Chandler pastor focuses on hot-button issues The Mesa Tribune | The Hometown Newspaper for the city of Mesa, AZ

Chandler pastor focuses on hot-button issues

Chandler pastor focuses on hot-button issues
Mesa
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ARIZONAN NEWS STAFF

Chandler Pastor Ryan Gear is starting off this election year with a series of sermons dissecting some of the country’s most controversial political topics.

Immigration, gun control, health care, climate change and abortion will all be examined by Gear in a five-week series the pastor calls “We Have Issues 2020.”

He said he hopes the congregants of his nondenominational church, The Well, will approach these topics civilly and be willing to hear opposing viewpoints.

“It helps us to model our faith to love our neighbors in a time when the United States appears to be more divided every year,” Gear said. “We can talk about issues that matter and we can also model what it looks like to love our neighbors.”

Americans have become increasingly partisan over the last 25 years, according to surveys by the Pew Research Center, with Democrats and Republicans agreeing less and less on various issues.

The political divide will likely deepen in 2020 as politicians seek reelection and use religion as one of their talking points.

President Donald Trump recently told a crowd of evangelical supporters God was “on our side” and vowed to protect religious rights.

The Well’s series is not meant to persuade anyone to pick a side, Gear said, the goal is rather to get both sides to better understand each other.

Gear will spend each week presenting both sides of a given topic and teach how religion does not always have to conflict with these issues.

For example, Christianity has long had the perception that its followers denounce man-made climate change.

A 2015 survey found only 28 percent of evangelicals thought human activity was warming the Earth’s climate while 64 percent of non-religious people thought humans were to blame.

Gear said religion doesn’t have to conflict with environmental concerns and hopes his sermons can raise greater awareness of the issue.

“Faith does not have to be the enemy of science or vice versa,” the pastor said.

When Gear started The Well last year out of Hancock Elementary School, 2425 S. Pleasant Drive, Chandler, he wanted it to be a refuge for followers to think freely and critically about the world.

“We’re not interested in creating a hypocrite factory,” said Gear, explaining how he doesn’t try to rigidly force certain beliefs onto congregants.

His style of preaching stems from a crisis Gear experienced in his 20s. He was raised under a fundamentalist Christian doctrine and started asking questions as young adult that conflicted with the church.

“That crisis of faith showed me the importance of allowing people to be who they are,” he added.

The Well’s creed describes itself as a welcoming place that invites congregants to express their faith and doubts.

The church’s growing congregation of 125 people has a range of diverse backgrounds that helps each follower to broaden their perspective.

It’s important for churches to encourage this type of healthy dialogue, Gear added, if America wants to see its democracy survive.

“I’m concerned about the future of our country,” Gear said. “We are so polarized that it’s difficult to find any way forward that is lasting.”

“We Have Issues” will take place each Sunday at 10 a.m. until Feb. 1. The sermons will be recorded and published online as videos and podcasts.

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