In our initial Mythbusters’ investigation of religion and politics we established the important responsibility of the Christian pastor for relating to, befriending, instructing, admonishing and praying for his counterpart in the civil realm.
John the Baptist in the court of Herod was found to be our prototypical example. John made a conscious effort to appear in the court of Herod in order to secure his repentance and submission to the law of God: “it is not lawful for you to have this man’s wife.” This posed no contradiction between religion and politics.
We determined that leaders of church and state are jointly responsible for leading the culture into greater conformity to the Word of God. It’s not all one way either. There are examples in the Bible where the civil authority admonished the ecclesiastical authority to get off the dime. (e.g. Josiah). But in the give and take between religion and politics it was usually the other way around .
MYTH: As a busy pastor I don’t have time to take on one more responsibility, especially related to the civil government.
This kind of instruction and admonishment should flow out of a relationship that has developed over time. In the court of David it appears to have been an unofficial position occupied by one Zabud: “…and Zabud the son of Nathan, a priest, was the king’s friend” (I Kings 4:5).
But after so many years of neglect, the trick will be breaking the ice and establishing the relationship. You’ve heard of the Adopt A Highway program? You might think of this as your Adopt A Politician program.
The goal of the Adopt A Highway program is a litter-free highway, cleaned up by citizen volunteers. The commitment is to “preserving the beauty of our landscapes and sense of pride in our community through a four-pronged approach to litter eradication. This approach involves Education, Awareness, Pickup, and Enforcement” (York County, SC)
In like manner, the goal of your Adopt A Politician program is a corruption-free local government, cleaned up by Christian volunteers assisting their local elected officials. The commitment is to “preserving the purity of our judicial landscapes and sense of pride in our community through a four-pronged approach to eradication of injustice. Rebuilding the relationship between religion and politics involves Awareness, Education, Pickup, and Enforcement.”
To put it in Biblical terms, the goal of your Adopt A Politician program is to “hate evil, love good, and establish justice in the gate!” (Amos 5:15). The city gate was the public place where justice was administered in Israel. In more poetic terms, the end result is to “let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an everflowing stream.” (Amos 5:24)
1) You’ll want to start out with a low-key approach of gradual awareness by inviting your local commissioner, legislator, or mayor to lunch or coffee. Your request will be to learn more about issues the official is facing in order to pray for them.
2) At the meeting express an earnest desire to understand the particular burdens the official is dealing with so as to pray and possibly help. Ask a lot of questions and listen. This will start out as an education process for you, and then for the official as the relationship develops.
Do what you can to encourage the official and as appropriate let them know that God takes a particular interest in their work . Share some Biblical examples that include your role in the in the relation between religion and politics. Request another meeting in a month for an update. Like Daniel and his friends we desire to win the confidence of our leaders as they observe the wisdom of God at work in our lives.
3) At a subsequent meeting it may be appropriate to offer help to pick up the load of responsibility that rests on this official’s shoulders. Share another example from the Bible. You might ask if there anything else we can do to help in terms of research, clerical, physical assistance, or anything at all? Like Joseph you want to earn the respect of Pharoah by faithful service.
4) As the relationship develops you want the educational process to focus on the Word of God for the purpose of evangelism, conversion, and gradual implementation and obedient enforcement of the law of God. It is the responsibility of the lower magistrate to do this even when the higher magistrate does not. This may occur during the process of casual conversation and eventually formal Bible study.
Initially, the proposed goal of the study might be to discover the practical solutions to political problems that God spells out in the Bible. You can point out that surprisingly, the majority of the Old Testament is political in nature.
The best way for a Pastor to approach this is to think of it as a mission field. It is your most important mission field and one that you alone are ordained to cultivate. There is no doubt already an evangelism element in your ministry and weekly routine anyway. This new religion and politics initiative will only require some slight adjustment in your schedule with very little time added.
That’s especially true if you recruit the involvement of some like-minded laymen in your congregation. As the ordained representative of the church and custodian of the “oracles of God” it is your primary responsibility, but there is no reason why you can’t enlist the aid of laymen and women who have a heart desire to restore religion and politics interface.
They can actually do all of the leg work for you if you provide the direction, inspiration and leadership. There are plenty of tasks to go around:
- Companionship. There are probably people in your congregation with more experience interacting with government officials than you have. Or they may be better equipped by personality to relate easily to these people. By all means take them along. Two are better than one for they have a good reward for their labor.
- Scheduling. An important and time-consuming task for someone with organizational ability.
- Issues Research. Here’s where some of the old-timers in the congregation can really shine. They’ve been around long enough to know what the problems are and may know where to look for solutions.
- Biblical Research. Religion and politics will be a fascinating study for your Bible students. What does the Bible have to say about zoning issues? What are God’s requirements for Jails and criminal justice? It’s all in there for the diligent Bible student? How has the church addressed the issues of religion and politics in history?
- Volunteer Staff Assignment. When you ask a government official if there is anything you can assist him with, he just might take you up on the offer. This could require someone willing to volunteer a few hours a week as an aide to assist the official in some capacity.
- Prayer Warriors. When you ask if they have any prayer requests they are also likely to take you up on the offer. This can be a matter for individual as well as congregational prayer.
- Study group leader/assistant. At some point you are going to want to involve the official in Bible study regarding their responsibility to govern according to the law of God. Pray that God would cause this to emerge naturally out of the service relationship that you have been building with the official.
Case Closed: There’s no reason that laymen and women can’t be involved in helping the formerly apolitical pastor make the new religion and politics connection. Each has a unique gift that can multiply the impact of the official ambassador and make the burden easier for him.
Think of the impact that just a handful of pastors could have on a city if they were to implement the Adopt A Politician program modeled by John the Baptist. What if all the evangelical churches in a city got together and divided up responsibility for the religion and politics initiative. To paraphrase a famous soldier, “they’ve got us surrounded – the poor devils don’t stand a chance.” Adopt a Highway is good, but Adopt a Politician is where the real action is.