Preaching

The Pastor's Dilemma

Recently, my church’s board of elders and I were discussing people who had left our fellowship because of their perceptions of my “political activities.” As I handed them an outline of what I believe the Bible says about various social issues (creation care, immigration, peacemaking, poverty, etc.), I said, “We know this is not about politics. This is about expressing the Christian witness in the public square as a part of what it means to be a mature Christian.” To their credit and my encouragement, they said, in essence, “We agree. And we will take the lead, but it can’t be political or partisan.”

Most of us went into ministry because we wanted to be both voices and vessels of God’s love to others through Jesus Christ. But there is congregational pushback when we tie voices and vessels to votes. And that link is not only a danger, but a necessity to make “witnessing” distinct from “politicking.”

For pastors to be involved in addressing the social issues of the day in a prophetic and compassionate way, we must make three decisions:

  1. We must decide we will have courage. Many of our congregation members will misunderstand both our motivations and the need to talk of such things. Jesus didn’t do us any great favors when he commanded us to “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and unto God what is God’s” (Matthew 22:21). We’d love to only address the second part because the first part implies complicity with unpopular government. To be perfectly honest, such activity could cost some of us our jobs. But if our fear diminishes the fullness of the gospel’s love and concern, if others go on suffering so that we can be more secure, what kind of ministry do we have?

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Sojourners Magazine December 2009
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