Uncharted Territory

Election night left me disheartened. I was reminded of the lyrics of a David Gray song that seemed all too applicable in the western world.

Now you saw it coming
And I saw it coming
We all saw it coming
But we still bought it” (David Gray – Full Steam)

However, despite my disappointment, I was more distressed by the questions that began to surface within my soul. What was my place in this political process as a Christian and as a Minister? There seemed to be two extremes. First, there are those within Christianity, and Ministry in particular, who are overtly political. Second, there are those who emphasize evangelism as the answer to everything. I was convinced that our biblical witness was the answer. I still am, but to what end?

I’d like to discuss some of the potential pitfalls of these two extremes and try to construct a middle ground.

Dangers of  Overt Politics in Ministry

When the gospel is no longer our great hope and confidence in ministry we are in trouble. The dangers of overemphasizing politics all come down to trusting our own manipulation of people and policies to produce results. Some of the risks include:

  • Laboring to reform the symptoms of society’s decay rather than ministering to see society transformed by the gospel of grace
  • Emphasizing the temporal over the eternal
  • Relegating the gospel and God’s word to strategies or methods
  • Letting politics become the lens through which we interpret scripture (bad hermeneutical practices)
  • We become cynical to God’s supernatural power and moving

This is by no means an exhaustive list of dangers. There are many which are more subtle and specific than those listed above.

Dangers of Oversimplification

It sounds spiritual to say that evangelism is the true need of seeing societal change. It is also true. However, my experience leads me to believe that few Christians ever develop biblical patterns of discipleship to the point that we can see societal results.  The practical result is that we have a one line answer to issues that require  an encyclopedic solution. So, what happens when we oversimplify a complicated issue?

  • We neglect biblical discipleship, Christian worldview training, apologetics, spiritual maturity and the like
  • God’s commands are disobeyed, His words are left unspoken and the true power of the gospel is unrealized
  • Our witness is marginalized because we lack depth of thought for intelligent conversations and societal contributions which are infused by the gospel itself

So, how can we find balance?

Steps Toward a Middle Ground

How do we engage society without compromise and with spiritual thoughtfulness? First and foremost, we must affirm and embrace the gospel in all its glory. Our natural tendency toward cynicism cannot overshadow the sheer power of God’s grace to transform hearts, souls and minds on an ongoing basis. Second, engaging the minds of unbelievers and believers must be once again brought into proper perspective. The notion that the intellect is not an integral part of our spiritual being is flawed. The Christian faith is a rational faith as well as a supernatural faith. Christian minds are transformed not dejected upon conversion. The rigor and scope of discipleship must be reclaimed, so that believers at all stages of maturity are developing a Christian worldview and spiritual vitality. Finally, a robust confidence in the sovereign hand of God should guide us to labor in the strength that God supplies (1 Peter 4:11), trust in the reshaping and persevering guidance of the Holy Spirit and boast only in the cross of the crucified Son. The two extremes finding balance is actually just reclaiming the biblical pattern of ministry which has implications that change lives, communities and societies.

I would be remiss if I passed this blog off as an encyclopedic solution to the issues I’ve only sketched. Wayne Grudem’s “Politics According to the Bible” is such an encyclopedic examination which I hope to mull over soon.

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