors Should Still Preach About

  • Aaron Berry Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
10 Uncomfortable Topics Pastors Should Still Preach About

Do I tell them what they want to hear or do I tell them the truth?

Sadly, in our culture today, these two options are often mutually exclusive. The truth is hard to hear, so we prefer to hear what we like, even if it’s not what we need. A Pastor is often faced with tension of either preaching the uncomfortable truth of God’s Word or watering it down to make it more agreeable to the listener. 

As it says in 2 Timothy 2:3, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions.” The “sound teaching” of God’s Word will almost always run crossgrain to our passions. But if a pastor is to be a faithful minister of the Word, there are many uncomfortable topics that he must be willing to preach.

Before I dive into this list, I need to preface it by establishing two foundational personal commitments: I am committed to the inspiration and the authority of God’s Word. The words written in the Bible are the very words of God (1 Peter 1:20-21; 2 Tim 3:16); therefore, those words carry with it an absolute authority over my life. If you disagree with either of those commitments, you will most likely disagree with my list. 

If you do disagree, let me challenge you with a thought: do you disagree because it isn’t true or because you just don’t like it? I know that’s a temptation in my own heart — reinterpreting the plain meaning of Scripture to make it suit my own desires. There are some really uncomfortable topics in the Bible. But if we believe the Bible truly is God’s Word, we must be ready and willing to submit to it. Here are 10 uncomfortable topics pastors should still preach about:

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  • 1. Sin

    1. Sin

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    You may think that “sin” is too broad of a topic to make it on this list, but sadly, many preachers refuse to talk about sin in their preaching. It’s an uncomfortable thing to be told that you aren’t as good as you think you are. It’s unsettling to be confronted about your own failings. So, some preachers simply preach to inspire — to make people feel good about themselves.

    Why should preachers clearly preach on sin? Because if they don’t, they can’t preach the Gospel. If we ignore sin, then salvation is meaningless. The good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection means nothing if we don’t have a clear picture of our desperate sinful condition. Christ came to save us from our sins, not just to inspire us and make us feel good. Pastor, you are doing a great disservice to your people if you ignore the bad news. Without the bad news, you can’t preach the good news.

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  • 1. Sin

    2. God's Wrath

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    Similar to the last point, it is a temptation for pastors to water down God’s judgment and wrath toward our sin. We would much rather hear that God is love, not that God hates your sin. But the Bible is clear: “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” ( Romans 1:18). And the ultimate penalty of our sin is Hell. No one likes to talk about hell. No one even likes to think about hell. But hearing about hell teaches us a lesson about the holiness and wrath of God. As Jesus commanded us, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” ( Matthew 10:28)

    Pastor, here is a really good reason why you should preach on the wrath of God: it gives you the opportunity to proclaim that Jesus Christ took God’s Wrath upon himself when he hung on the cross. He became sin for us ( 2 Corinthians 5:21) and appeased the wrath of God ( Romans 3:25). Preach on the wrath of God, so that you can preach on the good news of Christ.

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  • 1. Sin

    3. Human Sexuality and Gender

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    Okay, now we’re getting into the really uncomfortable stuff. But if there is one thing that pastors should clearly preach about in today’s culture is a biblical understanding of human sexuality and gender. It’s easy to see that our culture is confused about it, but the Bible is clear about it. God’s Word states “neither the sexually immoral… nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality… will inherit the kingdom of God” ( 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; see also Romans 1:26-27). God’s purpose for sexuality and gender is clear: there are two genders, male and female, and the only proper expression of sexual intimacy is within the bounds of marriage (Mark 10:6-9; Gen 1:27).

    But praise the Lord that, while the Bible does condemn errant expressions of sexuality, it gives hope: “... but such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of God” ( 1 Corinthians 6:11). Pastor, be clear on what the Bible says about sexuality and gender, but don’t forget to give the hopeful solution.

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  • 1. Sin

    4. Gluttony

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    Now we’ve moved from the uncomfortable topic to just plain meddling. But do you realize how often the Bible speaks against gluttony? The sin of gluttony is often juxtaposed with the sin of drunkenness ( Proverbs 23:21). Pastor, many of your church members are controlled by their appetites… maybe you are too. 

    Will you have the boldness to clearly preach that living for food is living for the flesh? The Bible doesn’t mince words when it speaks against gluttony: “put a knife to your throat if you are given to gluttony” ( Proverbs 23:2). Encourage your church to instead be “filled with the Spirit” ( Ephesians 5:18)… maybe even preach on the spiritual benefits of fasting! 

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  • 1. Sin

    5. Giving

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    Unless you’re one of those prosperity preachers who get rich by guilt-tripping your people into giving them money, you probably aren’t a fan of preaching to your church about giving. Talk about uncomfortable! But since the Bible talks about it, and since the pastor is responsible to preach the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27), it’s necessary to preach on the importance of generosity in the church.

    This is one reason expositionally preaching through books of the Bible is helpful. Instead of picking and choosing your favorite pet topics topics to preach on, simply preach through a book! If you get to a passage on giving, preach on giving! It will help people understand that you aren’t reacting to a decrease in Sunday giving.

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  • 1. Sin

    6. Abuse

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    It’s tragic and despicable that abuse often remains either undetected or even intentionally ignored in the church today. The church should be the safest place for those who are victims of abuse. Pastor are you clearly and unabashedly condemning abuse? Are you creating an atmosphere in which victims feel comfortable enough to report instances of abuse? You can’t overlook this problem and just hope it goes a way. We live in a wicked world, and the church must be a light within it.

    Preach clearly on how a husband should treat his wife and children ( Colossians 3:19, 21; 1 Peter 3:7). Preach clearly on how wicked and vile it is to take advantage of the weak. Proclaim compassionately that “the LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed” (Psalm 9:9). Create an atmosphere that never tolerates abuse.

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  • 1. Sin

    7. Theodicy

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    If God is really good, why is there so much evil in the world? I’m sure you’ve heard this question before. Do you have a biblical answer for it? “Theodicy” is a vindication of God’s goodness in the presence of evil. People, both saved and unsaved, are constantly struggling with this question. Thankfully, the Bible doesn’t side-step it. It addresses the problem head-on.

    Preach on the impact of sin’s curse. Preach on God’s sovereignty over the good and the evil. Preach on God’s future judgment of all wickedness. Preach on the only and ultimate cure for evil that God provides: Jesus Christ. These are the difficult questions that people are wrestling with. The Bible provides answers.

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  • 1. Sin

    8. Modesty

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    Yikes. Are we really talking about this? Is this really something that should be preached from the pulpit? If the Bible speaks about it, then the pastor must preach it. In two specific passages ( 1 Timothy 2:9-10 ; 1 Peter 3:1-4), the Bible commands women to dress “with modesty and self-control.” However, before we start preaching specific dress codes and skirt lengths, we must remember that modesty (like self-control) is a heart attitude, not an external code. To dress modestly is to dress in a way that shows respect, love, and deference to the people around you. 

    And if that’s the case, modesty is for men too, not just for women. Though we don’t like to admit it, what we wear on the outside is determined by inward motivations and desires. Pastors, don’t preach about a dress code. Preach about a heart that chooses clothing that shows respect and love for others, not clothes that draw unnecessary attention to self. 

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  • 1. Sin

    9. Lust

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    Pastor, do you make it clear to the men in your church that they can’t blame women for their own lustful thoughts? Do you clearly state that a lustful thought is adultery at heart ( Matthew 5:28)? Do you warn the men (and women) of your church about the things they are putting in front of their eyes? 

    More importantly, are you providing help for those who have been trapped by their own lust? Do you provide counseling for those who are slaves to pornography? There are people in your congregation who are trapped and who desperately need to hear about the rescue that only Christ can provide. Help your people to “walk by the Spirit” so that they “will not gratify the desires of the flesh” ( Galatians 5:16).

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  • 1. Sin

    10. Worldliness

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    What is worldliness? Worldliness is adopting the same value systems as the unredeemed society around you. What is society’s value system? “The desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions” ( 1 John 2:15-17). Worldliness creeps into the church easily. Although we claim to know Christ, our actions betray the fact that we are serving our own worldly desires. 

    Pastors, you must unashamedly preach against worldliness, but be careful not to cure it by simply imposing man-made regulations and standards. Worldliness is rooted out by a sincere devotion for Christ. So magnify God’s goodness. Invite them to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8). 

    Aaron Berry is a co-author for the Pursuing the Pursuer Blog. You can read more articles from Aaron and his colleagues by subscribing to their blog or following them on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. Aaron currently resides in Allen Park, MI with his wife and daughter, where he serves in his local church and recently completed an MDiv degree at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary

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