Engaging politics boosts witnessing opportunities
We’re living in alarming times. Each day brings fresh reports of insidious efforts to repress Christianity. As troublesome as that is, it isn’t a surprise. The Bible warned us long ago we would be persecuted for His sake.
Our Maker wants us to be loving, yet He doesn’t intend that we acquiesce to evil. Jesus calls us to be salt and light. Unfortunately some Christians have little understanding of what that means.
If God instituted governments, should we doubt that He wants His children to participate in them? Does He desire that we sit on the sidelines and allow others to shape our values and eliminate all vestiges of our faith from the public square? Is He pleased when we huddle inside the church and pray but seldom engage society with the truth of His Word?
It’s never pleasant to admit it: Much decay within our nation is not a result of Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, NARAL, MoveOn.org or the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force. We can more accurately attribute our moral decline to the apathy of the faith community. We saw it in 1962 when the top court outlawed prayer in public schools. We saw it in 1973 when the supremacists gave us Roe vs. Wade.
Christians should never be bashful about confronting the culture and standing for righteousness in our laws, our customs and our daily interactions with others.
Yet we still have some who fear involvement with institutions and individuals who sculpt our future. “When churches become openly political … they lose membership, fellowship and limit their witness in the community,” writes an Odessa Baptist in a letter to The Pathway. “The church grows through expressions of love, not politics.” Neither is mutually exclusive and politics is not a pejorative. Supporting what is right ought to be the substance of our witness in the community. That means standing for biblical values. That requires speaking out against abortion, defending the traditional family, and underscoring the scourge of gambling, pornography and sexual promiscuity.
But we mustn’t stop there. It’s not enough just to show the community why these pathologies are destructive and biblically unacceptable. If we seek to be agents of change, we must work for the passage of laws that reflect our core beliefs and lessen the negative consequences of pagan behavior. Is that political? You bet. And it’s absolutely essential if we hope to keep the avenues of evangelism open on this continent for a few more decades.
The letter writer from Odessa voiced concern that some Christians emphasize abortion and homosexuality instead of treating all indiscretions alike. (One might guess he is defending a party that finds neither practice objectionable.) It’s true that sin is sin and the thoughtful pastor will balance his messages to be certain he preaches the whole Word. In my experience, however, I hear few sermons on either topic. Pastors seem more comfortable addressing less emotion-packed issues.
There is no need for pastors to focus on political parties. But they shouldn’t be afraid to speak clearly about the advantages to the Kingdom when we support candidates who stand for biblical principles. I simply don’t believe a Christian can vote for an office seeker who thinks mothers have the right to kill their unborn children.
How can a congregation be more effective in confronting the culture? It’s a mindset. It starts with a biblical worldview and recognition that God is the author of truth. Leadership comes from the pastor while members encourage their shepherd to tackle boldly all significant threats to our churches and families.
Information is critical. We cannot defeat the enemy unless we understand him and his motives. Hosea said we are destroyed for a lack of knowledge. Newsletters and emails can keep members abreast of issues. Have a social concerns committee and a resources table where the man and woman in the pew can pick up timely materials Networking is equally essential. The church making a difference will bring in outside speakers to update the congregation on trends and developments. Why is the behavior wrong, how does it violate God’s word and what can local members do to be a part of the battle and bring victory?
Next, support those ministries that are working. It’s not necessary that the local church reinvent the wheel as they deal with abortion, gambling, sexually transmitted diseases and internet pornography. Many wonderful organizations are out there on the front line. To the extent you can, support them prayerfully and financially. And get involved with them. Every group is looking for volunteers.
Finally, don’t fall for the fallacy presupposing that confronting the culture usurps church resources and impedes evangelism. To the contrary, getting involved in these ministries multiplies your opportunities to witness. Whether it’s protecting the unborn baby, counseling a compulsive gambler, or preventing a teenager from ruining his life with porn, you’ll have a chance to show God’s love. (Norman D. Baxter is a board member of the National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families, Chesterfield committeeman, and a member of Missouri Eagle Forum and Ballwin Baptist Church. He is a retired public relations executive with Southwestern Bell Corporation, former member of the MBC Christian Life Commission and former trustee of Missouri Baptist University. He and his wife, Carol, reside in Chesterfield.)