Huckabee, host of the weekend show "Huckabee" on the Fox News Channel, said the pastorate once was "a wonderful, respected position, but not anymore" because people have contempt for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Despite the climate, Christians must do as Jesus encouraged the apostle Peter in John 21, where Jesus asked that, if the apostle loved Him, then Peter would feed the sheep, or take care of others who were Christ followers.
The single most important role for pastors is to feed and lead God's sheep, and be prepared to bleed for them, to make sacrifices for God's church, said Huckabee, a former Southern Baptist pastor.
"Jesus is talking about good food, biblical food," Huckabee noted, lamenting that "we are living in a time of biblical ignorance."
"People who attend church, especially young people, have an extraordinary lack of biblical depth," he said. "According to recent surveys, the kids who grow up in our evangelical churches do not really know the biblical definition of marriage, and that really does concern me."
"We need to be clear that, when holy matrimony is formed into an unholy pretzel, twisted into perversion -- and when the military and the Boy Scouts become test labs for social experiments -- we need to be very clear that, male and female, created them," Huckabee said.
Saying he is "constantly confronted" by people who say that Jesus was silent regarding marriage, Huckabee noted Matthew 19:5 where Jesus said, "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh."
"That seems pretty clear to me," he said.
Citing veteran NBA center Jason Collins, who revealed his homosexuality on a sports website, Huckabee said the national media called Collins "a hero for announcing his sexual proclivities."
Huckabee asked, where are the "accolades for Tim Tebow who announced that he follows Jesus? He was told to shut up."
"It should concern us that we're living in a culture where a person announces a sexual preference and it's heroic" and another "announces he loves Jesus Christ, and he's told ... to keep that to yourself."
"We need to understand what we're up against, and we've got to feed the sheep," Huckabee said.
Pastors also must "lead the sheep," and that includes equipping and empowering church members to live Christ-like lives, Huckabee said.
The biblical model of leadership is seen in biblical marriage, Huckabee said. The purpose of a father and mother is to create the next generation, and then train them to become the replacements who are no longer dependent upon their parents, but who can have and train children who are independent themselves.
"Feed them, lead them. And then it's important that we're willing to bleed," Huckabee said, noting pastoral ministry requires personal sacrifice. "The toughest question of all is: Are we willing to pay a price? Are we willing to take a risk?"
Clarifying that the hope of America is not in the next election, Huckabee said, "I would never suggest, ever, that you would turn your pulpit into some political podium. But I would urge that the pulpit would be a powerful, prophetic and purposeful punch in the gut to a culture that is ungodly and unholy."
Huckabee then lamented abortion, where "every year more than a million babies lose their lives in what ought to be the safest place on earth in their mother's own womb. How can we be silent?"
Abortion is not a political issue, but is one of "whether or not our civilization will survive as a nation that honors the God who created that precious life" or whether that life is "expendable, disposable."
"This is an issue upon which our nation will stand or fall," he said, "and the pulpits of America must not be silent." Christians must have "broken hearts not just for the babies, but for the mothers who are often exploited and twisted and turned and forced and cajoled into having the abortion that deep down in their maternal souls they know they don't want to have."
Regarding evangelicals' stance on social and moral issues, Huckabee said some in the Republican Party are saying "that maybe we need to dial it back a little bit when it comes to issues like the sanctity of life and the holiness of marriage, and maybe just ease off."
The crowd erupted into sustained applause when Huckabee said, "Well, I've got a news flash for the GOP: I plan to take my last ride in life on a white horse, not on an elephant and not on a donkey. And I will stick with the Word of God. And if the party, any party, goes a different way, I stick with Jesus. I believe He is forever."
Huckabee said that one of the most touching examples of one who demonstrated what Jesus meant by feeding and leading the sheep was a pastor whose wife, after 50 years of marriage, was stricken with Alzheimer's disease.
For years, the husband was at his wife's side, feeding her every meal, every day, at the medical facility where she lived. In the latter stages of the disease, the wife was oblivious to her husband's presence and help. Only when the spoon touched her lips would the natural reflex take over and the wife would eat.
The wife hadn't said the husband's name in more than a year.
Despite offers of help from others so the husband could have a day off, his answer was, Huckabee said, "No, there is no day off. I committed to over 50 years ago that I wouldn't leave her or forsake her."
"The greatest mission in the world is the mission God has entrusted to you to feed, to lead, and to sacrifice, and if necessary, to bleed for those sheep to whom he has entrusted ," Huckabee concluded. "It is an honor. It is a privilege. And God bless you for doing it."
Norm Miller is director of communications and marketing for Truett-McConnell College in Cleveland, Ga.
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