A new research collection from the Barna Group reveals some shifting attitudes among American Protestant pastors. The research focused on religious freedom, and reported 50 percent of pastors feel worried about speaking out on certain issues because they’re worried about offending people.
One notable part of the study asked pastors if they felt “limited” in their ability to speak out on something or “pressured” to speak out on something. The issue with the most responses was, perhaps not surprisingly, LGBTQ issues and homosexuality. 44 percent of pastors felt limited in their ability to speak on those issues, while 37 percent felt pressured to speak out despite those limits. The second-most responded-to issue was same-sex marriage. (h/t Christianity Today)
Where do those pressures come from? Surprisingly, pastors feel it from their own congregations. 64 percent of pastors overall feel limited by their congregations in their capacity to speak on moral or social issues because people will take offense. 69 percent, meanwhile, felt pressured by their congregants to speak on those issues.
The data illustrates a tricky catch-22. Most pastors, 64 percent in fact, feel more pressure from their congregants to speak on the issues than they do from the outside world. Pastors believe their congregants want them to engage with these issues from the pulpit, but at the same time, they feel limited in their ability to do so.
All this relates to a broader conversation about religious freedom. 37 percent of pastors express high concern over religious freedom in the next five years, while 39 percent express moderate concern. The data seems to indicate the perceived limitations pastors feel on the things they can teach about come from the church, and there’s intense concern those pressures and limitations will not go away.