Preaching Issues (part1): Politics and Religion

Posted on February 2, 2008. Filed under: Bi-vocational Ministry, Preaching, Worship Wars |

My first inkling that I had a problem with politics in the church was in the Nov. 1992 Presidential Race. As the weeks drew near for the election I occasionally included some moral issues related to the election in some of my sermons. Mind you, I did not preach a political series, but as I preached, if I saw an opening for something about the pro-life position, I spoke out against abortion. Not a whole sermon, but a line here and there.

Perhaps I need to begin with stating where I am coming from theologically and politically. I was a raised a fundamentalist Southern Baptist, I went hunting by myself the first time when I was 6-7, I proudly voted for Reagan in 1980 and ’84, and served as an Infantry Officer in the US Army. Theologically I have moved out of fundamentalism and into Calvinism, but hopefully without the attitude. In short, I am a conservative, Reformed Baptist, pro-gun, pro life, Reagan Republican who supports the war on Radical Islamofascism. I kind-a sort-of don’t think the church knew what they were getting with me, nor did I know what I was getting with them.

As the election drew near I started to hear from the people that they were supporting Bill Clinton believing that Pres. George H.W. Bush needed to go. I called for a special prayer meeting the night before the election. I advertised in from the pulpit, placed it in the calendar of events in the bulletin and when that night came…two young families showed up and that was that. In an informal survey I conducted the overwhelming majority of the church voted for Bill Clinton not once, but twice! Not one of the younger folks voted for Clinton, but only 4-5 of the older folks voted for Bush. Now I was never a fan of Bush the elder (or younger) and felt like that was one of Reagan’s larger mistakes. I admire George HW Bush as a true gentleman, a warrior, and fine moral man. But his politics always seemed a bit weak to me. Like father like son. But I was astounded that my church overwhelmingly voted for Bill Clinton, twice. This is one of life’s great mysteries, how could Christian people vote for somebody who is pro abortion, pro homosexual, pro socialism, etc. ?

When I was a student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary 1985-89 I took a couple of classes that opened my eyes to the fact that Baptists were very messed up when it came to politics. I took an Ethics class called Christians and the Political Process during the fall of 1988 when George Bush was running against Michael Dukakis. It was a small class of no more than 10-12, but I was 1 of 2 conservatives in the class and the only other conservative was a girl who would not say anything. It was me against the other 10 plus the teacher. I gave ’em what for that semester, the odds were about right. But I was really shocked at how liberal the students and professor were.

Now here I was in in 1992 and my church was filled with liberal democrats voting for a liberal Baptist like Bill Clinton. When only a couple of younger folks showed up for the election prayer meeting, I got the message.

After the election, in January was the annual National Right To Life Sunday. I preached a strong pro-life message. I distinctly remember the woman leader of the church coming to me after the service to tell me she did not think preachers ought to preach on “Issues” because it confuses people and hurts people’s feelings because “You just don’t now who might be in the congregation that day.” Specifically she told me about a woman in the church, she left out the name but I figured it out eventually, who had to have an abortion because of a birth defect in the child that had afflicted two of her other children. I got talked to by this woman again a few years later for preaching against drunkenness because a woman in the church was married to an alcoholic. I got talked to about preaching against racism because “some people feel differently about it than you do”. I got talked to about one sermon where I addressed the issue of unwed pregnancy because one of the ladies in the church had a daughter who “had to get married”. Every time I preached about an “issue” I got told why I shouldn’t preach about it.

Now I understand there would be a problem if I only preached about “Issues”. I was not a topical preacher. I preached some topical series, but overwhelmingly I preached expositional sermon series from books of the Bible. So where was this church coming from?

They believed that the only sermon that should be preached on Sunday morning was the old time revivalistic, evangelistic, salvation sermons that they grew up with. Every Sunday morning they wanted a revival service “Because you never know, peacher, when some lost person might be in the congregation.” Now I grew up pretty much under that kind of preaching. I knew exactly what these folks were talking about. And I had seen what devastating effects that kind of preaching had on people. It was an emotion based style that stirs the hearts of the congregation,warms their souls with fond memories of revivals in their past and produces weak Christians who never get discipled, never get a Christian worldview, and don’t know anything except a weak gospel message.

I will deal with this in a later blog on preaching but for right now let me say that my definition of “Gospel Preaching” includes the whole counsel of God’s Word and teaches us the full Gospel which is not just about coming to Jesus but how to live for Jesus every day. My preaching about “Issues” was an effort at confronting our world with its sin, attempting to get Christians to think biblically and live out the Gospel. My church disagreed. My church wanted to have their ears, egos and memories tickled with nice, emotionally charged, revival sermons. They were not interested in hearing the whole Word of God for the Whole Man.

I remember one year during the Sunday School lessons a lesson was in the book on abortion for National Right to Life Sunday. The lady who would always tell me what not to preach was the older ladies’ class teacher. She refused to teach that lesson and changed to another lesson entirely. She told the class that it was not pertinent to their age group. She did the same thing when there was a lesson on alcoholism because, again, there was a lady present whose husband was an alcoholic and she did not want to make her feel uncomfortable. This is the lady who ran the church. She was the real pastor and opposed me from the very first day. She was one of the most helpful and energetic and talented women aroun, and I dare say, that if she and her husband had not been there for that church, it would have closed in the early 1980’s. She and her husband were great workers and leaders in the church. But I intruded into their space from day one I guess. They are wonderful god-fearing folks with a fantastic family, but opposed me on everything and eventually led the final charge that got rid of me.

When she asked me why I preached on issues I told her that I knew the older folk did not really like to hear those things, but that there were young folk in the church who needed to hear these things. If the youngsters and youth did not hear it from the pulpit ministry, but only heard the world’s viewpoint as taught in the public schools and portrayed in the media, they would suffer. She just shook her head and disagreed.

What I have observed with the older generation is that, because they grew up and lived most of their lives in a religious society, most in small towns as farmers, where going to church and having a revival was the only means of entertainment most of them ever had, they just assumed that their values, morals and biblical understanding of things would automatically be passed on down to the next generation and the next. They absolutely could not understand that in today’s schools you have homosexual teachers, classes on how to put on a condom using a banana as a teaching tool, that yo will see kids having sex on the school bus, and in dark corners of the school during the school day, that the kids will listen to music portraying the use of drugs, sex and even murder and rape as being good, etc. etc. Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.

Basically the world around them had changed and left the older generation of Baptist Christians in the dust. They desperately wanted to hold on to something of value from days gone by, so they attempted to control my preaching. My sermons in “issues” reminded them that times had changed, even in the church, and that disturbed them. Eventually, their side won, and I had to leave.

Saturday, February 2, 2008– These are the stories of my battles as a bi-vocational pastor of a small, elderly, tradition bound, Southern Baptist Church in Fort Worth, TX. 1992-2007. In the church’s 50 year history, I am the only pastor to have stayed beyond 3 years. Across Tarrant Baptist Association this church has long had a reputation of being a “problem Church”. These stories will leave out my former church’s name and I will only use real names of people when I am speaking positively of them. My goal in writing these stories is to find some healing and peace of mind and to sincerely try to figure out what went wrong. This church is not all that unusual, sadly it is actually typical of churches founded in the 1950’s. My stories could be repeated by hundreds of pastors from hundreds of churches. Though this church is still meeting today, it died a long time ago. All of my efforts amounted to CPR on a corpse. Yet, I believe staying faithful to the task to which the Lord called me may have somehow given Him some glory and perhaps a few people were blessed along the way.

Today I temporarily depart from the general theme of “Worship Wars” to a more specialized aspect of our worship, Preaching. With Super Tuesday coming up this next week for the Presidential Primaries I thought I could go ahead and write about preaching on Political Issues. Here is the bottom line: I was and remain absolutely convinced that the Pastor has an obligation under God to preach biblical sermons on the important moral issues of the day. This necessarily involves mixing politics and religion. This is part of the prophetic calling on the Church, the ministers and the average Christian. If the Church fails to confront the evils of their day with the Truth of God’s Word, then we fail in one of our essential tasks. Part of the faithful proclamation of the Gospel is to confront sin with the Truth of God’s Word.

The other part of the bottom line is that my church was led by a group of old women, and a few old men, who absolutely disagreed with everything I just said. My church (that is, the dominant group of lay leaders- not the majority) did everything they could to stop me from preaching about moral/political issues. Here is that story.


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9 Responses to “Preaching Issues (part1): Politics and Religion”

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As a devout Christian of 70years and a clergyman all my adult life I can’t understand how people like you have made opposition to abortion and gay equality the touchstone of “Christianity”. Why can’t you just find a NEW name for your brand of faith, which has little if anything to do with that Jesus Christ taught. Although Jesus said nothing about abortion and instead condemned divorce, you people turned against the most pious Christian to ever grace the oval office, Jimmy Carter, because he wasn’t anti-abortion enough for you, and replaced him with divorced playboy Ronnie Reagan, who had hardly ever graced the inside of a church in his long life, most of it spent in Hollywood!

See what Jesus was REALLY all about at http://LiberalsLikeChrist.Org/ .

Thank you Rev. Ray, for your perspective. While I do not doubt Pres. Carter’s faith, I think his policies as President were self evidently insufficient. His failure to deal adequately with Iran has bequeathed to my son’s generation (he is a soldier) the task of cleaning up the mess of radical Islam. I agree with you that divorce is a sin that needs confronting with the gospel more so than even abortion for divorce is more widespread, and arguably more damaging. And in regards to homosexuality, I would also say that immorality of the hetero variety is more common and just as devastating. Sin is pretty much sin in all of its varying shades. Though in my post I did single out two, that was for illustrative purposes.
As far as finding a NEW name for my brand of faith, I think I will stick with biblical Christianity. Those who like to defend sin of whatever type they are comfortable with can choose to use another name for THEIR faith.
Thanks for your time.

So you find Jimmy Carter’s failings so great but you “admire George HW Bush as a true gentleman, a warrior, and fine moral man.”
The U.S. media – which conservatives laughingly call “liberal” – has been doing such a good job whitewashing its Republican friends that the public has no idea how corrupt the Bush family has been.
Read my http://JesusWouldBeFurious.Org/Bushfamily.html
and you’ll see how the Republicans rewarded George H.W. Bush’s father and grandfather for bankrolling Hitler’s rise to power by making Prescott a U.S. Senator, and then made both his son and his grandsons U.S. presidents. You’ll also see how immoral George H.W. Bush himself was!

Rev. Ray, thank you again for your interesting comments.I would have responded sooner but I was at a party with some of my friends watching the UFC mixed martial arts fights live from Las Vegas. In the room were about 8 of us, all good Christian men, 3 with Ph.Ds from our seminary, the host is a professor of Christian ethics. He brought out his brand new AR-15 rifle in 5.56mm and we all passed it around admiring it. He was at my house last weekend for my going away party for my son who has joined the US Army to keep the US of A safe from the crazy muslims and we brought out a lot of our guns for him to admire. He and I and 2 other of the Christian gentlemen are veterans and we swapped a few stories from our various martial arts experiences while we watched the fights. I spoke with one of our friends who has his PhD in philosophy and invited him to my Sunday School class tomorrow to assist me in presenting the various classical proofs for God as we study from Genesis 1. A good and godly time was had by all.
I apologize for failing to refer to Pres. Carter’s distinguished military service to our country. He too is a southern gentleman, and like most true southern gentlemen, was also a warrior. A graduate of Annapolis and a submariner in the US Navy. An honorable man! I just simply disagree with his politics.

Thanks for your time and thank you for your years of service for the Lord in His Church!

70 years as a devout Christian, a clergyman.
How many times does the Bible tell us that Life is precious? Have you ever had an abortion? Have you ever lived with the consequences of having had one? A woman has a right to say yes or no to sex. But, when with child what right does she have to choose for her unborn that it should live or die? Is not each child conceived in the image of God? Are you thinking more of the embarrassment of being pregnant out of wedlock? What of adoption? Oh no…there are already too many children in the world that no one wants it will just be another mouth to feed and a burden on the taxpayers to support. Better to just abort it and go on with your life. Is that how it is? Or can you possibly even know, being so exalted in your position of devoutism.

I have to rant on these two issues here since I believe the Church needs to address these for the youth because they sure are not going to get the right answer from school.

As far as the abortion issue goes it is a simple as this. Who actually does the baby belong to, if you say the mother or the father then you are 100% WRONG. The baby, along with all of us, belong to GOD and GOD alone. So do I believe the mother has a choice, NO. I believe the mother only has a choice in a rape situation (I know some people will disagree with me on this) But outside a rape situation I do not believe it is her choice because the baby does NOT belong to her as described above (for a good sermon on this a recommend John Piper). If she did not want the baby or if she knew a defect would be present due to family history then maybe she should have prevent from getting pregnant (again refer to John Piper for a greater detail of this)

On the homosexuality issue all I have to say is read the book of Romans and also the story of Lot. That will clearly state the Lord’s opinion on this topic.

As far as discussing issues in Church, where do people think they will learn from. The Bible clearly states the right and wrong all you have to do is read it. I remember some of the fights in the Church about these issues, the feeling was that if it contradicts my life then I don’t want to hear it, well the Bible doesn’t work that way. If it contradicts your life, then change your life. Listen to the Holy Spirit, let God work in you and thru you.

Randy, thanks for the “rant”! You are correct that the church needs to speak to the issues because the youth are going to get a totally different view/answer from school. The church must provide the antidote to the poison our schools are injecting into the students. (Please, I know that there are many “good” schools, godly, Christian teachers and administrators…but the overall school system in America is officially godless, liberal and anti-Christ)

Randy, the reason so many Christian people disagree with us on these issues is because not every Christian accepts the authority of Scripture. Our brother Ray (comments above) has a website that attacks the doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture. When you do not have an immovable standard, then personal opinion takes precedent, as you said, “the feeling was that if it contradicts my life then I don’t want to hear it”. Granted, godly, well meaning Christians can have honest disagreements about some issues and interpretations, but some things are so clear, such as the issues I mentioned, that people really have to do an injustice to Scripture to defend their view.

Well, I feel for you “Mark12”. As a relatively new Christian, I don’t have a church history to fall back on. All I know is that the Pastor’s calling is to teach from the Bible.

The Bible is our guidebook for this life, so if we’re going to gain anything at all in this life, it better be how to apply the Bible to our lives – it’s not theory.

I have to say that I don’t necessarily agree with the whole UFC/Show off my new Gun thing. Jesus only got riled up one time as far as I know, and he didn’t whack anyone because of it.

Sure, we can hunt and have weapons but I’m just not sure that it sends the right message – especially since a nephew of ours recently shot and killed a friend accidentally. Our nephew grew up in a hunting family and knew all about gun safety. Unfortunately, when he and is friend started horsing around, none of that helped.

Keep preaching from the Word and let us all get better at “Walking the walk”.

Mike, Thanks for reading the blog and taking the time to write a good comment. Yeah, I have had to deal with the whole “gun thing” since college when I was called into the ministry while I was going to OU on an Army ROTC Scholarship. I became an infantry officer and basically carried a weapon and wore a uniform of one kind or another for 25 years. A lot of people get a little bit freaked when they see a guy in uniform and carrying a weapon who is also a preacher. I have preached and done weddings while packing a pistol, hence my nickname has sometimes been, the Pistol Packin’ Preacher.
I understand those who do not like firearms, that is no big deal for me. True pacifists, not the goofy Hollywood types who will hire body guards if they need them, but cry and wail against the NRA and second amendment, but true pacifists who are consistent I have respect for. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was committed to non-violent protests and even to not responding when attacked. He was a great man.

Jesus allowed his disciples to carry the concealed weapon of the day, the short sword, see John 18:10 and Luke 22:38. Note also that Jesus praised the faith of the Roman Centurion Matt.8. And I understand the “turn the other cheek” thing and the “those that live by the sword will perish by the sword” etc. I believe the Scriptures present a well balanced picture for the Believers so that there will be legitimate reasons and times to bear the sword, and other times where the thing to do is “turn the other cheek”. It is a both/and situation, not an either/or situation.

So, you are a new Christian? Good, welcome to the Kingdom and to the battle. It isn’t going to be easy. Find some JI Packer, CS Lewis and RC Sproul books and get studying! Get in a good church that preaches verse by verse through books of the Bible and start reading the Word everyday with a Reformation Study Bible, or an Apologetics Study Bible.

See ya!

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