The Trend in the Church Towards Silence

Ephesians 4:15 tells us we need to “speak the truth in love.” As Christ-followers, we are not to choose between being loving and being truthful. We are to be both. And notice too that we are to speak.

Yes, there is “a time to keep silence, and a time to speak” (Ecclesiastes 3:7). But we dare not embrace the ease of silence and turn our backs on the hard work of truth-telling done in love.  

When we believe and teach the Bible with courage and compassion, it’s guaranteed you and I will be seen as bigots—unless we either outright deny the Scriptures or are so quiet about our beliefs that no one finds us out. (Imagine an ambassador who lives in fear of divulging his King’s policies.)

Of course we will be mocked and despised by some. But our call is clear: in the balance of grace and truth, to follow the example of Peter and the Apostles, who told the Sanhedrin: “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

I appreciate what Andrew Wilson has to share about the subject of silence in the church, especially in regard to sexuality. (I originally saw what follows, including the summary, on Justin Taylor’s excellent blog.)

Andrew writes:

I’ve heard rumours of a silent trend beginning to take hold in some city churches in the UK and the US. I don’t just mean a trend that takes hold silently; presumably most trends do that. I mean a trend towards silence: a decision not to speak out on issues that are considered too sticky, controversial, divisive, culturally loaded, entangled, ethically complex, personally upsetting, emotive, likely to be reported on by the Guardian or the New York Times, uncharted, inflammatory, difficult, or containing traces of gluten. Since I do not attend a city church, but am a proud member of the backward bungalow bumpkin brigade, this is coming to me second hand, and it may turn out to be a storm in the proverbial teacup, or even (for all I know) entirely fictional. But let’s imagine that there were such things as well-written booklets which had been discontinued simply because they were about sexuality, and leaders who were avoiding making any public comments at all on controversial ethical issues, or churches whose lectionaries or sermon series were systematically avoiding passages which addressed pressing contemporary questions, presumably in the name of being winsome or wise or likeable or culturally sensitive, because of the number of Influencers and Powerful People in the area. Without knowing any of the behind-the-scenes discussions that had taken place – all well-intentioned, I’m sure—what would I say then?

In seven points, Wilson shares his response:

  1. Winsomeness is a good servant and a terrible master.
  2. Likeability stops at the water’s edge.
  3. Pastors are to proclaim the whole counsel of God, not just the parts that won’t cause any fluttering in the Fleet Street dovecotes.
  4. Ducking difficult ethical questions leaves churches in confusion when they most need clarity.
  5. Ethical confusion makes church discipline much, much harder.
  6. Silence unwittingly reinforces the dominant cultural narrative.
  7. Those of us who instinctively cheer when we read the previous six points are probably in the greatest need of hearing what the advocates of silence have to say.

Go to Wilson’s blog to read the full article.

photo credit: A World without Words via photopin (license)

Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries