Recently, I was invited to a meeting with area pastors about a serious issue that our school board was facing. An organization was suing our school board for various acts of religious expression that they felt violated the separation of church and state. It had made national news. Suddenly, so many things collided: faith, politics and my congregation. How was I, as a pastor, going to lead our people through these challenges? I had politicians in my church, teachers, the school superintendent, students, parents and more.
As the events unfolded, I knew I could not remain silent or neutral. No matter the controversy, I needed to speak biblical truth and encourage and instruct on matters that many would rather avoid. But God was so gracious, and thousands of students and families stood stronger in their faith. It was an interesting and challenging season for sure.
Over the years of my pastoral ministry, I have had church members say to me, “Pastor, I would highly recommend that you not bring politics into the pulpit.” And when they say this, it is usually accompanied with a tone that says the pulpit should never be controversial. This has been an interesting recommendation to consider.
I want to first ask, “What do these fellow Christians mean when they say ‘politics’?” Most people simply think “politics” includes voting for a candidate and voting on issues. Additionally, they envision the mean spirit and deceptive tactics so often seen and associated with those running for a particular office in a local, state or national race.
Without question, there are actions and attitudes that are cringe-worthy and un-Christlike in political races, and I do not blame church members for not wanting those things emanating from the pulpit, much less from the life of their pastor. The result of these concerns is that many pastors will avoid anything that can be construed as political in their preaching ministry.
But is this the best reaction? Paul called Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:2 to “preach the Word; be ready in season and out of season.” Every pastor is to preach, teach and proclaim the Word of God to the people of God. All of it.
You know what I have discovered? The Bible speaks to every issue that intersects with our political debates. And there are many issues that become positions in politics. Some of these issues are abortion (Jeremiah 1:5), same-sex attraction (1 Corinthians 6:9-11), racism (Galatians 3:26-28) and numerous others.
If you are a pastor who preaches the Bible and is committed to teaching your flock all of God’s Word, then you will ultimately preach on issues that many will deem political. But God’s Word must be our standard and foundation of all truth, and, as pastors, we must be committed to delivering His Word to His people so that the church can be strong in the faith and Christians can stand boldly in our world regardless of the issue. Our people need to know what God’s Word says about any particular issue more than what some person or company says about it on Twitter.
Beyond the issues that intersect with political debates are the people who desire places of leadership on the local, state and national levels. Does never bringing politics into the pulpit mean that a pastor can never speak about a candidate seeking a place of leadership? In our American form of government, that place might be in a local, state or national office.
The Bible is clear that within the roles of government and leadership are people who will either fill those roles responsibly or irresponsibly. For example, in Ecclesiastes 4:1-3, Solomon teaches us that those in roles of power and leadership can use their position to bless or oppress others. Those who are in positions of power and leadership really do matter.
Think about it: God greatly used the leadership of Joseph (Genesis 41:39-42) to bless others rather than oppress them. God greatly used the leadership of Esther (Esther 8) to bless others rather than oppress them. God greatly used the leadership of Daniel (Daniel 6) to bless others rather than oppress them. Leadership truly matters, and having great leaders in places of authority and power is critically important.
While you should consider the pros and cons of publically endorsing a particular candidate, preaching and teaching about the importance of leadership and being engaged in the opportunity of seeing people put in leadership who will bless rather than oppress is an awesome opportunity and responsibility. Pastors do not need to cower in the face of elections. Religious liberty, the value of human life, the sanctity of marriage and so much more are directly impacted by those who become leaders on every level government affords. Much is at stake, and every pastor must be courageous and clear, even when it comes to those issues our people might deem political.
So am I going to bring politics into the pulpit? No, but I am going to bring my Bible. Yes, it will be controversial. Yes, some will perceive it to be too political. But preaching the Word of God is what we are called to do. And what God says about every issue and every quality of leadership is what we really need.