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I don’t speak on political issues in my church.

I don’t support candidates.

I don’t address legislation.

I never take a side on controversial news items when I'm behind the pulpit.

And I’m tired of being called a coward because of it.

On behalf of myself and many Christians like me, I’d like to make a request.

Stop accusing fellow Christians of doing nothing just because we’re not called to do what you’re called to do.

Stop accusing fellow Christians of doing nothing just because we’re not called to do what you’re called to do.

We may not preach on political issues, but that doesn't mean we're sticking our heads in the sand. There are other options.

Quiet ≠ Cowardice

I'm not a wimp in the pulpit. Preaching from Scripture often means taking an unpopular stand on hard moral issues. Sometimes those stands correspond with current affairs. Sometimes they highlight problems we're ignoring because we're being distracted by the shiny sin-bauble currently in the news.

When I preach, I try to take my cue from God's Word, not the current obsession of the 24-hour news cycle.

But I know what's coming. The next election will be called "the most important decision of our lives." The next (or current) moral issue will be labeled "a defining moment for the church." I’ll get phone calls, emails, Facebook pleas, and drop-bys from people with flyers, petitions, and upcoming rallies they want me to promote.

I’ll be told that if I don’t re-post their meme, promote their cause, or denounce their enemy, I’m

  • Cowardly
  • Ignoring the issue
  • Letting the other side win
  • Compromising on the truth
  • or part of the problem (my personal favorite).

But none of that is true.

Just because I’m not responding to the current cultural/moral/political/social issue the way some people think I should, does not mean I’m ignoring it.

One Person at a Time

Recently, a bunch of pastors were having a heated yet civil Facebook discussion on a moral issue. Several were decrying the silence from our pulpits on it. I commented that I don't mention it from the pulpit because we're ministering directly to people who are suffering from it.

The response was strong and fast. Caring for individuals is fine, ​they said, but we're not changing things unless we denounce it regularly from the pulpit.

Almost everyone dismissed the idea of caring for hurting people with an electronic wave of their hands because they wanted to get to the “important” task of preaching about it, instead.

But Jesus never did that. He didn’t discuss politics unless he was dragged into it. And, even then, he sidestepped their political angle and stuck to his agenda.

Jesus never allowed others to define what mattered. He made them come to him. He wasn't distracted by the controversial issues of the day – and there were plenty. Instead, he took care of people.

When the disciples dismissed a group of kids so they could discuss big-picture issues, Jesus rebuked them, put a child on his knee, and told them this is what the kingdom of God looks like.

Working Quietly, But Still Working

Not everyone who seems to be quiet about evil is actually being quiet about it.

Not everyone who seems to be quiet about evil is actually being quiet about it.

For instance, in World War II, many wore uniforms, took up arms, and bravely fought against the evils of totalitarianism.

Meanwhile in Germany, Oscar Schindler ran a factory supposedly making ammunition for the Nazis. In reality, he was leveraging his reputation as a Nazi collaborator to undercut their efforts, while saving the lives of hundreds of Jews. If he had spoken out politically, he would not have been able to save those people.

The French underground worked in a similar way, by silent subterfuge. Those who hid thousands of Jews, like Anne Frank and her family, did the same thing. Their silence was not compliance, it was an essential element of their strategy.

While I am certainly not in the same category as those heroes, the truth is that there are many in the current culture who are doing something similar.

I know some bold culture warriors who are often accused of not taking a stand because they are not making broad statements. But it's their apparent silence that allows them to make a big difference in some very personal, private ways.

You Be a Hand, I’ll Be a Foot

We’re not all called to respond to every issue in the same way.

As Paul taught, some are eyes, others are hands. And the eye can’t tell the hand it’s not doing the right thing just because it’s not acting like a hand.

If you’re called to speak on big issues in public forums, go for it. But don’t criticize those who are called to be change-makers in different, less visible ways.

If you’re called to respond to today’s issues in a more private and personal way, do that with all your heart. And don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for it.

But, by all means, do something.

If we all play our part without criticizing the other parts, we may be amazed at what a unified body, inspired by the Holy Spirit, is able to accomplish.

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Talk about it...

Doug Huchteman

commented on Dec 29, 2015

I'm thinking about Nazi German churches sitting silently as railcars of Jews went to their deaths except for a few like Dietrich Bonhoeffer who spoke up loudly. The silent ones should feel guilty, should shed tears, should repent lest God hold them complicit in his judgement.

Karl Vaters

commented on Dec 29, 2015

I appreciate your sentiment, Doug. But if you read the post, you'll see that's not at all the kind of silence that it's about. While some spoke publicly during WW2, others, like Oscar Schindler and the French Resistance worked quietly and effectively behind the scenes. Some work loudly, some work quietly. The only ones who need to repent are the ones who do nothing.

Don Campbell

commented on Dec 29, 2015

Thanks for a balanced and scripturally sound approach. I do a little "Thought for Today" piece which I post on Facebook and send out to 40 or so people on my email list. I posted the following a couple of days ago. ?The deduction we therefore draw is that the church?s task primarily is to evangelize, and to bring people to a knowledge of God. Then, having done that, she is to teach them how to live their life under God as His people. The church is not here to reform the world, for the world cannot be reformed. The business of the church is to evangelize, to preach the Gospel of salvation to men who are blinded by sin and under the domination and the power of the devil. The moment the church begins to enter into the details of politics and economics, she is doing something that militates against her primary task of evangelism? [Emphasis mine, D.C.] (D.Martyln Lloyd-Jones (1973). Life in the Spirit. Baker Book House. pp.318-319). As individual Christians, we may vote for the candidate of our choice or not vote at all. We may campaign for one candidate over another. We may share posts promoting our candidate, but we should be careful with sharing posts that are propaganda, based on half-truths, fabrications, and spins. Just because something supports my own prejudices (we all have them), doesn?t mean that it is true. While finding the time to do all of this (post, campaign, vote, etc.), we must realize that any excuse offered for not having the time or the ability to evangelize is going to ring hollow with the Lord.

Jim Colyn

commented on Dec 29, 2015

In the last Presidential election, nearly 40 of those who claim to be Christians did not vote...that's doing nothing. I appreciate your stand for, and commitment to the Gospel. "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesars..." When there is an opportunity to elect a President who is committed to the Word of God, and active in his Local Church, why wouldn't you. I challenge you to read Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who deeply regretted not speaking up. The problem with you is that you can't see the end of where we are heading, and the impact it will have on the preaching of the Gospel.,

Karl Vaters

commented on Dec 29, 2015

I share your concerns, Jim. And I've read a lot by and about Bonhoeffer, who's one of my heroes. The post is not an argument for passivity. It simply states that we're not all called to act in the same way. One person yells loudly, while another is called to work quietly, but just as effectively. Either way, as I wrote near the end of the post, "By all means, do something."

Santos Berrios

commented on Dec 29, 2015

It seems to me there must be a middle ground between political activism and self-censorship. GK Chesterton once said that if Christianity is true there is nothing that is irrelevant to Christianity. If a preacher won't speak about what God says about a particular topic just because it is in "the news" or it is "political", it seems to me that preacher is not being faithful to his calling.

Karl Vaters

commented on Dec 29, 2015

I appreciate your concern, Santos, but I think what I wrote is the post may be that middle ground. It's definitely not not self-censorship. As I wrote in the post, "I'm not a wimp in the pulpit. Preaching from Scripture often means taking an unpopular stand on hard moral issues. Sometimes those stands correspond with current affairs."

Lawrence Webb

commented on Dec 29, 2015

GOP leadership is openly calling for privatizing Social Security and doing away with Medicare, Medicaid, and "Obamacare." Each of these programs keeps many of us afloat. One hospital stay of even a few days would wipe out the savings of untold numbers of families. Without these, many millions will die. I have called out these policy makers and probably will do so again -- in the name of the Compassionate Christ. This is literally deathly sin. How can we ignore this?

Karl Henderson

commented on Dec 29, 2015

Totally agree Lawrence. I'm sure God has called some to actively and as publicly as possible to denounce the neglect of the poor. I'm also sure He has called people to pray privately, and others to work in other ways. I also wonder if maybe God is allowing e imperfect to help usher in a better system? Blessings.

Nancy Watta

commented on Dec 29, 2015

I realize you did not write this to hear from people whom agree totally with everything you write here, I am with you on this! There are many Christians doing God's work who are not shouting out publicly in politically arenas or on social networks. When we are quiet in the area of politics is does not mean we are not speaking up in other ways, or assisting people behind the scenes. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us Karl.

Ronald Johnson

commented on Dec 29, 2015

Why do you think we take so much friendly fire for faithfully proclaiming the gospel rather than riding some of the hobby horses of politics. There are some things that probably should not be addressed from the pulpit, but in Bible studies, where it is possible to have dialogue. Sure, I can stand up and preach against the sins of the culture, and will probably make myself very popular among the people in the pews, and even convince myself that I have done something to change things. Those of a different political persuasion will leave the church and never come back, and I will not have the opportunity to have a dialogue. They will simply assume this church is filled with "that kind of people" and find a church that fits their own political convictions. If I open a dialogue, I might have a chance of persuading someone.

Cory Dryden

commented on Dec 29, 2015

Sometimes comment from pulpit about politics is like a bumper on car. Noticed and moved on from. One on one seems to be better impact.,

Karl Vaters

commented on Jan 4, 2016

Great analogy!

Jim Colyn

commented on Dec 29, 2015

I'm not suggesting that political themes be preached from the pulpit. That is the time for the Gospel and Bible exposition. However, I do think we need to sound the clarion call about the sins of our day; and I appreciate it when God calls his people to political office...and if they are genuinely grounded in God's Word, it should be obvious that we need to support them. We are "the light of the world...a city set on a hill.",

Karl Vaters

commented on Jan 4, 2016

Agreed.

Bright Eromhonsele

commented on Dec 30, 2015

Good day to everyone, i find the discussion interesting but as for me, i believe because of the nature of the world system where everybody is free to act, i think ministers in the pulpit should be neutral on political issues especially campaigning for a candidate because people are liable to change as they assume the sit of power, even King Saul and Solomon changed. then what stand is the minister that campaigned for them?

Colin Steer

commented on Dec 30, 2015

One of the big problems in addressing issues even by those who see themselves as Biblically grounded, is that we will still not all interpret the issues or the Scriptures the same way. Among the hot button issues of the day, even committed activists will be fired up on some and lukewarm on others. Abortion, gay marriage and an overdependence on a welfare system fires up some who are deafeningly silent on racial injustice and economic exploitation. Which part of the Bible are you goingto pick and choose to fight YOUR battles? Therein lies the rub.

Ron Wilson

commented on Dec 30, 2015

Colin Great thoughts! We don't all see those things the same, do we? It is funny to me that evangelicals (of which I think I am one) are consumed with the sex sins (adultery, fornication, pornography, and gay lifestyle) However, the sex sin of the OT was polygamy, and no one seems to have addressed it like we address those bad, billboard sexual sins of today. Just a thought

Karl Vaters

commented on Jan 4, 2016

Great points, Colin. Also, while we might agree on theology, we might disagree on how to implement those ideas politically. That happens to me a lot. I see the problem the same way another believer does, but I see a different political approach to getting the solution. I'd rather stick to the theological/moral issue in the pulpit, and leave the politics for other venues.

Ron Wilson

commented on Dec 30, 2015

Hey Karl ...I greatly appreciate your philosophy on this. Early in my (now 35 year ministry), I saw the need to verbally address all things. Those were the days when things were more "black and white" for me. I today am a "recovering-know-it-all" and pastor a small rural church of 90 to 100. I still am conservative/moderate but see a need to have healthy dialogue, when I do address the current issues. I even present both sides...giving ins and outs, pros and cons, share where I currently am, and lastly encourage people to decide where they are. BUT...don't be known for what you are against...but rather...be known by who you are for (namely the Father through Christ the Son). Again, thank you for your thoughts and for listening to mine.

Ron Wilson

commented on Dec 30, 2015

Gerard Stauffer

commented on Dec 31, 2015

I read your article with great interest. I'm pastor in Switzerland and I do also try not to speak on political issues from the pulpit, just because I have Church members that think politically differently: some are in favor of the integration of Switzerland in the European Union, some against; some think we have to protect our landscapes, some are against. Here in Switzerland the political issue is present not only for the presidential election, but 4 times a year when the swiss people is called to the pool to express his will on the country political orientation. The big dilemma is when the issue touches a biblical theme, like same sex marriage.

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