How to navigate the intersection between your church and politics
Buckle up—it’s election season. While our faith calls for us to shepherd the sheep, sometimes it feels like the sheep turn into wolves when politics gets brought up. There has been a lot written on how the Bible should influence our politics, not our politics influence how we read the Bible. Today, I want to instead focus on how you lead your congregation to where Jesus gets glorified, and his church can be a witness to the nations.
1. Know What Motivates Your People.
I highly recommend Jonathan Haidt’s book The Righteous Mind to understand better how your congregation and others in your community look at politics, morality, and reason. Haidt’s Moral Foundation Theory will make a lot of sense to you as you think about members in your church and how they view the world. In making decisions, your Republican congregants place a higher emphasis on authority, loyalty, and sanctity, and your Democrat congregants view care, fairness, and liberty with more importance. While people love to argue on which is better, the reality is you are called to love and lead everyone.
2. You Cannot Just Be Silent.
Yes, I believe in the separation of church and state. No, I don’t think pastors should use the pulpit for politics. But while not endorsing politicians is easy, you cannot be silent on helping people navigate the politics that they are being overwhelmed. There will be people who want you to continually talk about politics and others who do not want you to mention it. Speaking about political issues is a discipleship issue, though, so it must be addressed. What does it mean to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind during an election year? Where is there bitterness (or even hatred) in your heart, and how do you get rid of it?<?p>
3. Be Accused of Being a Republican and a Democrat.
More than likely, you lean one or the other, but you should never agree with 100% of either political party. While I think most people would agree with that, many leaders do not share publicly where those disagreements are. If you’re going to lead your church and rise above politics, you need to live biblically and not fear being accused of being labeled one way or the other. Confirmation bias will force people to hear what they want to hear. Don’t look at it as ruffling feathers or causing division; do it in a way that shepherds’ people toward living and loving like Jesus. If you don’t get at least one email each accusing you of being a Republican or Democrat, you are not leading your church well during this election cycle.
4. Be Bold in Your Love.
The beauty of America is the freedoms we all share. It is a competition for ideas. As a follower of Christ, I want to be as educated and informed as possible on everything. Theology, foreign affairs, current events, psychology—everything. Yet, as a follower of Christ, our call is not to win arguments or debates; our call is to love. Pastors, lead your church well this election season by bolding loving everyone. Look at your schedule—are your appointments just with people who think like you and believe like you? Reach out to the local Imam or Rabbi in your community. Reach out to both political party leaders in your area. Reach out to the local Humanist or Atheist group leader. Meet with them not to debate, but to know their story. Ask them what their vision for your city is—model to your congregation what it means to love your neighbors boldly.
In episode one of the new podcast Bold Love, I share my story out how I met my friend Imam Mohamed Magid. We tell never-before-told stories of our journey of how God transformed my mindset and how it guided us to working together in countries around the world for religious freedom for all. I have unapologetic, uncompromising love for Magid—like Jesus. You can build friendships without compromising your beliefs and even work together for a common goal of resilient communities while having deep theological differences. In fact, I’ve had even more chances to share my faith after building these types of relationships.
I pray your church has more salvations this fall than any other time in your church’s history. For that to happen, your leadership will be critical as you disciple people to live out their faith. While the world tries to politicize religion, let’s change the narrative through our bipartisan love of others.