Archive for June, 2012

Ten Reasons Why the Church Must Be Involved in Politics (8)

June 18th, 2012 2 comments

In this blog series, I am responding point by point to a column written by Greg Stier, the President and Founder of Dare 2 Share Ministries entitled, “Ten Reasons Why Pastors Should Focus More on the Gospel than on Politics.” Here’s Greg’s eighth point and my response.

#8. The gospel calls us to pray for politicians we disagree with, not to hate them. (I Timothy 2:1-4)

Greg is right in that Christians must never “hate” those who are in positions of delegated authority. While we may stridently disagree with their philosophy of government or specific policy positions, we must still treat our leaders with kindness, civility and respect. In fact, Jesus commands us to love even our enemies.

But Stier, once again, is guilty of emphasizing the wrong message at the wrong time. In the passage he mentions, we are instructed to pray for “kings [presidents] and all those in authority” so that we may live quiet, peaceable and godly lives. But this is not the end goal. We see the reason for the call to pray in verse four. God’s desire is that people would come to know Him as Savior and Lord. God’s end goal in praying for those in authority is that these leaders would govern in wisdom and justice. Civil leaders are “God’s ministers” for the purpose of punishing evil (Romans 13:4). When leaders are godly, they govern in such a way that an atmosphere of religious liberty is promoted and protected. This allows us to freely share the gospel with others.

It’s obvious from this commandment that government [“politics”] is important to God or else He wouldn’t be encouraging us to pray for civil authorities. Since all delegated authority comes from God, it is the duty of all leaders to recognize God’s authority and to lead in a way that is consistent with His character and commands. When the righteous lead, the nation experiences peace and prosperity and the gospel can be shared freely and openly.

While we must begin the process of cultural transformation on our knees, prayer by itself is not enough. We must pray for those in authority while we work as hard as we possibly can to make sure poor leaders are not re-elected!

My civic responsibility in a constitutional republic is to make sure our civil authorities understand the difference between “good and evil.” After all, their God-given responsibility is to promote good and punish evil. When leaders promote what God considers evil, while punishing what He calls “good” we create a climate for tyranny and injustice. We have a moral responsibility to both pray and to act before those liberties are gone.

Now is not the time to retreat to the prayer closet. It is a time for prayerful action. Pray and then become the answer to your prayers. As Christians, we must be involved in the selection of our civil leaders. After all, the freedom to preach the gospel depends on it!

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10 Reasons Why the Church Must Be Involved in Politics (7)

June 11th, 2012 1 comment

In this blog series, I am responding point by point to a column written by Greg Stier, the President and Founder of Dare 2 Share Ministries entitled, “Ten Reasons Why Pastors Should Focus More on the Gospel Than on Politics.” Here’s Greg’s seventh point and my response.

#7. Politics can divide the body of Christ while the gospel will unite us. (Philippians 1:27)

You’ve probably heard the oft repeated admonition to refrain from talking about religion and politics if your goal is warm, polite, friendly conversation. There’s a reason these two topics often cause conversational sparks to fly. It’s because these two areas are of ultimate importance in life. They touch every aspect of our life together. The topics of God and government both point to authority. They each deal with how we “ought” to live and behave. Every law that is passed in the political arena reflects someone’s morality and prescribes the way we should conduct ourselves as citizens. Likewise God, as Creator and Redeemer, demands our complete devotion and single-hearted worship. He commands us to love Him with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. Truth claims, by definition, are controversial. And the truth about things that matter most, are by definition, the most controversial.

That’s why I believe Stier’s point here is naïve and misguided. When we preach the gospel it begins with the call to repent. Jesus demands that we stop thinking and behaving in sinful ways and that we do a one-eighty and head in the opposite direction. I can’t think of anything more controversial! I often have people ask me if I am worried that when preaching about controversial issues someone might be offended and leave the church. The answer is, “No!” I am more afraid of offending the Lord by watering down the potency of His message or by focusing on shallow, irrelevant topics which produce a false sense of unity built around broad, bland, and banal slogans. I don’t want Jesus to be offended and leave the church!

You see, I have come to love the “sparks.” They remind me that I am being relevant to God and to what really matters. In a war, you can always tell when you are getting close to the front lines. You can hear the sound of bombs exploding in the distance. Bullets are flying overhead. You are approaching the zone where the battle is most intense. It tells you that the ground you are fighting for matters. Religion and politics are two areas of critical importance. Truth in these two arenas really matters. Sparks will inevitably fly. And while none of us, as pastors, are looking for controversy, we are naïve or simply inexperienced to believe it is avoidable. So pastor, don’t buy a ticket on the “love boat” when God has called you to be a leader in some of the most important cultural battles of our time! Embrace the controversy. Stand for truth. Speak boldly. Let’s run to the battle!

10 Reasons Why the Church Must Be Involved in Politics (6)

June 7th, 2012 4 comments

In this blog series, I am responding point by point to a column written by Greg Stier, the President and Founder of Dare 2 Share Ministries entitled, “Ten Reasons Why Pastors Should Focus More on the Gospel Than on Politics.” Here’s Greg’s sixth point and my response.

#6. It [the gospel] attacks the root of evil and not just the fruit of it (Romans 1:16)

Stier makes an excellent point. Many of the larger social problems we are forced to address in the political arena – things like corruption, immoral spending, abortion, the breakdown of the family and a whole host of other evils – are really just the fruit, and not the root, of a deeper problem. Government is ill-equipped to deal with spiritual and character problems. In fact, only Christ can transform the human heart. This is the “good news” of the gospel. That’s why strong churches and families are essential in creating and training spiritually, morally, socially and physically healthy individuals.

But the Bible also tells us, “If the root is holy, so are the branches.” (Romans 11:16) In other words, after individuals are transformed from the “inside-out” through a personal relationship with Jesus, He changes the way they live. When the human heart [the root] is holy, then the branches of a person’s life – marriage, family, work etc. – will also be holy. So a political leader with a relationship with Christ, operating under the principles of God’s Word, will act in a completely different manner than the man or woman who does not know the Lord. For instance, the politician who says he is “personally” against abortion, but votes the party line in favor of perpetuating this social evil, is guilty of compartmentalizing his faith.

This is why we cannot preach a privatized faith. Once we lead someone into a salvation relationship with Christ, they must be trained to acknowledge the authority of Christ in every aspect of their lives. As a pastor, I need to recognize that there are individuals in my congregation who are called to public service. I must help them connect the dots between their personal relationship with Jesus and good public policy. If we are doing our jobs well in the local church, we should never be faced with an election where we must make the choice between two poor candidates. When ungodly leaders represent us, it is an indictment against the church. We have simply failed to equip our people with a biblical theology of government and with a clear understanding of their duty to transform society by being salt and light.

So while I agree with Stier that our focus must be on the root, we must also realize that after salvation, our work has just begun. If the root is holy, the branches will produce good fruit. I’m afraid we’ve been content with the root and left the fruit to take care of itself. We assume that it will just happen. My challenge is that we must be good vinedressers by being intentional about the kind of political fruit we are picking. Statesmen are not born – they are trained and equipped. The church must lead the way in the formation of godly leadership in every sphere of life, including the call to politics.