Why My Church is Hosting a Poverty Sunday
1. Be True to Scripture
2. Avoid Politics
The heart for God's Word is not all that surprising, given the "Sola Scriptura" roots of Protestantism and the attempt to be faithful to the Bible that have been consistent earmarks of American Evangelicalism.
The second mantra might be a bit surprising, especially as Evangelicals have been branded as part of the Religious Right over the past several election cycles. Despite media portrayals, however, the vast majority of evangelical churches have not preached Republicanism. Rather, they have avoided politics altogether, leaving the partisan work to Pat Robertson, James Dobson, and the late Jerry Falwell.
The biggest reasons for avoiding politics? Well, some are justly concerned that the church can easily be co-opted by a political party and its witness stifled. Many are worried that engaging in politics will divert attention from the "simple Gospel." Others recognize that politics can be divisive and are concerned their churches might lose some valuable market share.
So instead of evangelical churches discussing political issues, we have in essence decided that our congregations would be better served getting their political bearings from Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Keith Olbermann or James Carville than be viewing political issues through the lens of scripture.
Unfortunately, the mantra of avoiding politics has trumped our commitment to be faithful to scripture!
In the model prayer that Jesus taught, he prayed that God's kingdom would come and God's will would be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Bottom line? Doing God's will on earth demands that Christians think about the big political issues of the day through the lens of scripture! As any reader of Sojourners knows, the Bible demonstrates God's deep and abiding love for the poor.
In 2008, poverty is out of control locally, nationally and globally. In my neck of the woods, in Cincinnati, more than one in four people live below the poverty line. If God's kingdom is to come in Cincinnati, something must be done about poverty.
So this fall, University Christian Church is hosting a Poverty Sunday as part of the Vote Out Poverty Campaign. On Poverty Sunday, we will encourage congregation members to personally get involved in working with and loving the poor in our community.
We will also encourage members of our congregation to evaluate political candidates based in part on their policies and plans for reducing poverty both nationally and globally.
We will not be partisan. We will not be asking Christ-followers to be single-issue voters. But, we will no longer give politics to Limbaugh, Hannity, Olbermann and Carville.
As Christians, we take up our crosses and follow Jesus, not political pundits. And where Jesus leads, we must follow, so we will be hosting a Poverty Sunday this fall. I pray your church will too.
For more information on Sojourners' Vote Out Poverty campaign and Poverty Sunday, visit www.voteoutpoverty.org
Troy Jackson is senior pastor of University Christian Church in Cincinnati, a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary, and earned his Ph.D. in United States history from the University of Kentucky. He is author of Becoming King: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Making of a National Leader and a participant in Sojourners' Windchangers grassroots organizing project in Ohio to work on the Vote Out Poverty Campaign.