God in the Public Square – Shutting the Barn Door

Triumph of Faith over Idolatry, by Jean-Baptis...
Triumph of Faith over Idolatry, by Jean-Baptiste Théodon (French, 1646–1713). Church of the Gesù, Rome, Italy. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was reading an article over at Ministry Matters tonight by Pastor Mike Slaughter. He was lamenting the rancor of this political season, and putting forth the notion that we have allowed the Gospel to be hijacked for partisan political purposes. He, of course, kept his assertions vague, painting with a broad brush that seemed to accuse everyone, equally of such a nefarious use of faith. In truth, he is also not entirely wrong. But, here’s the problem with such proclamation, particularly when they begin with the sentence “I’ve managed so far to remain pretty silent in this rancorous political season…” There’s a reason the Gospel has been so frequently and cavalierly bandied about in this political season.

One of the reasons is this mentality of pastors like Pastor Slaughter, chief dreamer and lead pastor of his church for nearly 40 years now, and so many others. I have a question, from the laity of the body of Christ. If you expect your fellow Christians to defend the faith in the public square (also something he says is important), yet as the leaders God has appointed to instruct and discipline in the faith, do not teach how to engage the political issues of our day within the political structure of our day, how then do you expect them to advocate for biblical interaction with our duty as citizens? I’m not picking on Pastor Slaughter here particularly. I’ve read a good bit of his stuff over the years, and he seems like an all right guy. He’s obviously been blessed with a long tenure in an active congregation. I don’t know him personally, but I’m guessing he does a good job.

What I am saying is that I have grown weary of those called to lead the church telling the church, in vague terms, what they should not do instead of doing what they are supposed to do. Which is to equip the saints to do the work of God, build the body of Christ, and make disciples. For as long as I have been paying attention to politics, I can count on one hand the number of times I have heard a pastor speak to their congregation about what God has to say about selecting leaders. I don’t hear much in the way of pastors encouraging their congregants to pray for their national, local and political leaders. I occasionally hear some distant, famous pastor, call for prayers for the nation, but usually only for things like the National Day of Prayer. I don’t recall in the last six years (and granted I go to a small church) hearing a pastor preach against the soul crushing sin of abortion that is plaguing our nation and give guidance on how to engage this topic, or the traditional understanding of human sexuality in a God-centered fashion. I know there are preachers that do so, because I know there are Christians who are actively engaged in crisis pregnancy ministries. But, seriously, where is the critical teaching on these things?

Since when is it a pastor’s job to sit back and with blanket statements accuse the people who are engaged in the battle of hijacking for the way they are following their orders? When did blanket statements on issues become the right way to handle things like that anyway? There are a lot of deeply faithful men and women of God engaged across the spectrum in this political fracas. And quite truthfully, his observations that some of us have degenerated to a very un-Christlike jerkiness is not amiss. That’s been happening a lot. I have to take breaks and pray, and repent, often, to keep from completely sliding into the politics of things and out of the purpose.

But, the purpose is to engage our fellow believers in the understanding that God does indeed give guidance on politics in Scripture. The purpose is to remind us all that we, as followers of Christ, need to assess our options in light of the cross. The purpose is also to correct and rebuke when the public behavior of proclaimed Christians is in direct contradiction to God’s Word. And right now, in this particular time in history, that conversation is going to be raucous. Because many pastors that have been leading the flock for the last half-century have been silent in the face of corruption that has risen in our society and our politics. Many have remained silent in the face of distortions of the Gospel. Many have remained mute both in the pulpit and in the public square on the issues of our day and what the Bible has to say about them.

More than that, God has called many of His people to step into the battle, and it IS a battle. A battle of principalities and powers that is crashing through into our tidy little here and now to upset the apple cart of our political status quo. He has certainly called the pastoral to provide comfort to the flock. But, he has also called His prophets to speak, His exhorters to exhort, and He has called His warriors to battle. Perhaps we need to think about uplifting those He has called to battle in ways outside our comfort zone, instead of simply claiming, without specifics, they are not working in service of God’s plans.

To all the pastors out there who have taken time this cycle to put forth thoughtful, prayerful, Bible based pleas, whether those pleas were in support or opposition of a particular candidate or issue, or simply a plea to look to specific passages in Scripture and pray for wisdom and discernment and to show grace to one another, thank you for stepping into the fray. We know it’s not easy, especially after remaining silent, and knowing there is a risk involved in such things for your ministries. But for those who wish to remain above the fray and call out the soldiers in the trenches that are doing the best they can with few earthly leaders to follow, how about you all look first at what has led the flock so far astray and left the barn door wide open. And then, if you would please, get on your knees and pray for those whom God has called to step into the fray. Pray for their wisdom, pray for their discernment, pray for their protection, pray for God’s grace. And above all else, pray that Christ remains their head and God’s will be done. That’s going to be a lot more effective at this point than shaking your fingers, and I can tell you truthfully, we’d appreciate it. We can use all the prayers we can get.

Be blessed and be a blessing.

2 Replies to “God in the Public Square – Shutting the Barn Door”

  1. “I don’t hear much in the way of pastors encouraging their congregants to pray for their national, local and political leaders.”

    You just need to visit some different kinds of churches. We Episcopals do “prayers of the people” at every single service. It’s part of The Book of Common Prayer, our core worship text, and includes (among others on the topic) these prayers, spoken by all, and followed by silent reflection:

    “For our President, for the leaders of the nations, and for all in
    authority, let us pray to the Lord.
    Lord, have mercy.”

    “We pray for all who govern and hold authority in the nations
    of the world;
    That there may be justice and peace on the earth.”

    Our pastors often specify and extend these prayers by adding the first names of those being prayed for, including our governor, local leaders etc.

    1. Thank you! I appreciate that, and the reference to the Book of Common Prayers. I am grateful to know there are some churches that include that on a regular basis. Methodists do have common prayers and such that they use, but I think this is likely one of the traditions that has fallen by the wayside as so many of the churches have moved toward less tradition. In truth, even in the couple more traditional churches I have visited, this has not been part of the service. The pastors over the years at our church periodically have raised the prayers for our leadership once in a while, usually in among many.

      It isn’t just in the prayers of the pastors we need to hear that though. The Scriptural teaching on it needs to be being taught from the pulpit. Not necessarily issue or candidate specific advocacy, but the areas of Scripture that teach desiring God’s best for the nation we’re in, the context of God telling His children to pray for those in authority over them. The areas of the Scripture that reveal God’s role (over everything) and ours in the righteous governing of ourselves and our people.

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