Political “Pastoral” Posturing Is Not the Path Forward

by Adam McClendon February 11, 2021

I peruse Twitter, I feel discourage and frustrated, I get off. This seems to be a daily experience. This experience is not entirely because of the irrationality and secularism of our world, but also because of the incessant barking of pastors complaining about political policy in recent months.

Is this really the path forward? Is this the path to which our Heavenly Father has called us? While we, as Kingdom citizens, are to engage the world in which we live, is this what Paul and other New Testament writers had in mind?

First Timothy is a revitalization book. The church at Ephesus had lost its way. Paul seeks to bring correction through Timothy in promoting a pure church through instructions to emphasize correct doctrine and structure. In that context, Paul addresses some of the conduct expected within worship services. In chapter 2, he urges the church to pray for political leaders (2:1-7).

The purpose of praying for these political leaders was, in part, to ask God to give them a tolerant disposition towards Christianity so that Christianity could coexist alongside other religious systems. Paul seemed to believe, throughout all his writings, that Christianity was true and when placed alongside other religions would prove to be true. He also urged the church to pray to ask God to bring those leaders to saving faith in Jesus.

It is to this last end that Paul, himself, “was appointed a preacher and an apostle . . . a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth” (1 Tim 2:7).

Paul, and I would argue Peter, saw the primary focus of pastoral ministry as the conversion of souls and the maturing of saints in Christ, which in turn would impact culture. Paul focused on preaching a transforming gospel versus seeking to overly a biblical worldview on a secular world.

What if we followed his example more closely? What if we focused on refining the church gathering and members as a manifestation of the kingdom of God (albeit imperfect) in this world while we await the full physical manifestation of the kingdom at the end of the age? What if we focused our preaching on the gospel and how it transforms our lives? What if we held our members accountable to that standard? In salvation, we are called to submit our lives and our fleshly desires to God in exchange for the righteousness of Christ and eternal life. We are called to live compassionately and courageously for Jesus. We are called to be light, which in turn, naturally impacts and dispels the darkness, not based on critical rhetoric and tweets, but based on righteous living and loving in community in our immediate cultural context.

So, yes, we speak out about cultural issues, but we need to spend more time emphasizing the gospel to our world and not merely moral compliance with our biblical worldview. Let the world feel the inconsistency and destruction of their policies while we live as light alongside of them, pointing them to the one who offers them hope, versus us constantly complaining about their political and moral positions.

Here’s a question, “Who have you won to Jesus or what policies have you influence through your political criticism and political pandering on social media?” So, as we consider that, may I offer a few suggestions?

In our social media engagements, let us:

  1. Focus on the transformation of the church and salvation of culture.

The church should be a transformed body because of the embracement of the gospel in individual lives. The world has no biblical foundation for true and lasting change. We can shift their behavior but lose their soul if we are not careful, or worse, incite them to enforce their current trajectory while still losing their soul.

  1. Find opportunity for occasional agreement and praise.

What about policies that help the poor, marginalized, and broken in our culture? Can we not applaud those things while also expressing concern for the moral and practical implications of other aspects of the same policy or other policies? Additionally, it seems, at times, our criticisms are driven more by capitalism than Christianity, which, when interspersed with biblically moral arguments, seems to create more confusion in the world.

  1. Follow up privately on occasion.

Private confrontations are generally received with a more receptive disposition than public criticism. When was the last time you wrote a letter to the President or a member of congress? When was the last time you sought an audience with a city or state leader to express concerns and provide encouragement? As an aside, when was the last time you prayed for them?

  1. Find someone with whom you disagree and have a conversation while genuinely listening to them.

There are so many other things I’d like to expound upon regarding the conversation above, but space here doesn’t allow for it. Let me end by simply asking you to consider these things. Would you pause to reflect upon your motives and goals before clicking “tweet” or “post”? Would you ask yourself and God if there is a more effective approach or a more biblical one? Would we present ourselves to the world in a kinder and more loving way while seeking to reverse the hypocritical and destructive trajectory the church has been on for the last twenty years?

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