I wrote an article, “Robert Jeffress had Trump speak at 1st Baptist Dallas”, in early January. As is often the case, discussions on Medium continue long after a post gets published. Yesterday I received a comment from a reader who used to attend a large church that openly supported former President Trump. The pastor stated that “true believers will vote for Trump”.
This likely created upheaval within the church, to me an unforced error on the part of the pastor. My views on Trump (in order to help divert the negative responses to this post) are unfavorable. My reasoning has to do with his divisive damage to the country which outweighs what I consider to be his good fiscal policies (compared to where we stand today). However, all that has nothing to do with this article.
The reader’s comments made me reflect on the damage church pastors do when they add politics to their calling to:
2 Timothy 4:2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.
Why do churches allow politics to play a role in a Sunday morning worship service? Perhaps more enlightening, why does it seem (admittedly my speculation) that the larger the church, the more political the mindset.
I would offer three observations, none of them especially helpful.
Politicians Attracted by Crowds
First, I would suggest that perhaps large church leaders get targeted by politicians more than smaller congregations because of their greater influence. Politicians like Trump see the “Christian-Right” (I don’t like to group individuals like this anymore) as his base of support. Similar to state and local elections, Politicians gravitate toward large groups of people to influence. This begins with lunches with the pastor, outings, and engagements until a relationship is built and a Sunday morning commitment of support is established. I suspect Jeffress took several body blows on behalf of Trump that he should never have been put in a position to absorb. However, Jeffress’ attraction toward the light of notoriety was irresistible, bringing me to my next point.
Pastors and the Sin of Pride
Second, I suspect there is an element of pride on the part of large church pastors. Sadly, we are all sinners and there is often a correlation between success, money, and sin. As the church grows and becomes more significant in the community, the denomination, or the state or country, pastors are naturally brought into contact with more and more influential people. They are resourced for their insight and opinion. They land on media outlets, participate in conferences, and associational leadership positions. From all this outside, often worldly exposure, these pastors want to justify the time away from their core responsibilities, their congregants. Large churches hire junior staff to handle all the membership responsibilities so the Sr. Pastor can engage in extracurricular activities. In the end, they tend to bring it all back into a Sunday morning service, suggesting they have deep insight on things like inflation, social concerns, voting recommendations, and other secular matters interconnected to their sermons. This may seem harsh and, perhaps for the large majority of large church pastors, unfair. However, those who engage in these activities, to the detriment of their congregations, become media examples of the destructive merger of politics and the pulpit. Justification of their salaries and pride can often be at the core.
Proverbs 16:18 Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.
1 Timothy 6:10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.
Seeker Churches get Distracted
Finally, if one accepts that larger churches tend to be more seeker-friendly, then their pastors perhaps focus more on social and political issues to keep their easily distracted flock engaged. Large seeker churches are geared for entertainment, with lively music, high energy, and youthful viewpoints. Our culture has a short attention span and as the secular hopefully transitions into the seeker and then the believer, pastors have to keep them engaged. Preaching through the Psalms, Lamentations, or even the hard teachings of James, will often not keep seekers coming back. However, social concerns, politics, the moral outrage on current events, peppered with a bit of Scripture, will hopefully bring them back next week.
If there is one thing that I hear most from those deconstructing their faith on Medium it’s the failure of the church to serve their needs. The reality is that the church is just a group of sinners coming together to fellowship and learn about Jesus. There is nothing wrong with sermons that have contemporary application. But when the application, in the form of politics and societal decay, takes over the sermon, pastors are out of balance.
2 Tim. 3:16-17 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Romans 10:17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
That is where Sunday morning sermons need to focus, on preaching the truth of God’s word, perhaps using illustration from contemporary society. A heavy dose of politics is not what God intended as worship.
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