MURPHY—Obviously John McCaherty did not get the “memo” about politics being dirty.
The pastor of First Baptist Church here somehow decided to run for public office as a Republican to represent the 90th District in the Missouri House of Representatives. But it gets worse. He actually won, defeating his Democrat opponent 49.1 percent to 46.6 percent.
So McCaherty has become a winning politician. Now he has to go to Jefferson City and leave his church, a flock that runs around 150 in Sunday worship. How does this happen to a holy man of God who ought to be preaching sermons behind his safe and sturdy pulpit?
He’s using the Jesus defense on this one.
“He didn’t stay behind the ivory walls of the church,” McCaherty said. “He went out into the world and did those types of things. He went to the places where He was needed.
“He calls us to be salt and light. We can’t do that in the four walls of the church. We call our people to be salt and light in their workplaces and in their homes and in their community every week. We as pastors should be doing the same thing. Maybe not on the same scale—maybe we don’t all run for political office and jump in the mix—but if the Lord opens the door and gives us the opportunity to go and serve, I don’t think that we should not serve because it’s a dirty environment.”
McCaherty, 45, got involved with politics in 2009 when he was invited to speak at a Tea Party event in Farmington. At first he declined, then reconsidered and spoke to a Tax Day crowd on April 15. He said the basis of his reconsideration was a desire for his public speech to match his pulpit speech, and when he got home that day there were voice mails asking him to run for state representative.
He prayed about it with his wife and both felt he should do it. He then went to the deacons of First Murphy, who also supported him, followed by the church, who felt the same way. Only then did he launch his campaign.
“We were very cautious going into it because we did not want it to affect the church,” he said.
He could not get around the idea that he was the man to stand up for the people in his suburban St. Louis district.
“If common, everyday people don’t step up and do something and get involved, we’re going to lose the nation that we have come to love so dear and what it stands for,” he said, noting that his top priority as a newly elected representative is jobs.
Being sworn into office Jan. 5 “is amazing. It takes your breath away.”
His plan to take care of the church while he is handling the public’s business in the Capitol revolves around a capable associate pastor named Paul Faulkner, a retired pastor whom the church approved in early December.
“I’m actually going to donate part of my pay as pastor to cover his expenses,” McCaherty said. “I trust Paul wholeheartedly. I know he’s going to do a phenomenal job. He’ll do it just like I would if I was standing right there.”
He also has a lot of lay help.
“I have 10 amazing deacons that are absolutely phenomenal,” he said. “They’ve been well-trained. They take a lot of the pressure off of me on a regular basis already. A lot times I’ve seen other pastors tied down with different issues that my deacons step in and help out on.”
McCaherty is in his second pastorate. He first served at Unity (Ill.) Baptist Church from 1994-2001. He is known throughout Jefferson Baptist Association as a pastor who just completed a two-year stint as moderator, and he has been at First Murphy since 2002, starting off as a bivocational pastor before becoming full-time five years ago. His advice to pastors who may be considering running for public office is to start with prayer, then be ready to absorb several lessons along the way.
“I learned so much about our community,” he said. “I learned about the people, I’ve knocked on their doors, I’ve talked to them. I’ve learned about their issues. I’ve learned about whether or not they had food in their pantry, or whether or not they were auto mechanics looking for work, or whatever the need was in the community. So we learned so much just going through the process whether we won or lost.
“We left the election in the Lord’s hands. We just constantly prayed that God’s will would be done. That’s really where it was.”
In the end he defeated Democrat Sam Komo by only 253 votes (4,980 to 4,727).
“This was a God thing,” McCaherty said. “He kind of worked out the whole thing. I felt called, I felt led to run.”
ALLEN PALMERI/associate editor