It’s easier for Interim Pastors to juggle live hand grenades, and less dangerous, than to juggle political causes and the local church’s mission. There’s no way to win at that game today. If a hand grenade explodes, there’s one less to juggle. A political explosion could ruin the church for a decade. That’s why Interim Pastors should clamp down on political causes in the church during the transition period. No petitions circulating. No campaign literature. Voter registration drives? Well, okay.
But consider five excellent reasons why Interim Pastors should shut the door on political activism during the interim period.
1. Political causes drain energy from the transition.
Politics and passion go hand in hand.
The Romans had a neat way of dealing with political passion. Rival gangs, funded by corrupt Senators (I am sooo tempted to ask, “is there any other kind?”), roamed the streets assaulting and often murdering political rivals.
If you think we’ve moved beyond that level of political passion, recall what happens when your extended family gathers for a holiday meal or an annual picnic at the lake. Chances are good that an argument about politics will break out (Archie and the Meathead are archetypes in the American family).
Any political cause—ANY political cause—will drain energy from the tasks that need to be accomplished during the Interim Pastor’s tenure.
2. Political causes divert focus from God’s mission.
God’s mission appears in pregnant form in two passages in Genesis. In the oracles of the Curse, God promised that one day the woman’s Seed would destroy the serpent’s dominion. In his first conversation with Abram, the Lord promised that through his Seed, all the families of earth will be blessed.
God is on mission to redeem that which was corrupted in the garden. That mission advances through the church.
The Interim Pastor’s task involves getting the client church back on mission with God.
Preaching on political issues—no matter how pressing they feel in the moment—wastes a valuable, finite resource (your preaching calendar) on stuff that won’t matter five years hence.
Don’t believe me? Do a quick survey and ask your members who remembers:
- What James Watt did wrong in the HUD scandal?
- Which lobbyist scored a fat contract with Enron?
- Who pulled the plug on the Bay of Pigs?
Stick with the mission that matters. Get the church back on task.
3. Political causes divide congregants.
Unless you’re the Interim Pastor of a very small church, chances are better than ever that the members are not unified on many inflammatory political questions of the day; younger believers especially hold views radically different than their elders. It may even be that the political divide has contributed to a long history of short pastorates.
Interim Pastors who preach on or introduce political causes, views, convictions, opinions or theories into the sermon are going to gain stature with some and lose stature with others.
You’re there to unite the church around its God-given mission, not cause fractures to set in place.
4. Political causes isolate the church.
I suppose there are places where a congregation mirrors the surrounding community which itself is, shall we say, lacking diversity in social and political matters.
Most churches, particularly those in need of Interim Pastors, tend to be demographic islands surrounded by dynamic and often turbid seas.
If you’ve followed the conversation on Millennials, you’re aware that some anointed spokesmen/spokeswomen aver that politics turns off a large segment of this cohort. Whether that’s true or not (the book is still open on that one) it’s hard to escape that most churches are isolated from the community God has called them to reach.
Which is more important? That they embrace your politics or your Savior?
5. Political causes use law to carry out a gospel mission.
I suspect I’ll get the greatest pushback on this point.
When I look back over the running, rear guard action in the church/culture engagement, I can’t help but notice something that doomed the Moral Majority enterprise from the start. It was an effort to make a godly nation of godly people by electing people who would pass and enforce the right laws.
Christian political activists, be they of the liberal (“social justice,” “economic justice,” “food justice,” “internet access justice”) or conservative (“founding principles,” “strict constructionism,” “rule of law”) share alike in one deadly fault: they would use the force of law to create a just society populated by a moral people.
This is a fool’s errand.
Law cannot make people or nations good. Only grace can do this.
Interim Pastors are in the business of returning churches to the ministry of grace in a world in dreadful need.