Over the last few years, I have gone through an evolution in regards to what I choose to vocalize as a pastor especially when it comes to politics. I am a very opinionated person and pretty much have an opinion about everything, from the color of the carpet, to complex political issues.
I would like to exhort pastors and ministry leaders to think a little bit differently when it comes to politics. I have made a conscious decision in what I choose to say publicly. As a Christian first, pastor and minister of the gospel second, my primary goal in life is not the success of this republic (United States of America for you internationals reading this) that I call home. I love America, I don’t think patriotism is sinful, I think its actually Biblical, but that’s another post, but we have to be careful about what we say.
As preachers and teachers our goal is to communicate the life transforming truths of the gospel and see those truths penetrate the hearts of mankind without any stumbling block. As Paul exhorts us in 2 Corinthians 6:3, “We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited.” I have stated many times publicly in our church, SouthCoast Church, and will continue to, that our church is not affiliated or aligned with any particular political party. We are functionally apolitical.
This, in my opinion is vitally important for a few reasons, but one massive reason. I see many pastors tweeting about a particular candidate and his or her views on things and critiquing them. When you align yourself publicly with a particular candidate or ideology you are functionally, potentially ostracizing people from the gospel and placing a large stumbling block in your community. We all know how divisive politics can be and I would be mortified if I knew some lost people did not come to my church and experience Christ because of my outspoken political views.
Pastors, as scripture says in James 3:1, “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” We have to be even more careful than the lay person about what we say and how we say it. Even if you have a small church like me, people still watch how their leaders react to divisive political issues, because you represent Christ and your local church.
This doesn’t mean that you do not speak out about particular sins and issues that have fallen in the political sphere, you need to. We need to be a voice for the voiceless. I believe that we are cultural prophets calling people out of sinful, cultural practices. We are the preserving salt in our culture. That is a deeply Biblical issue close to the heart of Jesus. You just have to be gentle, careful, loving and very specific and intentional about how you say it.
I exhort you pastor, in this politically charged season whether you vote for Mitt Romney, President Obama or another candidate, don’t confuse your politics with the gospel.