The Courage to Speak Redemptively

It takes “guts” to be a pastor today! In a culture afire with American nationalism, political rancor, racial tension, border crises, and separated families, everyone has a “side.” And pity the poor pastor, whatever the size church she or he leads, who attempts to speak a radically redemptive word into such a mileu.

But there is a desperate need for a reasoned, scripturally grounded, and theologically sound voice in our world. People are desperate for hope, and the holiness tradition should be one of the places where that hope is well articulated, radically lived, and lovingly embraced.

We who claim to see the possibility of radical transformation of the human heart in scripture, who have historical narratives about cultures being changed and nations reformed, should not be fearful to speak this hope into these troubled times.

But we must speak this hope into congregations of people. Our churches must not be political forums where we attempt to correct the nations leaders from the pulpit. They are not listening anyway.

We have an obligation to speak to people – to our people – encouraging them to become the representation of the “already – not yet” Kingdom of God. Let’s exalt Christ as our hope, our leader, our example, and our redemption. Let’s call for our people to embody the Sermon on the Mount as the lived expression of the Kingdom, as the Law of God described for living in our time.  Let’s invite them to pursue the holy life with zeal, discipline, and passionate dependence on the Holy Spirit.

And, and by our own example, we must insist that this message has no value until it propels us into the foray with holy love, reaching across racial and cultural lines, meeting the desperate needs of people all around us.

We holiness folk can easily draw our righteous robes around us and become isolated from the brokenness so evident in our neighborhoods. Let’s reject that kind of isolation and begin to express the radical hospitality of Jesus, who loved sinners, embraced outcasts, reached across every boundary, and risked being classed with drunks and prostitutes. That reach did not contaminate his holiness. His holiness changed the world.

This is risky business, Pastor. But take courage. Speak up. Live the holy life. Demonstrate holy love. The message is worth the risk!

Jesse C Middendorf

July 11, 2018

Published by

Jesse Middendorf

Executive Director of the Center for Pastoral Leadership, Nazarene Theological Seminary, Kansas City, Missouri. General Superintendent Emeritus, Church of the Nazarene Pastor for 28 years, in administration for 17 years. Retired, but still going!

7 thoughts on “The Courage to Speak Redemptively”

  1. I love that, Pastor Jesse! It is what we are trying to do in our economically deprived county! The reminder is great that we must keep on doing what’s right & teaching our people to do the same.


  2. Jesse, You are still MY favorite pastor. You are one a few that I follow…. hmmm actually the only one. While I certainly agree and understand your perspective, it has never been more important for the church body to have relevance and be effective. I have a different perspective now that I will not share here. But as you know, one can certainly be too close to the trees to see the forest. I know you haven’t heard from me in many years, but I would love to take you to lunch to have a friendly and positive discussion. While I am far away from the church these days, I am emersed in the forest…. and it’s dying. It’s past time that we all reach out and embrace the many various contingencies and agendas (regardless of religious and political differences) and come together to work on our common goals.


  3. Thank you for the reminder. This is at the heart of my longing today as a pastor, father, husband, Christian …


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