Frequently Asked Questions

Big Questions
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Holding one service each Sunday would be preferable to asking ministers to preach sermons written by others.

Church

Q Our pastors spend so much time crafting and delivering sermons. With all the excellent preachers out there, wouldn’t it be better stewardship to encourage them to share sermons so they can spend more time in pastoral care, teaching, and visiting?

A Sermons have been shared for years in books and online. Pastors use them for ideas, insights, and illustrations as they create their sermons. You seem to suggest, however, that to save time ministers should simply preach the sermons of others. Unless the author of the sermon is acknowledged, that would be unethical. In addition, both pastor and congregation would quickly tire of such preaching. Congregations expect to hear their pastors’ insights on a particular passage, and pastors strive to apply the passage to their own congregations.

If time spent in sermon preparation is used to excuse the neglect of other areas of ministry, the pastor and the council must make adjustments. Reading more and more commentaries does not necessarily produce better sermons.

Councils must also be sensitive to the pastor’s many responsibilities. In my last charge, I was given two services off per month. That may not always be possible, but there are other alternatives. For example, a congregation that recently called a seminarian asks him to preach only once a month in the second service. Other evenings the morning sermon is discussed, and sometimes videos on various subjects are used.

Holding one service each Sunday would be preferable to asking ministers to preach sermons written by others.

—George Vander Weit
George Vander Weit is a retired pastor in the Christian Reformed Church.

Morality

Q In a recent sermon our pastor said that a person can be morally tainted by the sins of others. He also said that a person who is tainted need not bear moral responsibility for these sins. I’m not sure I buy this idea that taint and moral responsibility can be neatly separated.

A I believe your pastor is correct—pastors usually are. A man whose great-grandfather owned slaves and treated them badly can be tainted by the actions of his great-grandfather (Ex. 20:5), but this does not mean he is responsible for these actions. Nor would (or should) we say that he is part of a collective that is responsible for slavery because of this connection.

Awareness of the notion of moral taint grew partly out of the feelings of ordinary German citizens following World War II that they were somehow implicated in the events of the Holocaust and perhaps collectively responsible for these events.

Ethicists such as Paul Ricoeur and Kwame Anthony Appiah have worked hard to clarify the notion of taint. Their work clarifies that being tainted is not nearly the same as being responsible or being part of a collective that is responsible.

—Gregory Mellema
Gregory Mellema is a professor of philosophy at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich.

Relationships

Q My 17-year-old daughter admitted that she had smoked pot and been drunk a couple of times. I feel sick about this because I thought I was a good Christian role model. We have talked to her about legal ramifications, but she justifies her behavior by saying, “Everyone does it.” As she heads off to college, how can I best approach her about this issue?

A Your daughter is not alone. Many teens and young adults engage in risky social behaviors that involve drugs or alcohol.

It is tempting to take on the responsibility for your daughter’s lifestyle choices and at least partly blame yourself. It is also tempting to resolve that you will help her make new and better life choices.

But trying to change your daughter’s mind or her behavior at her age is counterproductive. She knows where you stand. It’s time to allow her to choose her lifestyle, even though all your parental antennae are on hyper-alert. Resolve to resist the temptation to intervene. It is more helpful to her when you trust that she will give up risky behaviors eventually than to react with fear and trepidation for her future.

You can help her best by continuing to have a close relationship with her. Invite her to activities you both enjoy; ask her about her life as a college student. By all means let her know what you worry about when the time seems right, but do so with respect for her right to disagree.

As you pray for your daughter and her friends, ask God to replace any feelings of fear and guilt with a trust that lets you stand firm while you wait patiently for your daughter and her friends to grow up into mature adults.

—Judy Cook
Judy Cook is a family therapist and a member of Meadowlands Fellowship CRC in Ancaster, Ontario.

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