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Patriot Pastors – 3

August 6th, 2009 No comments

There are some in the evangelical ranks who are calling upon Christians to raise the white flag of surrender in the current battle for cultural transformation. “We need to admit we have lost the culture war and return to preaching the gospel,” they say. Citing evidence such as the gains in the radical homosexual agenda and the deep entrenchment of abortion ideology and policy in America today after over three decades of pro-life activism, they tell is it’s time to throw in the towel. We are accused of selling our birthright to the Republican Party, and scolded for focusing on the “narrow” issues of abortion and homosexuality. Shame on us! How can we overlook global warming (Oops, I mean climate change) and other issues equally deserving of our full attention. We need to get back to serving our communities and being “nice” (tolerant) people. This way we can be both irrelevant, impotent and “nice” while our culture goes to hell.

Thank God these voices were not filling our pulpits at the founding of our nation. We’d still be chanting, “God save the king!” I’d like to suggest a more biblical model for pastors to embrace. Instead of adopting an “either/or” model of societal transformation – either preach the gospel or get involved in politics – why don’t we try a “both/and” approach.

Consider the work of one of our great patriot pastors, John Witherspoon. Here we find a pastor, theologian, college president and true Christian statesmen. Witherspoon was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and as a member of the Continental Congress, he served on 100 Congressional committees. At Princeton University, where he taught and served as presdient, he was directly responsible for training students in a biblical understanding of God and government. In other words, he preached the gospel and he taught men a Christ-centered, biblically informed view of civil government.

Consider his legacy. From among his 478 students in over 26 years at the college emerged 37 judges, three received nominations to the U.S. Supreme Court, 56 state legislators, 77 members of the Congress, one vice president (Aaron Burr) and one president (James Madison). He is aptly called, “The man who shaped the men who shaped America.”

Why don’t we teach our people what God expects from civil government and from those who aspire to lead? Why don’t we actively seek out men and women from our congregations and encourage them to run for public office? Why don’t we shape the men and women in our congregation so they can be equipped to transform the marketplace with the gospel?

Witherspoon once wisely said, “God grant that in America true religion and civil liberty may be inseparable.” I think Witherspoon got it right.

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Patriot Pastors – 2

August 3rd, 2009 No comments

Marion and I had the privilege of speaking at the Family Research Council’s “Faith & Family Summit” in April of this year. Our topic was “Empowering Pastors to Be Salt & Light.” We encouraged pastors to be a prophetic voice and to engage their people in Christ’s command to “make disciples of all nations.”

The response from the people was both enthusiastic and alarming. “My pastor will not discuss controversial topics from the pulpit,” lamented one of the attendees. Another shook his head in disbelief as he shared of the total lack of involvementby his California, mega-church pastor in the “Prop. 8″ battle for the sanctity of marriage. The common thread we heard from all the people was a cry for their pastors to provide courageous leadership outside the four walls of the Church. I could hear them say, “Please lead us and we will follow.”

This is why we must look to the first American Revolution to find pastoral leadership models to guide us in our present conflicts. In 1898, Bishop Charles Galloway reviewed the role of preachers in the American Revolution. Here is his summary:

 “Mighty men they were. Men of iron nerve and strong hand and unblanched cheek and a heart aflame…God needed not reeds shaken by the wind or men clothed in soft raiment (Matthew 11) but he needed heroes of hearty hood and lofty courage and such were the sons of the mighty who responded to the divine call…”

One of these “heroes”  was Rev. John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg, the pastor of two churches and a member of the state legislature. On Jan 21, 1776, he preached a sermon from Ecclesiastes  3:1-8 which includes the verse, “A time of war and a time of peace.” The  night before, the British attacked the town of Williamsburg, Virginia. Rev. Muhlenberg rode 197 miles from Williamsburg to join his congregation in Woodstock, VA. At the conclusion of his sermon, Muhlenberg  removes his clerical gown right in front of the congregation and stands before them in full military dress. He walks down the center aisle, preaching as he walks, and 300 of his men respond to his call to arms. These valiant men became the 8th Virginia military brigade. Rev. Muhlenberg  goes on to become one of our highest ranking military generals.

Muhlenberg embodies what we mean by the expression, “Patriot Pastor.” We must faithfully stand in our pulpits declaring the whole counsel of God, but after we romove our ecclesiastical gowns, we must boldly lead the army of God in the task of cultural transformation. Preach the Word and engage the culture. The two must always be kept in balance.

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