Few things can be more contentious in churches than secular politics. Americans seem birthed pre-installed for discussion, debate, and derision during election season. In some churches political concerns overtake gospel concerns, with members having more in common with punditry than discipleship.
Small groups become focus groups, the building lobby becomes a panel show replay, and the parking lot is just short of a party headquarters. Americans—and American Christians—love kicking the political football.
Pastors are uniquely equipped to influence large numbers of people on a broad range of subjects, including politics. Anything said from the pulpit, in fact, carries the weight of “thus says the Lord” in the ears of most listeners. Doubtless this is one reason James wrote, “Not many should become teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive a stricter judgment” (3:1).
With that warning in mind, what pitfalls do we in church leadership need to avoid when it comes to politics?
Don’t lower the kingdom of God to the kingdoms of man.
When pastors and other church leaders talk about political kingdoms as much as the kingdom of God the emphasis itself is the teaching. It not only elevates earthly kingdoms beyond their appointed realm, but it lowers the kingdom of God from its place of importance.
Pastors and other church leaders, let us keep the work of God as priority. God is perfect, His holiness unending. The kingdoms of man are as dust on a scale; they are a very small thing (Isaiah 40). Let us never become so enamored with politics that we confuse the people of God as to which is the most important kingdom.
Don’t miss regular opportunities to apply scripture to the mind.
One of the great tragedies of politics are Christians who study polls and politicians without benefit of a biblical filter. They’ve never moved beyond the elementary things of the faith so the complexities of life often escape a rudimentary good/bad framework.
Pastors and church leaders must preach and teach to enrich the mind. How can we love the Lord our God with it if there is no immersion in the Word of God into it? How can our congregations discern the soundness of a philosophy if the plumb-line lays unused on the ground? We avoid poisoned group-think if we have the mind of Christ—and that from the Word of God.
When election season comes around, Christians should not be found aimless or fearful. Minds renewed by the Word and the Spirit can think through and pray through even the most complex of issues without putting hope in any candidate.
Don’t create enemies out of flesh and blood.
We live in a culture where snipers live behind laptops and smartphones. There are fewer people interested in debate. There are more people looking for enemies to eviscerate.
If anyone should avoid this confusion it is those who believe the Apostle Paul’s admonition, “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood” (Ephesians 6:12, paraphrase). Most of us remember this in theory, but jettison it in practice choosing instead the white-hot antagonism of political battle.
Those in church leadership should use wisdom when negotiating the rocky shores of political seas. Those who need Christ hail from all over the political spectrum, and we should not erect barriers to the gospel. No pastor—whether Left, Right or Center politically—should confuse political positioning with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Nor should we confuse the primacy of God’s kingdom with the temporal nature of man’s.
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