For the better part of my life in ministry, churches, including that ones I have served in, have taken the very reasonable view that they should not dive into politics. Politics are divisive. Political rhetoric eschews with “alternative facts,” and our role as church leaders is to extend welcome to anyone seeking the grace of Christ—we do not want to alienate based on party. Pragmatically, this makes sense.
But what is the role of the Church when politics and clear Biblical teaching collide? How do we respond when the explicit commands of Scripture—to respect the sanctity of life, to welcome the stranger, and refugee, and care for the poor, but up against discourse in the public square?
For many church leaders, including myself for many years, we choose to direct attention elsewhere, avoiding the thicket of these issues, citing with resolute pragmatism that we do not want to be a stumbling block. This has weakened our voice and done a disservice to our congregations.
When politics and the Bible collide, it is an opportunity for discipleship.
I do not think that it is the role of the church to endorse politicians or political parties. But the Church must teach the Scriptures and provide practical ways for its community to reach the lost and hurting in the world. In this way, many of us have failed. I have failed.
Take the recent crisis with refugees and immigrants. Right now there are more people forcibly displaced from their homes than at any other time in recorded human history. The Bible speaks clearly to the issues of human suffering, welcoming the stranger, and the role of the Church to provide relief. But a recent survey by Lifeway Research shows that only 21% of American Christians have been challenged by their pastors to explore the Scriptures and to reach out and serve refugees and other immigrants in our midst.
Let’s take the most uncontroversial thing that a church can ever do—pray. A survey conducted at the end of 2016 by World Vision, found that only 19% of committed Christians prayed for Syrian refugees in the previous 12 months. Only 1 in 5 people from the most well-educated, most well-resourced group of Christians to ever live, took a moment and prayed for the world’s most needy and violent areas last year.
This is a crisis of discipleship.
This is thorny, it’s complicated and like almost everything in life, there are many shades of grey. But what is clear, is that the Bible is clear.
Church leaders—your job is hard and the number of things you have to navigate is astounding. So, we are going to make our call simple. Will you sign this letter saying that you will commit to praying for refugees and immigrants during your services over the next few weeks? If you want to teach further on this—GREAT—and we have resources below for it.
We cannot stay silent and abdicate our responsibilities as leaders of the Church to deepen discipleship in our congregations by addressing issues that the Bible clearly and unequivocally addresses—even if those issues have political dynamics.
Sign on now!
Livestream Recording with World Relief’s Jenny Yang, Matthew Soerens, and James Misner