Pastors involved in politics? Should churches be politically active?
It’s no secret. I do have an active interest in politics, both domestic and global. I am also keenly aware that my interest in politics must not overshadow my interest in the Gospel. I believe that many pastors and Christian leaders have allowed their interest in politics to subvert them from preaching the glory of God and the grace that flows from the cross of our Savior.
I think that Satan would gladly give Christians a victory in the polls on election day if it would mean that a great many would no longer listen to the proclamation of the good news of Jesus. Or to put it the other way around, I think we should be happy to lose every political battle if it means we win more men and women to a genuine obedience of faith to our Lord and Saviour. We should sacrifice all to the Gospel.
I am not naïve. Political and cultural issues do affect the proclamation of the Gospel. I am also aware that political decisions do give direction to cultural trends. Furthermore, the Biblical doctrine of common grace means that Christians should actively work to bring betterment to human society. We do know that issues, like abortion, reflect upon the value that is placed on human life. Issues surrounding sexuality and sexual identity do have implications on everything from marriage to the structure of a better society. But, my point is that if we achieve a better society but lose Gospel influence, we have lost the greatest part.
A conversation between a preacher and a politician
All of what I have said is but an introduction to the story. Not long ago, I was seated at a table with a federal politician. He is a committed follower of Jesus. And so, our conversation was between a preacher and a politician.
I expressed to him my desire that he would win the next election, and that his party would win as well. He responded by saying that, even though he was thoroughly committed to his calling as a politician, he was content to know that the next election would ultimately be settled by a sovereign God whose designs are infinitely above our own.
As I now reflect on that conversation, it seems to me that our roles were reversed. I was playing the politician, and he had become the preacher, reminding me to trust ultimately in God and not the partisan politics of the day. And that caused me to reflect: how easy it is, almost without noticing, for a preacher to forget his calling, and to become the politician.
In 1 Corinthians 2:2, Paul lays down not only the commitment of his own ministry but the commitment of all who are called to proclaim Christ. “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” That statement did not preclude Paul from speaking to the issues in the church in Corinth. Those issues included divisions in the church, lawsuits among believers, sexual immorality, church discipline, principles regarding marriage, spiritual gifts and the theology of the life to come. From Paul’s perspective, all of these matters must be dealt with. But, he dealt with them from the vantage point of the cross. For Paul, the preaching of the cross directed his view of all other things.
As I reflected back on my conversation with the politician that evening, it helped me focus anew on the ministry of Christ’s church and her preachers. Ours is the role to proclaim Christ and to allow nothing but nothing to subvert that message.
Dr. John Neufeld