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Head in a vice


Pastors get their head in a vice over a long list of matters rarely connected to their theology, doctrinal positions, or even denominational particulars. Politics is one of them. And, the surprising results of a Barna Group study compiled for the American Culture and Faith Institute indicates that many conservative evangelical pastors are taking a pass on speaking to the politics of election 2016. George Barna called the results of the study "nothing short of astounding". While most pastors in this defined demographic, that is, conservative evangelical, actually support Republican nominee Donald Trump (60% versus 10% for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton), few will encourage their church members to participate actively in the electoral process in 2016. In the mid-term elections of 2014, 78% of these pastors encouraged active engagement in the election. Now, that degree of pastoral involvement has dropped to 62%. Then, 37% of these pastors sought to educate their congregations by addressing biblical principles related to election platforms. Today, only 21% are doing the same. What is the deal in this election?

You can read the survey data and comments by clicking right here.

It's the head in a vice thing again. Explaining this shift in pastoral roles, Barna said, "It seems that many pastors do not want to be judged for supporting a candidate who is morally imperfect." Of course, this is one of the many agenda items in the debates about the 2016 election. There's always argument about the fitness of candidates to hold this exalted human office. But, they seem more appropriate this time around because both of the nominees have less than sterling character. The unfavorables of these candidates is extreme. As a result, many pastors are just keeping quiet trying to avoid the headache.

You can't help but relate the biblical instruction about our people pleasing tendencies. Let's face it, approval addiction is perhaps our most common personality disorder. Don't kid yourself, it visits the pastor's study and house quite often too. In this instance I see two powerful head pieces in the grips exerting so much pressure on my pastor friends and colleagues.

  • fear of losing favor with the power elements of congregational life

  • fear of alienating denominational and educational leaders who can influence pastoral careers

Overcoming these powerful vice grips requires going deep. Every pastor should impose at least five disciplines into their personal ministry during this election season.

1. In political matters be humble and transparent.

Prideful arrogance is a misfit for pastors and spiritual leaders regardless of the

occasion. Sadly, it has been a headpiece of this election process. Self-denial

(see Luke 9:23) and humility are hallmarks of spiritual leadership and pastoral

office. In a heated election season pastors should always exemplify the mind of

Christ and express their political decisions with humility (see Philippians 2:7).

Transparency is simply the discipline of demonstrating the difficulty of the

decision making process. The Apostle Paul always made little of himself and

spoke of his troubles in trying circumstances.

2. Shepherd the people of God entrusted to your care.

Sheep need a shepherd. Peter wrote to "shepherd the flock of God that is

among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God

would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly" (1 Peter 5:2). This political

season has challenged people of faith like no other in modern history. Be their

shepherd by praying with them, helping them find biblical guidance in making

important decisions, and trusting God to provide guidance.

3. Be clear and distinct in relating political decisions.

Confusion and disorder characterize this election cycle like no other. Don't

confuse your church family more by vague and disparate comments or advice.

If you haven't settled the issues yourself, tell them. But, be clear and distinct

when you speak. Paul wrote to the Corinthians when they were confused

about the tongues controversy," And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound,

who will get ready for battle?" (1 Corinthians 14:8).

4. Speak with much grace.

There's been plenty of distasteful rhetoric in this election process and it

promises to get worse before November. Pastoral comments, advice, and

Scriptural guidance must be shared with gracious expressions even though

truthful and honest. Paul wrote to the Colossians, "Let your speech always be

gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer

each person." (Colossians 4:6).

5. Encourage them with Scripture and prayer.

This election has fostered great uncertainty and insecurity in the American

population. People have taken sides, have spoken harshly, and brought great

divisiveness in even churches. When you speak political ideals, speak the

values of heaven more profoundly---the promises of God, reminders of his

faithfulness, the truth of his sovereignty, and the urgency of prayer.

These are truly important times. Peter's words have registered strongly with me in these recent days. He wrote---

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of

God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks the oracles of God;

whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength God supplies---in order that in

everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and

dominion forever and ever. Amen.

1 Peter 4:10-11, ESV

Or, have your head in a vice.


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