CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Yes Politics Matters (Are You Listening Pastors?)

Aug 10, 2014

Pastors should be preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ of course. They should lead their people to the Saviour, and help them grow as disciples of Christ. They should be teaching the whole counsel of God as they faithfully exposit Scripture.

But overwhelmingly evangelical pastors have avoided all things political and social. They avoid like the plague the hot potato issues of the day, and prefer silence to prophetic pronouncements. Doug Giles wonders why this is. He asks, “Why Do Pastors Punt On Political Issues?” He offers seven possible reasons:

politics 1-They’re scared of Obama & the IRS
-Their Denomination forbids them
-It’ll cost them money
-Some demonized deacon told them, ‘no politics’
-They’re ignorant about the issues
-They believe church and politics don’t mix
-They think the world’s about to end so… ‘who cares?’

One can think of at least seven other reasons:

-They think these are not “spiritual” issues
-They think these are not “gospel” issues
-They have a fear of man
-They don’t want to rock the boat
-They want to keep everyone happy
-They want to keep the money flowing in
-They are cowards

Most pastors refuse to even discuss the important moral issues of our time, whether abortion, the attack on marriage, or the threat of Islam. They want to play it safe, mollycoddle their listeners, and tell them what they want to hear rather than what they need to hear.

For years now I have been urging Christians to be involved in the political, cultural, social and intellectual battles of our day. And pastors have a role to play in this as well. But too many refuse to fulfil their responsibilities here. They will argue that they should only preach on “gospel” issues.

But how is God’s design for human sexuality, marriage and family not a gospel issue, especially when militant minority groups are working overtime to destroy all three? How is the sanctity of human life, and the protection of those being led to the slaughter not a gospel issue?

How is defending each person as made in God’s image not a gospel issue? Wilberforce of course did just this, and saw it as a direct biblical concern which pastors and others must be involved in. And it is a good thing too, or we would still be fighting against slavery today.

But it is not just Giles and I who have been bothered by this, and perceived this glaring need from the pulpits. Research backs up our concerns. American statistician and researcher George Barna has recently looked into this and makes it clear that this is indeed a major omission on the part of most pastors:

On Thursday, George Barna – research expert and founder of The Barna Group – shared with American Family Radio’s “Today’s Issues” about new information he’s compiling at American Culture and Faith Institute over the last two years, gauging where theologically conservative pastors are at politically.
“What we’re finding is that when we ask them about all the key issues of the day, [90 percent of them are] telling us, Yes, the Bible speaks to every one of these issues. Then we ask them: Well, are you teaching your people what the Bible says about those issues? – and the numbers drop…to less than 10 percent of pastors who say they will speak to it.”
When researchers ask those pastors what else they are willing to do to get their people active in the political process, Barna said “it’s almost nothing. So the thing that struck me has been that when we talk about the separation of church and state, it’s that churches have separated themselves from the activities of the state – and that’s to the detriment of the state and its people,” stated the researcher.

Wow, scary stuff. Chuck Baldwin comments on these figures:

Did you get that? Ninety-percent of America’s pastors say they KNOW that the Bible speaks to all of these issues, but they are deliberately determined to NOT teach these Biblical principles. That is an amazing admission!
It would have been one thing if the pastors had said that these political issues were not relevant to scripture, and, therefore, they didn’t feel called to address them. But the pastors are admitting that, yes, they KNOW that the scriptures DO relate to our current political issues, but they are deliberately choosing to NOT teach those scriptural principles. Holy heads-in-the-sand, Batman!

He continues:

The report goes on: “Why the disconnect? According to Barna, the answer is simple. He suggests asking pastors how someone would know if their church is ‘successful’ – which he did. ‘There are five factors that the vast majority of pastors turn to [when asked that question],’ he explained. ‘Attendance, giving, number of programs, number of staff, and square footage.'”
There you have it: pastors are more concerned about being “successful” than they are being truthful. They believe if they tell their congregations the truth, their churches will not be “successful”… Shazam! Where did pastors come up with this definition of “success?” You know where: from men such as Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, et al.
The megachurch phenomenon of the last several decades transformed how pastors think and behave. Pastors read the “successful church” books and publications; they attend the “successful church” conferences; they watch the “successful church” videos, etc. They then try to mimic the tactics and strategies they have been taught. And if there is one constant theme promulgated by the likes of Osteen, Warren, and Hybels, it is pastors must avoid controversy like the plague. Again, one must realize that the goal is NOT being faithful to Biblical principles; the goal is building a “successful” church as noted above.
It is time for Christians to acknowledge that these ministers are not pastors; they are CEOs. They are not Bible teachers; they are performers. They are not shepherds; they are hirelings. It is also time for Christians to be honest with themselves: do they want a pastor who desires to be faithful to the scriptures, or do they want a pastor who is simply trying to be “successful?”

He contrasts all this to Paul:

When the Apostle Paul listed his ministerial pedigree, here is what it looked like (II Cor. 11):
-Stripes above measure
-In prisons frequently
-In deaths often
-Beaten with rods
-Stoned
-Perils
-Weariness
-Painfulness
-Hunger and thirst
-Cold and nakedness
I don’t see attendance, offerings, programs, staff, or square footage in that list at all, do you?

No wonder we hardly ever hear anything about the crucial issues of our time from the pulpit. Whether it is the homosexual agenda, or the war on the unborn, most pastors prefer to be “successful”. And by that we can only say, they prefer to be men-pleasers.

So what do we do? Baldwin offers this advice: “In the end, it always comes down to We the People, doesn’t it? If you want a church where the pastor is willing to teach the Biblical principles that relate to our everyday lives – including our political lives – you might have to vote with your feet and go find one. That is, if that kind of thing is truly important to you.”

clashdaily.com/2014/08/think-pastors-afraid-preach-bible-says-controversial-political-issues/#w51t6JXHWKJQyoi3.01
onenewsnow.com/church/2014/08/01/barna-many-pastors-wary-of-raising-controversy#.U-byVvmSyFU
www.renewamerica.com/columns/baldwin/140808

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12 Responses to Yes Politics Matters (Are You Listening Pastors?)

  • “All that is necessary for evil to advance is for good men to do nothing.” A quote often attributed to Edmund Burke, but he didn’t say it, or someone just shortend a saying by him to the effect that it meant that.

  • Love it! Our sermon this morning was on politics and the current world climate of Christian persecution, calling christians to speak out. Yay for men that stand up, speak out and encourage their listeners to do the same.

  • Thanks Bill, I wish I convey even some of what you’ve written above to my church.

  • Bill. Thanks for an interesting and provocative post, and one that you consistently draw attention to, namely, the thorny issue of Christian duty in the realm of politics.

    I may have mentioned before a very provocative and thoughtful article written by Dr Jon Zens and Cliff Bjork on this subject (Searching Together magazine Spring/Fall issue 1999 entitled “A Better Society Without the Gospel?” which I think succeeds in bringing out a few biblical principals to guide our thinking in this area.

    One which I think is central is that of the distinction between what the church(es) corporately is mandated to pursue, and that of the responsibility of the individual Christian believer in society who is to act as ‘salt and light’ living in the midst of a fallen and often corrupt society.
    I believe the distinction is all important.
    The article quotes at length the views of well known Christian leader John MacArthur including this comment about the early church:

    “It (the church) did not concern itself with whatever the moral code of the nation was. It was not concerned about social behaviour. It was not trying to influence culture politically or judicially or legislatively. The early church existed to do one thing and that was to reach lost people with the gospel. That was the beginning and end of their purpose and that is still the church’s purpose, that is still our only purpose, that is why we are in the world”
    That touches on the “spiritual” and “gospel” issues you mention above, and there is much more similar comment by JM on this theme.
    Zens & Bjork follow up with an explanation of why they feel that this is a right approach for the church.
    They amplify John MacArthur’s basic premise:

    “In the light of widespread misunderstanding about the place of America and all other world powers in God’s unfolding plans, it is vital to understand that the New Testament identifies only two kingdoms – the realm of those controlled by the flesh (the unregenerate) and the realm of those controlled by the Spirit (the redeemed) (Rom 8:5-9)

    Since Scripture plainly reveals that God’s redemptive purposes are focused exclusively on the latter, should we not re-think whether we should be wasting our time and energy seeking to bring an unsaved culture into alignment with a “Judeo-Christian morality”?
    Should we be involved in trying to apply moral super-glue to a broken geo-political entity that Christ himself shattered? Is it really the walls of Washington that need our attention, or should we be guarding and maintaining the walls of Zion? Should we be wasting our time trying to apply moral values to a society that is spiritually dead, or should we trust instead in the resurrecting power of the same gospel that made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in sins”?…..To align our efforts with God’s revealed plans is to undertake a mission filled with expectation and hope.
    All other causes, including the various political agendas advanced by many Christian leaders today, can only end in frustration, disillusionment and unfulfilled expectations…..”

    That said, I believe it is both the duty, and privilege of the individual Christian to fully engage with the political issues (as opposed to party political) of the day and with governments as part of his/her on-going witness to the authority of Christ, Scripture and the law of God.
    We know the issues are often complex and it is easy to be drawn into over simplification of the separate role of church and individual.
    And we have not here even touched on the huge implications of the Lord’s words ‘Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s”

  • Wow alright, at least it answers the question which has been thrown back at me again and again. Although yes as Sharon stated our church did the same thing yesterday, preached about persecution and Iraq and I noticed the congregation responded very well. I will also mention our pastor is moderately outspoken about the important issues which I’m guessing is why half our church left last year. But is slowly but surely filling again.

  • On a different but similar note…

    This morning I received an invite to the Australian Christian Lobby annual conference. This is one Christian organisation I have a lot of time and respect for.
    Can you please explain why on earth I would be interested in going to a conference where the key note speaker is Bill Shorten?

    Why does the ACL think that he would be a good influence on their supporters?

  • Thanks Annette. I agree. For various reasons, they have decided they do not want to be seen as a conservative group, but one that appeals to all sides of the political debate. That is their choice, although many may rightly think it is not very helpful, and that having someone like Shorten is not very wise at all. Why give free space to a leader of a party which is committed to abortion on demand and homosexual marriage for starters? One might as well ask the Greens leader to speak.

  • Kevin Rudd was a speaker at the 2002 ACL conference. It was true at least until recently that the LNP coalition had the most bible believing Christians in it. That balance is slightly shifting, not because the ALP has more Christians in it now, but because the LNP has less now or at least less strong ones that haven’t capitulated to pressure.
    I wonder how long it is going to take serious Christians to realize that simply to vote LNP because they are “conservatives” no longer works. They have to become a little more responsible in their voting soon.
    Political issues not spiritual, what about fresh water and microloans, we are all for that and so we should be, that is godly compasion and economics, but we must “do these things without leaving the others undone.”
    They are not gospel issues either? Part of the great commission is “teaching them all the things I have commanded you. At east they are part of discipleship, but is that happening in our churches today?
    OF course we must stand with the percecuted church, but what is wrong about insuring Australia doesn’t end up like the middle east in a few years time?
    Many blessings
    Ursula Bennett

  • G’day Bill,
    I am the pastor of a church where we have, weekly, a 5 to 7 minute segment, ‘Couldn’t Help Noticing.’ In my Sermon / Bible talk I start with The Word, and apply it to the world, to people’s lives. In the CHN segment, I go from the world, and what’s happening out there (like in the media) to the Word. I aim to impart a thinking, Christian worldview. This has sharpened my mind on where the world is and is going; and, I trust, the congregation. It gives them something to say to their family and friends. It enables me to teach a Biblical response to Islam, homosexuality, Israel/Palestine, euthanasia, abortion, and more. I invite pastors to consider it.

    Andrew Campbell, Wagga Wagga.

  • Many of us can remember church leaders of the past in Australia who regularly spoke up about social issues. Perhaps the most notable last century was Alan Walker, the Methodist preacher and Labor voter (later disillusioned with Labor in some ways). He was a bit liberal in his theology, but if he were around today no one would be in any doubt about his views on same-sex marriage, abortion on demand, gambling and so on. There were also Anglicans, Presbyterians, Baptists and others whose views were often sought by the media and who did not compromise when speaking of social evils. Some of them went a bit too far in complete condemnation of alcohol, but even there they had a strong case against the widespread misuse of the liquid.

    Let’s hope some of their ilk will appear on the stage again.

  • As I thought might happen…Bill Shorten is being encouraged to use his ACL address to lecture Christians on the merits of gay marriage.

    www.australianmarriageequality.org/tag/bill-shorten/

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