One Sunday long, long ago, in a town far, far away, I stepped into the pulpit of my home church as a young, starry-eyed seminarian. Even in my youthful naiveté, I realized I would probably cause a bit of a stir that Sunday morning. You see, I had just seen the Michael Moore documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 and felt like my faith had something to say about the circumstances that lead to the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I did not tow a party line, I just asked people to use their faith to think about these monumental political and cultural decisions.
After worship, a well-meaning woman came up to me and told me that she did not think that politics had any place in the pulpit. I respectfully disagreed with her and we went our separate ways. I later learned that a couple of people had actually walked out of the service. A few more sent complaining emails to the senior pastor. Several others approached me about how they had seen the movie and had similar thoughts. Another person later told me that he really wanted to think more deeply about what his faith had to say about large political decisions like war.
Although that sparked a bit of a controversy, I believe it was a fruitful conversation to have. Leaders often have to tread into these uncomfortable places in order to help our communities think more deeply about how faith is lived in everyday life — not just on Sunday morning.
When have you treaded into this kind of controversial territory? How did you maneuver the conversations? How did you see yourself and others grow because of them?