By Vince Torres, President & Executive Director
“As Christians, we are politically homeless.”
I have seen this sentiment expressed in some form or another by many recently. It is the idea that because Christianity does not fit perfectly into any political platform, Christians should avoid assigning their total allegiance to any political party or politician. Fundamentally, I agree with this and I have often warned of the dangers of political idolatry. Lately, however, I have come to see two other troubling Christian responses to public policy and politics in America – political indifference and political hypocrisy.
While the politically indifferent tend to ignore politics altogether, the politically hypocritical tend to draw a stark line between their faith and their politics. In either case, these individuals neglect the reality that their politics serve as a reflection of their faith.
In the book of Philippians, the Apostle Paul instructs the Christians in Philippi, “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ” (1:27). In the Greek, that statement can be translated as “Only behave as citizens worthy of the gospel,” which pairs nicely with Paul’s reminder in chapter three that as Christians, “our citizenship is in heaven” (3:20). Incidentally, the Greek words for citizens and citizenship in those verses are “politeuomai” and “politeuma” – which is where our English word “politics” comes from.
With these verses in mind, I believe we can appropriately say that spiritually speaking, we are not politically homeless; but rather, we have been politically sown to advance the Kingdom of God here and now. In God’s Kingdom:
- We have an affiliation – the Church. (1 Corinthians 12:12)
- We have a platform – Scripture. (2 Timothy 3:16)
- We have a leader – Jesus Christ. (Colossians 1:18)
- And we have a message – the Gospel (Mark 16:15)
When Jesus taught us to pray, he said, “Pray then like this: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9-10). Further, before ascending to heaven after his resurrection, he left us with a charge: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Mathew 28:19-20).
Though Paul reminds us that our eternal citizenship lies in the eternal Kingdom of God, Jesus commands us to advance that Kingdom here on earth, which is why we have been purposefully sown into every sphere of influence, including our nation’s political party system. The fact that our platform (Scripture) and message (Gospel) do not fit perfectly into any political party does not render us politically homeless – but politically, a witness. (Acts 1:8)
Political idolatry, indifference, or hypocrisy are not the proper response to the state of our state and nation. Christian influence is. As Dr. Wayne Grudem states – like Daniel in Babylon, Joseph in Egypt, and Paul in Rome – “Christians should seek to influence civil government according to God’s moral standards and God’s purposes for government as revealed in the Bible.”
Though we may be “divided” along party lines, in Christ, we are one church, and through Scripture, we profess one truth. And with the Holy Spirit as our guide, we, the Church, have the power to influence our world in a manner that is neither liberal nor conservative – but revolutionary.
During these divisive times, may we not lose sight of our witness – and in the midst of every darkness, may we always shine as light.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” -Acts 1:8
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” -Matthew 5:14-16
There are only 3 days left until the first Voter Registration Sunday! Are you ready? Here’s what you need to know:
- 25 million Christians didn’t vote in the last presidential election – and an estimated 15 million aren’t even registered.As Christians, we are called to be engaged in our communities for their good (Jeremiah 29:7) and to fulfill our civic obligations (Romans 13). Voting is a way we can live out both of those Biblical commands!Sadly, millions of Christian Americans aren’t registered to vote – so it’s no wonder that atheists are the most politically active “religious” group in our country.How can you help change this trend? Help members of your church get registered by hosting a Voter Registration Sunday!To make it easy, we’ve designated both September 20 and October 4 as Voter Registration Sundays.* September 20 is just three days away, so be sure to take action now if you plan to participate then!If you live in AK, MT, RI, SC, or UT, you will need to participate in September to meet your state’s voter registration deadline. We also strongly encourage you to consider this option if you the following states, because these states require registrations to be postmarked immediately after the October date: AR, AZ, FL, GA, HI, IL*, IN, KY, LA, MS, NM*, NV*, OH, TN, TX.(*state deadline falls on 10/6. All other listed states’ deadlines are 10/5. For both cases, we encourage you to choose September or to postmark/urge congregants to postmark registrations immediately on 10/5 should you choose the October option.)
- Hosting a Voter Registration Sunday at your church is an easy, legal, and biblical way to ensure your church members are registered to vote in time for the election!
Voter Registration Sunday is simple when you use our short, downloadable guide.As you consider how to ask your church leadership about hosting the registration, here are a few things you might share with them:
- Voting – and voter registration – are biblical! (see above)
- Voter registration is legal! The IRS allows your church to host a non-partisan voter registration! More details in our downloadable guide.
- It’s easy and can be as direct or passive as your leadership is comfortable with (though the more direct, the better the outcomes). See below for more details!
- You can design your Voter Registration Sunday to meet your church’s needs.
Whether your church is meeting online, in person but contactless, back to normal, or some combination of the three, there’s a Voter Registration Sunday tool for every need! Just be sure to ask your church leadership ahead of time and ensure that the date(s) you host are before your state’s registration deadlines (see above).
You can even make use of our custom QR code to help people directly start the registration process right away! All the details are in our guide.
Want to learn more and help spread the word? Visit our Facebook event and respond “interested” or “going” and you’ll get all the updates you need! Share the event with friends so they can host the registration at their own church, plan to participate at your church, or even register themselves through our online tool!
This election, it’s critical that Christians show up to the polls to elect leaders who will “seek the welfare of the city” (and the nation!). Will you help us make sure they are ready to do that?
Policy and Communications Strategist
Pastors have the emotionally draining and time-consuming responsibility to shepherd their flock, disciple believers into spiritually maturity, and administrate the business affairs of their local congregation. The weight of ministry only intensified during the past six months due to the coronavirus, as disagreements over masks, financial decisions regarding paycheck protection and staffing, and the quick transition to offer a worship experience through an online platform became the top priority.
Their schedule is stretched as family needs must be addressed, secular vocational jobs must be worked, and numerous meetings must be attended. Yet, their moral voice and influence is desperately needed to reverse the negative trends of societal decline that impacts their congregation.
This is where Family Policy Alliance of New Jersey® steps in. We strive to help pastors navigate the urgent issues impacting the family structure and facilitate regular conversations between elected state legislators and clergy. I want to encourage you to forward this email to your pastor and let him know about three ways we can serve the church you attend.
- Statewide Leadership Video Calls
Every month we intentionally build relationships and moderate healthy dialogue between pastors and state legislators. Despite the anti-family policies that continue to be introduced in Trenton, there are elected officials that are allies in our cause to see NJ be a state where God is honored, religious liberty flourishes, families thrive and life is cherished. These elected officials must take public positions on issues that many churches are hesitant to teach on. They face criticisms and challenges for promoting strong family policies. Therefore, it is imperative for them to feel and experience the support of pastors across our state. Our monthly video meetings are structured for pastors to pray for these state senators and assembly members, and to encourage them to remain committed to biblical values. In the past three months, Senator Mike Testa (R), Senator Anthony Bucco (R), and Assemblyman Bob Auth (R) have connected with pastors through these calls.
- Regional Pastor Briefings
Each year we educate pastors on the most troubling issues that threaten the family structure in NJ. This September and October, pastors will learn the facts about the LGBT curriculum in schools, recreational marijuana, and our continued pro-life efforts. Locations for this year’s meetings include Toms River Rockaway, Mount Laurel, Egg Harbor Township, and Warren. Click here for more information.
- Church Ministry
I regularly teach a Biblical message during worship services, bible conferences, and special events regarding the Christian’s Role in Public Policy. Drawing from the scared truth of scripture, we equip Christians to engage the government, and no matter the results, make sure that God is glorified in the process.
Finally, I urge you to do three things to help your pastor:
- Pray for them more.
- Criticize them less.
- Forward them this email.
Together, let’s make NJ better!
Director of Advocacy
This past Tuesday, Governor Murphy increased the indoor capacity for churches to 50 people or 25% building capacity, whichever is lower. Outdoor worship services are unlimited in size per Governor Murphy because of First Amendment protections.
Clearly, there is no greater commandment than to love God with all our heart and to love our neighbors as ourselves. People of faith should lead by example in their practice of safe social distancing recommendations. I believe local churches have done that, thanks to the leadership of pastors from across the Garden State. However, churches in NJ continue to be held to an unfair higher standard. Essential businesses can have more than 50 employees who come into physical contact with thousands of customers to be indoors for greater lengths of time than a worship service.
Therefore, Family Policy Alliance of New Jersey® has been working extensively with attorney Demetrios Stratis and dozens of churches across our state to file a lawsuit against the Governor to legally deem the church as essential to protect our rights in any future crises that may arise.
You can learn more about this joint effort at these media links.
The overreach of an out-of-touch state government must be addressed. Here’s what we have been up to.
On May 13, FPA of NJ sent a good-faith letter to Governor Murphy signed by 115 pastors to allow churches to operate following the CDC guidelines.
There was no response.
On May 22, we hand delivered a second legal letter with an attached lawsuit to Governor Murphy’s office in Trenton.
There was no response.
As a result, Attorney Stratis filed the lawsuit in federal district court in Trenton on May 29. This complaint uniquely addresses the “essential” nature of the church to retain our constitutional freedoms and core mission during times of emergency. Within five days of the lawsuit being filed, Governor Murphy promised churches would have increased capacity by June 12.
His ruling this week to raise indoor worship gatherings from 25 people to 50 people is disappointing but not surprising. One month after receiving a formal request on behalf of 115 pastors, the church is allowed 50 people indoors! In a sense, there was no response. This decision justifies the lawsuit that was brought on behalf of 29 churches.
The good news is despite this legal challenge, churches are reaching more people than ever through technology, drive in services, and outdoor gatherings with PA systems that often project the gospel into adjacent communities. God uses all things for His glory!
Making NJ better,
Director of Advocacy
By Vince Torres, President and Executive Director
“Why did you wait so long to reopen?”
“Why are you being so reckless by opening this early?”
“COVID is just a conspiracy and by closing, you are sacrificing all our religious rights!”
“COVID is going to kill everyone in the church if you reopen!”
“I hate the web stream! I will see you in-person Sunday!”
“Make sure you keep the web stream. I won’t be back for a while.”
These statements are just a small representation of the “input” many pastors continue to receive during the COVID pandemic. For every churchgoer who is anxious to return to in-person services, there is another who is anxious about the prospect of in-person services, and so many other sentiments somewhere in between.
Over the past several weeks, I have had the privilege of speaking with pastors from all over New Mexico. They represent different denominations and lead churches of different sizes. And whether they pastor 50 people or 15,000 people, these pastors all share a common burden when it comes to addressing the challenges of COVID and safely relaunching our in-person services.
As a pastor, I understand these burdens well, and while some believe the decisions pastors face are rather easy, I assure you—they are not. Every person has an opinion about what our leaders should be doing—whether those leaders be pastors or elected officials. However, when it comes to the church, we should not treat our pastors as politicians, and rather than boosting their burdens, we should be bearing them.
Your pastor needs your prayers. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” -James 1:5
It has been written and stated many times—your pastor has never led or pastored through a pandemic before. They need wisdom, discernment, and added grace and love to effectively navigate the challenges before them. Pray for them daily.
Your pastor needs your patience. “We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work.” –1 Thessalonians 5:12-13
The truth is, there is no perfect plan or strategy for your pastor to employ. Every decision they make will be met with approval from some and disapproval from others. They may make mistakes, and if/when they do, extend the same grace they have extended to you and honor them with patience as God’s appointed laborers.
Your pastor needs your provision. “Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches.” –Galatians 6:6
Please continue to give your time, talents, and treasure to your local church. As churches reopen, opportunities to serve will again be available and your pastor and church family need your help. As for your tithes and offerings, remember that they do not simply keep lights on in the church on Sundays—they keep food on your pastor’s family table the rest of the week; they put money and supplies into the hands of needy families in your church; and they support the furtherance of Gospel mission beyond your church doors.
Your pastor needs your protection. “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.” –1 Timothy 5:17
One of the ways you can best honor your pastor is to protect them from unrighteous criticisms and sinful gossip. There is a big difference between expressing disagreement and sowing discord; and even when disagreements surface, remember that your pastor is leading a diverse church with a diversity of personalities and opinions. If you feel called to address a specific concern, do so in a biblical manner by communicating with your pastor directly. Encourage others to do the same.
The writer of Hebrews instructs us: “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.” There is an important truth here—that your pastor is responsible for your church and your people—not other churches and other people. Therefore, their decisions should not be made on the basis of what is best for the church or another church, but what is best for your church.
So, whether your pastor decides to open or delay reopening; to resume at one capacity or another; or to mandate certain restrictions or not—remember, they are doing so in a spirit of love and care for you. They need your prayers; they need your patience; they need your provision; and they need your protection—now more than ever.
Deuteronomy 8:3 says, “God humbled you, …that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.”
This is something that Governor Gina Raimondo needs to understand. On Monday, she launched outdoor dining to give some relief to restaurant owners. But many, like the owners of the “Eleven Forty-Nine” in Warwick, announced they are closing for good anyway. Others have also said they may never be able to reopen because of the damage that the economic shutdown did to their business. One restaurateur told me that it’s hard to get his employees to come to work because with the stimulus package, their unemployment check is bigger than their paycheck. So, while the Governor has made some concessions to restaurants, for many it will still be too late.
We can’t allow the same thing to happen to our churches. Churches, while being “houses of worship,” are also non-profit businesses with overhead costs that must be met to remain open and meet the needs of people in our communities. Those needs have increased as a result of COVID-19. As the unemployment rate rises, so does depression, drug addiction, suicide and domestic abuse.
It has already been said that we don’t want the cure to be worse than the disease and that bears repeating. For tens of thousands of Rhode Islanders the church is the “spiritual stimulus” that helps them rise above the stresses and problems of the day. As Jesus said, “Man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” Churches are mainly where those words are spoken!
The Government, for all the good it can do, is not God. We are very thankful churches can open on May 30th, but 25% of seating capacity is not enough and we want that figure to be at least 40% and preferably 50%. Not all churches will feel comfortable with that, but we should each be trusted to make that choice. After all, you don’t have to be a historian to know that most hospitals and universities in America were begun by people in the pews of our churches. We can do this and do it well – at least as well as the grocery stores, liquor stores and the strip club that were allowed to open.
Most of our churches have already thought through and planned for reopening. Most have enough square footage to abide by social distancing and yet accommodate 40-50% of seating capacity. Massachusetts has done this even though they were hit harder than Rhode Island by COVID-19.
While we are grateful for our Governor’s leadership and recognize the unusually heavy responsibilities upon her shoulders at this time, we would like to petition her for three things.
1. Classify churches as “essential” services.
2. Allow churches to function at 40-50% of normal seating capacity.
3. Trust churches and consider their 1st Amendment Rights.
Chairman, Board of Advisors – Rhode Island
On Saturday, President Trump tweeted, “The Paycheck Protection Program is up and running! The program is open to nonprofits as well, so banks be sure to sign up our Great Religious and Veteran Organizations that need help!”
Perhaps you work at one of those “Great Religious” organizations, or you know someone who does. If you’re at a church or non-profit and wondering whether you’re eligible for the program, what’s entailed, or how the program actually works, keep reading. If you’re not, consider forwarding this to a church leader or someone who may appreciate the extra help.
First things first: What is the Paycheck Protection Program?
The Paycheck Protection Program is one of two new types of loans available to small businesses through the recently signed CARES Act (the Congressional economic relief package which you can read about here). Churches must have fewer than 500 employees to qualify as a “small business.” The Paycheck Protection Program is a loan – up to $10 million – aimed at retaining small business employees. As such, the portion of it used toward payroll (and certain other expenses) will be completely forgivable provided that at least 75 percent of the loan goes toward payroll costs. Otherwise, the loan has a fixed one percent interest rate and maturity of two years.
Is my church eligible?
Yes. A recent Congressional news release clarified: “All churches are eligible for the forgivable loans available under the Paycheck Protection Program.”
Do churches and religious non-profits have to do anything extra to qualify?
No. The government has clarified that churches will be subject to the same limitations on the loans as other entities, but not to any additional or unique burdens. As the release stated, “No church should have to file a Form 990” and non-profits do not need a tax exemption “determination letter” from the IRS.
If I participate, will the government restrict my religious activities or speech?
A loan will not limit an organization’s First Amendment religious rights. It is true that churches receiving the funds must abide by federal nondiscrimination standards (which include race, color, religion, sex, handicap, age, and national origin), but the Small Business Administration has clarified that “these nondiscrimination requirements do not limit a faith-based entity’s autonomy with respect to membership or employment decisions connected to its religious exercise.”
For churches, we recommend COVID Church Aid, a website filled with COVID-19 resources for church leaders, including resources on the Paycheck Protection Program.
How does this affect ministries like Family Policy Alliance?
While churches and many non-profits are eligible to utilize the new funding, organizations and ministries like Family Policy Alliance that engage in election and legislative work are not. As a result, we are more thankful than ever for the faithful, sacrificial giving of our ministry partners. Regardless of your ability to give financially to Family Policy Alliance at this time, we are deeply grateful for your gift of prayer for our ministry. And please know, the Family Policy Alliance team is steadfast in praying for you.
Reflecting on this Holy Week, President Donald Trump observed, “We may be apart, but we can use this time to turn to reflection and prayer and our own personal relationship with God. I would ask that all Americans pray for the heroic doctors and nurses, for the truck drivers and grocery store workers, and for everyone fighting this battle. … Most of all, I would like to ask for your prayers for the families who have lost loved ones. Ask God to comfort them in their hour of grief, a great hour of grief for our nation, for the world. … With the faith of our families, and the spirit of our people, and the Grace of our God, we will endure, we will overcome, we will prevail. We have learned so much. We will be stronger than ever.”
We couldn’t agree more.
Policy & Communications Strategist
I am sure you have already heard, but last night we defeated the radical abortion bill, HB 51, in the New Mexico Senate by a vote of 24-18 after 8 democrats joined 16 Republicans in opposition!
After the final vote was announced, we found ourselves silenced in disbelief at what had just transpired—the people of New Mexico had gone up against the abortion industry giant, and the people had won!
How did we do it?
- We prayed, and God honored and answered our prayers! What took place last night was nothing short of a miracle. To say the odds were against us is an understatement. In fact, throughout this process, we were constantly told that there was no way to stop HB 51; and to be honest, at times, we believed it. But God had other plans, and last night, we all reaped the reward of our labor.
- We worked together, and the church engaged! We want to thank our coalition partners—New Mexico Alliance for Life, Right to Life Committee of New Mexico, and the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops—and the thousands of New Mexicans who prayed, made phone calls, sent emails, attended our rallies, and visited their legislators. Let this be a lesson for all of us—when we work together and when the church engages, we can move New Mexico.
- We had bipartisan support from pro-life men and women in the Legislature! We worked hard, but at the end of the day, it was our pro-life legislators who pushed us over the top. We want to thank the House and Senate Republican Caucuses, as well as the 6 Democratic Representatives and 8 Democratic Senators who voted for life. Because of your support, we are on our way to restoring a culture of life in our state.
- We had support from ministry partners like you! Our work during this Legislative Session would not have been possible without financial support from our ministry partners, so thank you for your contributions to this significant victory.
Friends—the need for our work moving forward is apparent and we now have a proven track record of success. Therefore, if you would like to see us continue these efforts, please consider sending a financial gift today so we can continue the fight for life in New Mexico. The battle is far from over, but with your prayers and support, we are convinced that New Mexico can become a state where families thrive and life is cherished. So please, give today and let’s do this together.
Together in His Service,
The Family Policy Alliance of New Mexico Team
by Greg Baker, The Family Leader
Family Policy Alliance is proud to be allied with The Family Leader of Iowa.
Throughout history there has been a debate over the role of the Church as an institution when it comes to public policy. Does the Church even have a role to play in government?
The United States has largely bought into the motto of “separation of church and state,” but what does that practically mean?
According to the Bible, government is an institution established by God with the primary purpose to punish evil and praise those who do good. Yet how can government determine good and evil without God? Without the voice of the Church rightly proclaiming the truths of Scripture? To do its job successfully, the government needs the Church to fulfill the proper role of spiritual guide and counselor.
We regard it as such a respite from the troubles of the world that we often call the auditorium a “sanctuary.” How do we talk to our friends and the young people in our lives when a madman brings so much pain and death to a church?
Gen. Patrick Caruana is chairman of the board for Family Policy Alliance. As someone who served in the U.S. Air Force and is a Texan, he offers some insights into what to say and how to pray.
We invite you to join with us as we pray for the families who are suffering in the aftermath of the church shooting.