I admit, I am not a pastor. I am merely a congregant, a lay person, and a member of my local church. I am also a Christian citizen of America who is concerned about the way our country is going.
I think back on the thirteen years that I’ve lived in America and reflect on the many changes that have happened in the political sphere since I arrived. Many of those changes have not been positive and things are not looking up.
This election cycle is one that may go down in the history books as one of the most phenomenal—and not for the right reasons. There are talks of possible riots later this year during the conventions reminiscent of the summer of 1968. Transgender bathroom bills are being passed across the nation. Big businesses are boycotting states for standing up for the people’s right to exercise their religious freedom.
I look at what is going on and then I look at the local church. Where is the church’s voice in the midst of all this? Why has the church retreated?
I guess you could say that this has gone on for quite some time and we are now just used to pastors not being “political.” We have come to the point where pastors are now expected to stick to “spiritual” matters—not get entangled with the things “of this world” like politics and the culture wars of our day.
Lisa and her family worshipping at church
We have created the conditions where it has become controversial for local church pastors to preach on politics. I have even heard that some big time pastors make it their policy to never tread on these grounds. Some also discourage other pastors from preaching on political matters and even reprimand those who would dare to give their commentary on the culture wars.
But is this right?
The Supreme Court announces that gay “marriage” is now sanctioned by law, yet Sunday morning service goes on like usual. The media is filled week by week with news of the Democratic and Republican primary races. Yet at church, you’d think it was just another non-election year. Bruce Jenner declares he is now Caitlyn and the world cheers and pronounces him Woman of the Year. In congruence, transgender bathroom bills are being opposed by progressives throughout America, threatening the safety of women and children. But where is the church? I’m not talking about the Family Research Council or Texas Values or Franklin Graham. I am asking, where are the thousands and thousands of local church pastors who are willing to stand up and engage this culture and its politics from the pulpit? Where is the biblical teaching on how Christians should approach politics from a biblical worldview?
Because boy, do we need it. All across America, at dinner tables, at lunch tables at work, in schools, on college campuses, Americans are talking about politics this year. Yet from the pulpit of many of our churches, there is a silence. The church stands reticent while we Americans, we Christians, are left to listen to the loudest voices in the media.
How many Christians do not know the first thing about politics from a Christian perspective because their pastor hasn’t preached a sermon on it for years, or ever? How many Christians follow the world in their voting habits because their pastor keeps his biblical understanding of politics to himself, not wanting to offend anyone in his congregation? How many Christians have disengaged from politics, disillusioned or disinterested because they erroneously think politics have nothing to do with Christian responsibility, supported in part by their pastor’s disdain for political matters?
Why has the church given up her mantle of being a righteous and prophetic voice in today’s current events?
There are 60 million committed Christians in America, yet roughly 30 million of them don’t vote in any election cycle. Christians have long had an embarrassing reputation for extremely low turn out in elections.
George Barna of the Barna Group just released sobering statistics on political engagement among evangelicals this election season. A staggering 78 percent of true evangelicals said the outcome of the 2016 presidential election will be “extremely important to the future of the United States,” yet only 20 percent of true evangelicals are paying close attention to election news. So while a lot of us are concerned and fearful about this election, we’re not doing a darn thing to even get informed—let alone get involved and take action to actually change the outcome.
Lisa with her son, voting in the Texas primary on Super Tuesday, March 1, 2016
Yes, we have a problem. It is a systemic problem. It is a church problem.
I admit, there are understandable reasons to avoid a touchy topic like politics. Many of those reasons are well meaning. Perhaps pastors feel Christian leaders who have ventured into the realm of politics have made mistakes in the era of the Moral Majority. Pastor James Robison admits that in his timely book, Indivisible. Some of those mistakes may have caused embarrassment for the church and they don’t want to repeat the same mistakes. However, while leaders may not have done everything right in the past, we can learn from them and become better Christian representatives today. The answer is not to disengage.
Additionally, some pastors may feel it is too divisive of a subject and may cause arguments amongst the congregation. Heck, pastors may not even agree on what the right Christian response is to different political issues. Yes, there will be areas they disagree on, but on the most basic matters, I truly believe there are more areas of agreement than disagreement. A number of respected theologians and thinkers, like Wayne Grudem, have written extensively on politics from a Christian perspective and I think most evangelical pastors would agree with what’s already been written. They would not have to start from scratch.
I know there are local pastors in the nation who do preach on these issues, yet they are more the exception than the rule. The majority of pastors do not, yet I am sure they care deeply about America and have chosen to stay silent for whatever reason.
As a member of the local church body, I can attest—the church absolutely, positively needs biblical teaching on politics. We, the people, are looking to our teachers, pastors, and shepherds of the church to guide us on how to think, process, and act on these pressing issues that will affect the nation for decades to come. We are looking to our leaders who have a significant platform to represent our Christian values in the political conversation. Leaders who are not afraid to tell our politicians things like, “Hey, we the American church, do not agree with this evil, corrupt law. We will not stand for this!” when unjust legislation is being passed. Leaders who will speak God’s truth in the church and outside of it in the greater society.
Will our pastors teach us politics according to the bible? Because there are questions that need biblical answers. For example, what does the bible say about justice and protecting the poor and defenseless? What is the biblical role of government? What will make a nation great? What are the Christian roots of America? How does conservatism or liberalism match up with the word of God? How can a Christian vote biblically? Why should a Christian vote at all?
I say all this because it is born out of my own experience. Regrettably, I could be counted among the group of uninformed Christians who didn’t know a lick about politics in my early twenties. Thankfully, I started reading on political issues and came to the realization that my nonchalant, apathetic perspective on the political process was absolutely disgraceful for someone who considered herself a committed believer. But unfortunately, I did not learn this from the local church. I had to learn about politics from a Christian perspective from believers and thinkers who were not leaders of the church. I think about how great of a difference it would have made if my own pastor had preached on our Christian responsibility in politics. I certainly would have taken note and changed my ways much sooner.
Voting as a family in the Texas primary on Super Tuesday, March 1, 2016
Pastors can make a significant difference in changing Christian participation in the governance of our great country. Pastors can sway the people, and in effect, the whole nation towards a more godly future.
It is not just the job of other Christian political groups to stand for Christian values, to speak up on controversial issues, and to rally the faithful. The local church has a unique and necessary role to play that cannot be supplanted by any other organization. If the local church is silent on these matters, I assure you, the void will not go unnoticed.
I admit, there may have been a time when the local church’s omission in the area of politics was overlooked and its immediate impact not felt for many years. But that could go on for only so long and that time of reprieve has run out.
A strange reality has unfolded in front of our eyes while the majority of the local church has been tending to more “spiritual” matters. As Erick Erickson and Bill Blankschaen’s warns in their latest book on religious liberty, you will be made to care. These issues will not go away! No, the secularists, atheists, and progressives have an agenda to purge Christianity and its values from our society that is advancing faster than we think through our legal and political system.
Today, in America, Christians are losing their jobs for exercising their freedoms supposedly protected under law—a football coach lost his job for praying after football games, a policeman lost his for sharing the gospel on duty, and a distinguished fire chief lost his job for merely sharing what the bible said about marriage as a private citizen. Meanwhile, Christian groups are being driven off university campuses, religious groups are being sued for not affirming homosexuality, and Christian bakers, photographers, and bed and breakfast owners are being shut down for not catering to gay marriage. What’s next? Will churches be bankrupted and pastors imprisoned for not performing gay marriage ceremonies?
Following a “live and let live” policy will no longer work for any of us. No matter how unsavory we find political matters, if we don’t stand up for biblical values in the public square today, immoral and unbiblical beliefs, values, and laws will be forced upon us.
Yes, it is every Christian’s responsibility to speak truth and vote biblically on political issues and laws that affect our lives so powerfully. Yet Pastors can do this and encourage the rest of the church to follow suit with more authority, impact, and influence than any of us.
Once freedom is lost, the road to getting it back is never so easy. I pray the local church will rise up and take on her mantle of being the prophetic and righteous voice in our society, no matter what the cost—before it is too late.
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