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3 Reasons Pastors Need to Bring "Politics" into the Pulpit

A few weeks ago, The Atlantic published a perspective about how politics is dividing evangelical churches. The piece seemed largely aimed at naming political and theological conservatives as the source of most of the problems. It was essentially a call to such pastors to “keep politics out of the pulpit.” I see the issue quite differently. I offered some thoughts about the article on a recent livestream.

Pastors, I get it. The idea of “keeping politics out of the pulpit” sounds noble. It seems like a strategy to reduce division. But the reality is, that strategy is probably not helping your congregation.

When I refer to politics, I’m not talking about dividing ourselves into Democrats and Republicans or endorsing one political candidate over another. That’s too narrow of a definition of the word “politics.” I am talking about “politics” in a more classical sense: “affairs of the city.” In other words, How does my faith connect to real life? How do I apply Scriptural principles to how I live--whether in my job, in my marriage, in educating my children, or at the voting booth? The Bible has quite a lot to say how Christians ought to conduct themselves in the public square—and it’s not just a little side issue, with only a few verses. Jesus has come to announce His reign, that all authority in heaven and on earth now belongs to Him (Matt. 28:19-20). What then, is the responsibility of the Christian to bring all things in subjection to His reign (1 Cor. 15:24-26)?

CFBU receives a LOT of letters from people who are hurting. They disclose to us -- strangers without any authority or position in their lives -- about the conversations they wish they could have with their pastor. Some have tried to have these discussions, but feel that their concerns were dismissed. These letters generally contain the following three concerns.

1. "My pastor isn't teaching us how the Bible applies to real-life situations."

The events of the last two years have served as a global pop quiz. Christians had to get up to speed very quickly what the Bible says on a variety of topics, including justice, freedom, economics, race relations, civil disobedience, the relationship between church and state, looting, diversity/equity/inclusion, homosexuality, transracial adoption, gay marriage, shouting your abortion, and even the definition of a boy or a girl.

Unfortunately, the quiz was administered at a time when basic Biblical literacy in our country is very low. According to a recent Barna study, 60% of Millennials (ages 18 to 36) identify as Christian—but only 2% actually have a biblical worldview. The figure goes up to 5% for Generation X (ages 37 to 55). This means that very few Christians have robust, ready, biblical responses to the issues above. Pastors who avoid conversations on these topics because they are deemed "too political" are leaving their congregants ripe for the mind-shaping influences of culture and the media. Preaching through the Scriptures about topics like theft, adoption, the definition of marriage, the sanctity of human life, human equality, and the male/female binary are vital education for all Christians.

I am not merely suggesting a six-week sermon series or a quick podcast responding to the current news cycle. True discipleship requires the elders to develop a long-range strategy that promotes biblical literacy, where the implications of the Christian worldview move from theoretical principles to real-life choices.

2. "My pastor doesn't seem to be aware that our family is being beat up by the culture and are feeling confused and hurt."

Pastor, some in your congregation have been fired, are in danger of being fired, or have left their job because they are hesitant about receiving a newly developed injection that they believe hasn’t been properly vetted yet. Even if you disagree with their decision, or even if you think they are misguided and confused, how will you continue to love and minister to them?

Some people in your congregation likely have their job performance connected to their participation in "woke" book clubs or DEI trainings. Others are being required to put their pronouns in their email signature in an effort to normalize the trans movement. Have you given them enough training so they can respond to these situations in a way that's consistent with the Christian worldview?

Some teachers in your church have likely been required to attend DEI trainings where they must publicly declare, and in some cases publicly post, “allyship” statements affirming people who are engaged in habitual, unrepentant, sinful lifestyles. We received a letter yesterday from a public school teacher who is now on leave because she refused to withhold information from parents that their child is using a different name and gender while at school. What guidance could you give your church about how to stand up to this pressure in a Godly way?

Some children in your congregation are probably being groomed by their teacher for sexual perversion, while others are being labelled racist oppressors simply because of their skin color. What could your church do to open up more education options for these families?

Middle schoolers in your congregation are likely being pressured by their peers, and in some cases their teachers, to declare their pronouns and identify as non-binary. Is your church educating teens and parents how to respond to this pressure in a biblically faithful way?

Some parents in your congregation have probably been “canceled” by their adult children and told that their children will no longer visit them on the holidays until they repent of their complicity in systemic racism—a complicity that exists simply because they are White. Many feel confused and struggle with guilt. Have you spoken comfort and truth into their pain?

The bottom line is this: there are people in your congregation who feel emotionally and spiritually beat up. If you do not teach them how to stand for truth and protect their families in this war on the Christian worldview or acknowledge the challenges of those working in fear of losing their livelihood, they may start to wonder whether their pain is invisible to you. And they may be asking whether the Christian faith has any meaningful answers to these problems.

3. "Some in our congregation are drifting into the errors of the Critical Social Theories, Social Justice, and Progressive Christianity."

Pastor, there are people in your congregation––right now––whose souls are on a dangerous path to significant biblical compromise. They are trying to blend Christianity with ideas rooted in the Critical Social Theories. They have been trained by the culture to believe that the only way to relate to others is through the lens of power dynamics, gender, class, and race. And they are bringing these ideas into your small groups and to your youth.

There are some in your congregation who are physically still there, but spiritually drifting into dangerous waters, well on their way to deconstruction. They have become blind to biblical truth.

Pastor, denial and silence will not solve these problems. These people need you to love them enough to provide an interruption to the enemy’s deception. People need to know that the kind of faith they are believing in is deeply compromised. They need you to call them to repentance and present them with a way to be properly discipled.

There are basically two options available: either we disciple the nations (Matt. 28:19-20), or the nations will disciple us. One way or the other, your congregants will be discipled. The question is, will it be by you or by the culture?

If you’re afraid of the hazards of speaking out, then I would like to suggest that you may be overlooking the dangers of remaining silent. We are living in a cultural moment where neutrality on many of these issues simply is no longer possible. A growing number of people no longer believe that abortion should be rare. In fact, some celebrate it. And our culture doesn’t simply advocate for human rights protections for transgender people. They want to destroy anyone who believes there are only two sexes. These people don’t simply disagree with Christianity. They want to eliminate it.

These are not topics to be avoided because they are "too political." Rather, they are topics that need to be clearly addressed by church leadership. Your congregation needs your voice. They need you to teach them how the Bible connects to real life. If that’s “politics,” then so be it. Because someday soon, engaging in Gospel preaching itself could be considered "too political." Better to educate your church now than later.

“Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2, ESV).

Additional Resources:

Teaching Series: One Nation Under God?

Teaching Series: The Beauty of Biblical Justice


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