For a guy who doesn’t preach on politics, my recent post about not preaching on politics sure has me talking a lot about politics lately.
Last week, I wrote My Silence Is Not Compliance: Why I Don’t Preach Politics from the Pulpit. It generated some great responses on blogs, social media, email, even a radio interview.
Many were very supportive. But even those that expressed disagreement did so with genuine concern and civility. I’m very grateful for that.
For today’s post, I’ve assembled some of the most frequent questions that I've received, along with my responses to them.
“Why is it wrong to preach politics from the pulpit?”
It’s not wrong to preach politics from the pulpit. In fact, it should be done. It's just not for me.
I don’t want every pastor to be like me. The church would be boring, one-note, and ineffective if we were all alike.
The premise of my post was not that preaching politics is wrong. It was that we’re each called to approach political, social, and moral issues in different ways. For some, that means preaching politics regularly. For others, our work is more behind-the-scenes.
Everyone has a part to play.
I'm not opposed to preaching politics. If you preach politics, please recognize that we're not all called to deal with the issues of the day in the same way.
"How do you define politics and preaching on politics?"
Several days after publishing my original post, I realized I could have phrased one aspect of it better.
When I say I don’t preach on politics, I specifically mean partisan politics.
I don’t endorse candidates, legislation, or propositions. I don’t distribute those supposedly non-partisan voter guides that always support one political party.
Politics and theology both deal with moral and ethical issues, so it’s impossible to preach biblically without having some overlap with the political issues of the day. If the passage I'm preaching on deals with the underlying issue, I preach on it. But I won’t be partisan about it.
"By not preaching on partisan politics, aren't you worried you're telling pastors it's okay not to do anything?”
Yes and no.
Yes, some people will always use what we say as an excuse to be or stay lazy.
No, because I’m not giving permission to be passive. I’m opening the door for even more political involvement by showing that preaching is not the only way our churches can impact the spiritual, moral, and political issues of our day.
"Would you have avoided preaching on race if you were a pastor in the South during slavery or segregation?"
No. I would have addressed those issues because the Bible addresses them.
Today, for instance, I don't go out of my way to talk about abortion and gay marriage, but I addressed each issue from a biblical perspective when I preached through Romans recently. I also address race and gender equality when I teach on passages that deal with those topics.
"What's the downside of preaching on partisan politics?"
It’s not wise for preachers to become just one more screaming voice in the political arena.
The church has a better solution for the ills of society than saying “vote this way.” When I tell people how to vote – even though I have that right – I lose the chance to speak to the issue in a bigger, better way.
"Do you want the church to go back to sticking our heads in the sand politically?"
Not at all. For too many years, the church sat in a self-imposed bubble of self-righteousness and did almost nothing to affect the moral, spiritual, and political climate of our nation.
When we started waking up to what we’d lost because of that passivity, many of us swung the pendulum too far in the other direction.
We went from ignoring politics to becoming a major voting bloc. From being ignored to being courted by politicos.
But we haven’t moved from ineffective to effective. We haven’t raised the moral or spiritual climate of the nation. We've just made everyone angrier. Anger is often appropriate, but it's a response, not an answer.
When the church makes everything about politics, we don't make things better, we just make it louder.
"How do you help people navigate issues of policy?"
I don't. But God's Word does, when we preach and teach it in a strong and balanced way.
It's better for a Christian to vote by applying scriptural principles than by blindly following what their pastor told them. Teach a person to fish.
“If you’re not preaching on partisan politics, what are you doing to change things?”
For reasons I don't understand, the Lord has led me and my church to do a lot of hands-on ministry with alcoholics, drug addicts, homosexuals, divorcees, abuse survivors, abortion victims, Republicans, Democrats, and more.
When I make partisan political statements, I lose those opportunities. But when I preach Scripture, without regard to politics, people respect that and can hear things they disagree with.
When we take our lead from God's Word, we will speak to political issues, not from them.
That often leads to a wonderful changes of hearts and minds. Including my own. God's Word is always right, but I've been known to make a mistake or two.
“So what should we do in this current political climate?”
When the Bible is taught in a strong, balanced way, it deals with every aspect of the human condition. Including politics.
If you’re called to preach a more direct political message than me, keep doing it.
Meanwhile, I’ll keep doing what I’m called to do.
You be a hand, I’ll be a foot.
But keep this in mind.
When we preach politics, we win arguments. But not human hearts. Very little seems to change.
When we preach Scripture, it changes hearts and minds. And sometimes it changes nations.
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