Written By Elder Christopher V. Pryor, Pastor Victorious Believers Ministries COGIC |
There is a tug-of- war steadily intensifying within churches all across America, as religious leaders debate the controversial issue of engaging in politics in the pulpit. Over the recent years, several poignant questions have been posed in regards to this issue including, “Is it appropriate for a pastor to discuss politics in the pulpit? Who should speak for justice in the African-American community? And finally, “What role should the church play when it comes to politics?” Each of these questions forces us to reevaluate the purpose of the church and the calling of its leader. Having been asked to share my thoughts on the subject, I earnestly pondered the question that I believed would give me the most truthful answer….”What would Jesus do?” Jesus would unapologetically speak out for justice even when it was unpopular to do so. Throughout scripture, we always find Jesus using his prophetic voice and influence to speak against injustices affecting marginalized groups.
When I was I child, I can recall many times during campaign season, when democratic and republican candidates would come to visit our church on a Sunday morning and share highlights from their various platforms. Most often, the core of their speeches focused on the issues that were most relevant to our community including good jobs, education, and affordable healthcare. For many of the parishioners, this was the only time that they were able to directly communicate with the individuals who were making the policies that affected their everyday lives. Ironically, when politicians came to the church to further their political agenda there wasn’t an outrage over boundaries being crossed between church and state. However, in today’s world, when a pastor speaks out about politics there is an instant fear that a violation between church and state is being made.
A.W. Tozier, a famous pastor and author, once said that “to be right with God often means to be in trouble with men.” I believe that pastors today must take on a role similar to other Biblical leaders including Jeremiah, Amos, and Nehemiah so that our prophetic voice can be heard. Now is not the time to lose our boldness, but instead, we must be the watchmen on the tower (Ezekiel 3:17) forewarning the people of the dangerous perils of the end times and speaking the truth in love. No longer can we just preach about what is happening within the church, but we must share with the people what God’s will is concerning what is happening in our society. God has given us the authority and wisdom to speak fearlessly to congress and those political leaders who are making decisions for our country.
Proverbs 29:2 states, “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice, but when the wicked lead rule, the people mourn.” Historically, there are certain occupations that have been argued a Christian should not be in such as lawyers, actors/actresses, and politicians. However, I believe that we need authentic godly representatives in each of these professional areas. Christians should be intentional about communicating their faith and convictions at the tables of influence in which they are seated. Conversely, it is their personal character that affords them the access to contribute discussion and the decision making process. Therefore, it should be expected that they speak their heart whenever the opportunity is available. There are many godly people who chose to make a difference in the lives of people outside of the church by serving in an elected office. As a result, their God-centered leadership has helped make the world a better place.
As a pastor, I believe that it is my obligation as a spokesman of God and a servant to His people to be a voice for those who are poor and marginalized in our communities. As such, the church must unashamedly and unapologetically play a vital role in politics. While without question it is more comfortable to sit on the sidelines and turn a blind eye to social, economic, and racial injustices, the modern day church still possess a scripture mandate to make sure that God’s concern for the least fortunate and helpless aren’t overlooked. As the Body of Christ gives necessary attention to spiritual matters and growth, we must not neglect the natural occurrences in the world around us. The reality is that ignoring the needs of the poor shows just as much contempt for God as actively oppressing the poor. We must not only provide programs that assist those in need in our ministries but we must compel our elected representatives to do the same.
Sometimes, I don’t think that the church/religious community truly realizes the power that we have through Christ Jesus. During the civil rights movement, the Black Church became a platform for political reform in America. The church leaders were wise enough to understand that politics affect people and loving people is the business of the church. It is essential that the church remains engaged in the political process to continue to aid in the forward movement of programs and policies that enhance the lives of the people in our communities. I truly love all people regardless of their race, socioeconomic status, or even sexual preference/orientation. My church works tirelessly to share the unconditional love of Christ with others. That being said, it is vital for me to note, as a devoted man of God, I unashamedly follow the principles of Christ as outlined in scripture. Thus, I can not be silent or change my beliefs on controversial issues such as same- sex marriage because of people’s personal feelings contrary to Gods word. My concern with the modern day church is that we are so afraid of being called judgmental that we no longer make sound judgments. The church cannot stand in silence and compromise on the moral values that are the epitome of God’s love and will for us as His children. My conscience as a man of God and pastor will not allow me to do this. The bottom line is that love is not a license to sin, it is the catalyst for change. Just because the church speaks the truth based on God’s word, does not mean that we are motivated by hate. Instead it means that we love our brothers and sisters enough to share with them a better way of living life…God’s way.
As a pastor, I can attest to the fact that it is extremely easy to become preoccupied with the stress of pressing issues that arise when you are leading a ministry of any size– the maintenance of the church, meeting the budget goals, comforting the families who have lost loved ones, encouraging the single parent trying to make ends meet, and overseeing the assimilation of new members. While each of the task are extremely important, they should not overshadow our time to the point that we are no longer serving the needs of those around us. The church is called to play an active role in responding to the needs of the helpless, homeless and working with various agencies to stop the violence in our neighborhoods. Continually seeking employment opportunities and support groups for those who are struggling with drug addiction. At the same time, strategically aligning ourselves with community agencies who share our passion for helping people. The church must not be afraid of pulling up a seat at the political banquet table and suggesting a revised menu.
Scripturally speaking, spiritual leaders addressing politics in the pulpit is not a new phenomenon. I am reminded of one of my favorite Bible stories found in the book of Nehemiah. Nehemiah served as the king’s cupbearer (Nehemiah 1:11), which evidently put him in a position to speak to the king and request favors from him. God placed Nehemiah in a very special position to be His ambassador and when a political situation arose that was affecting his people, he used his political influence to accomplish the task that God had given him to do. The Bible says that after hearing about the sad state of affairs in Judah, Nehemiah acquired the king’s permission to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the city and its fortifications. He was even given letters from the king to ensure a safe journey and to obtain wood from the king’s forest for the gates and walls of Jerusalem. As a result of Nehemiah’s tenacity and willingness to get involved in the political process, he was able to help his people rebuild the city wall.
In conclusion, God commands us to pray for our leaders—for their wisdom, for their hearts, and for them to be led by Him (Rom. 13). Overall, the church must remember and remain focused on our God-given purpose and assignment. It’s time for us to be like Nehemiah and rebuild the walls of our cities. There is a deafening silence of moral complacency sweeping across the world and impregnating our communities with hate and injustice. It is the prophetic voice of God’s people that needs to be heard—that needs to echo in the hearts of men and women until they acknowledge that God’s will is God’s way and God’s way is motivated by God’s love.
Some may call me an idealist…but really I am just a man of faith who is fully persuaded that there is NOTHING too HARD for God.