The church in America is worried; worried about engaging in politics. Some congregants may believe that speaking about politics from the pulpit is not entirely appropriate. There is often the concern of pastors that they may lose their church’s nonprofit status, or perhaps lose some financial support. So, this week I present a challenge – a challenge to pastors and members of their congregations.
I’ve talked with lots of pastors over the years and have come to realize that many simply see there being too many “downsides” and very few “upsides” in addressing political issues from the pulpit. I get it. Pastor Gus Booth, someone personally familiar with this issue, puts it this way in his book entitled SHHHH! Be Quiet Christian: “There are so many in the church who say things like, ‘Don’t preach anything political. I want theology and a spiritual message, but if you get involved in politics, then you schism the church.’” However, I am convinced that the gospel doesn’t exempt any portion of our life being transformed by the saving work of Christ, so if we are preaching the Word and seeking to apply it to our lives, shouldn’t this be one of those areas?
The Johnson Amendment has struck fear in the hearts of pastors for over 67 years. While it doesn’t prohibit churches from providing general information about political topics, it does restrict churches from endorsing particular candidates. Do you know the number of churches that have been successfully prosecuted under this law in the past six decades? As NPR states, “According to the alliance [Alliance Defending Freedom], as reported by the Washington Post, only one of more than 2,000 Christian clergy deliberately challenging the law since 2008 has been audited, and none has been punished.” [Emphasis added]. So why the fear?
Like all nonprofits, churches operate on revenues, and most of these revenues come from donations. Generally speaking, over 90% of church revenues come from regular giving by church members. It is undeniable that giving to their church should be the first giving priority of congregants. The possibility certainly exists that the topic of politics might create a divide or upset certain members of the congregation, with the result that they might take their charitable giving elsewhere. However, I would contend that churches need to lead and educate their members on all aspects of biblical citizenship.
Over the years, my father preached some unpopular sermons and congregants sometimes became upset, stopped their giving, or left. However, I am very proud he chose to preach those difficult sermons. Preaching the Word, and how it applies to all aspects of our lives, is what the church should be about.
Let me close with this. I have a deep and abiding respect for the church as an organization and as the body of Christ. God established it and we must love the church and help it grow. However, I would challenge those in leadership to speak boldly on how Christians can and should allow their faith to flow into all parts of their lives. I also challenge church members to encourage your spiritual leaders to address important political issues. Christianity is not a partial change in our lives, but affects all facets, so let’s help each other translate that faith in a holistic and comprehensive way!
President and Executive Director