Are pastors doing more harm than good by leveraging their influence to champion their preferred politicians or political parties? Let's explore.
Many pastors feel called to use the influence of their pulpits to bring about positive change in their congregation, community and nation. And few things affect change like politics.
Some people wrongly suggest that a pastor should just preach the gospel and stay away from discussing politics. But the gospel has implications for every facet of life, including the hot button political issues of our day. These things must be talked about and should not be avoided.
However, pastors must walk the fine and delicate line of discussing political issues that affect our world without endorsing candidates.
Here are five reasons a pastor's endorsement of politicians often can do more harm than good:
- It communicates, "You are not welcome here" to anyone who disagrees with them. The last thing we should want for our churches is to become segregated across party lines the way the church has historically been segregated racially.
What unifies us is Christ, not a candidate. When a pastor endorses a particular candidate, he or she is communicating (whether intentionally or not) to anyone who disagrees that their different perspectives are not welcome.
- It falsely elevates one party as the Christian party and the other as the enemy. The only person who perfectly embodies God's mission is Jesus, and the only group God has appointed to carry out that mission is the church. There is no Christian political party. All political parties have some policies that align more with Christian values than others and some that do not.
- It merges the gospel with personal opinion and makes the two indistinguishable. The gospel is not partisan. When a pastor publicly endorses a candidate or party, he or she muddles that party's platform with the gospel, and the two become very difficult for a congregation to distinguish.
- It validates sinful inclinations. Two people who vote for the same candidate may do so for very different reasons. One may support a politician for their platform and policies, while the other votes for him or her out of fear, prejudice, bitterness or selfish ambition. When pastors promote a party or politician rather than discussing each of the many important issues that should matter to all Christians, they may be unintentionally validating the sinful motivations of people who support that candidate for the wrong reasons.
- It discourages wisdom, reason and asking questions. There is no space for asking tough questions and wrestling with your beliefs if your pastor has already told you how he thinks God wants you to vote. Instead of spoon-feeding their congregation answers, pastors should help teach them how to think for themselves with a Christian worldview. Because anytime there is a grey area, Christians are called to use wisdom to make the best decision they can with a clear conscience.
Getting Political Without Championing Politicians
Jesus is the hope of the world, and the church is His vehicle to bring that hope. If we don't engage or care about the most critical issues of our culture, we're doing something wrong. Pastors must teach their congregations to lead the charge in changing our culture for the better. That means political topics should regularly be brought up on Sunday mornings and throughout the week.
However, we must discuss issues, not individual candidates, because while we all may have the same goals and care about the same things, we will disagree on how to achieve those goals. And that's OK. Abortion, gun violence, healthcare and taking care of our earth are all issues that God cares about deeply. We must think hard about how to address them. But we do not have to agree on the method or the candidate we believe will do the most good in dealing with these issues.
The church is a very large and diverse group of people who all think differently. What should unify Christians is Christ, not a candidate.
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