Welcome to the seventh part of the series, The Church and Politics. To catch up on Parts 1-6, please go to www.myilluminare.com/the-church-and-politics/
The Church has the numbers, the brains and the resources to control the political space. Yet the church struggles politically. There are many factors responsible for the church’s political struggle but at the root of it all is a misconception of roles, both of the pastor and of the congregants, and a lack of unity in the Body. The body of Christ cannot be united if the pastors can’t set the example. We sometimes forget we have one Lord and one Master. His agenda must be uppermost, not our feelings. When men of God are more men than of God, the Body suffers dislocation and haemorrhages. And it’s important for the older generation of pastors to allow the younger generation of pastors have a say, and a way. They’re more current, have fresher ideas and are more proximate to the younger populace.
But in terms of confliction of function in a political setting, it would seem some men of God see themselves in the garb of Old Testament prophets like Samuel, Elijah and Elisha. That probably explains why some men of God anoint people to be president. That is a conceptual impossibility in a democracy. The random anointing of an individual into political office can only take place in a theocracy. And there has to be a unitary spiritual structure with an apex prophet. It has pleased God to decentralise the Church, and that is not a modern happenstance; it has always been. Jerusalem was Jewish national HQ of Christianity. Antioch was international headquarters. Antioch was one of the four cities of the Syrian tetrapolis. Believers were first called “Christians” at Antioch. (Acts 11:26) In fact, the man given the international mandate, Paul, stated: “Immediately after my calling — without consulting anyone around me and without going up to Jerusalem to confer with those who were apostles long before I was – I got away to Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus, but it was three years before I went up to Jerusalem to compare stories with Peter…” (Galatians 1:16-20 MSG) And so the Church was already decentralised in the first century. The international headquarters related with the Jewish headquarters no doubt, but it was independent.
The Church is even more diffused now than it was in the first century. Diffusion freed the Church from suffocating hierarchy and inefficiencies of over-centralisation. The growth of the Church would have been hampered if Paul had been subjected to Jerusalem HQ. The Jerusalem group struggled with transitioning from Judaism. And so there is no unitary structure for the Church and no apex priest at the top that would make anointing someone for office universally acceptable. These are hard sayings but nonetheless the truth. But though the pastors are not united structurally, they are virtually united in Christ. Therefore Christ’s political interest must come first.
Then there are all those conflictions about ministry. The general belief is that pastors are the only ministers. That is not true. The congregants are to do the work of ministry. (Ephesians 4:11-12) As enumerated in God’s word, pastors are more or less human resource developers and trainers. (Ephesians 4:11-12) They’re supposed to train us congregants to do the work of the ministry: “Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11-12 NLT) The essence is for the pastors “to train Christ’s followers in skilled servant work until we’re all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God’s Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ.” (Ephesians 4:7-13 MSG) And so when it comes to political issues in a nation the interface shouldn’t really be the pastors but the congregants. We got it all wrong and it is producing distortions.
The tragedy of the Church is not fully engaging the intellectual capacities available in the Church. It robs the Church of strategic advantage in the political space. In the Church are political scientists, sociologists, economists, strategists, IT specialists, businessmen, corporate execs etc… If only these brains are networked towards a political objective.
Our lack of appreciation of the importance of defining and controlling the political context creates wrong-headed prioritisation in spending by the Church. The day the Church learns to synergise strategy, finance, capacities, culture and media the political equation will alter radically. Then the Church can rally around candidates who will deliver on God’s policy ideals for the benefit of the people. It always has to be about the people. We find those policy ideals of God in the personage of Jesus. He taught the people, healed the people, fed the people, defended the people, saved the people.
The translation of Jesus the teacher into policy is a good educational system – good schools, good teachers, relevant teaching.
The translation of Jesus the people’s defender into policy is a fair and equitable legal system, the availability of justice and equity.
The translation of Jesus the feeder of the people into policy initiative is food availability and affordability, good nutrition and food security.
The translation of Jesus the healer into policy is good hospitals, wonderful healthcare delivery system, health insurance, good health. God heals at crusades and he heals at hospitals. It’s the same God performing both sets of miracles. The Bible says, laughter does good like medicine, which means medicine is good. (Proverbs 17:22) It is actually inefficient to rely on crusades for healing for a nation. Hospitals are more efficient. That’s not saying crusades are wrong-headed but healings in crusades are God’s strategic statements. It’s why they’re often extraordinary. God would rather set up good hospitals in a nation than dramatise healing. It’s why he gave man knowledge of human anatomy and medicine. In nations where medical science is well advanced, there’s hardly a need for healing crusades, unless God wants to make a statement. That’s the observed pattern. God would rather you take aspirin than stand in a healing line for ordinary headache. But there’s nothing wrong with learning to exercise faith.
The definition of the Church as mere moral instructor has limited the potency of the Church. Morality has its place but God’s constitutional principle is righteousness. You don’t have to be a Christian to be moral. There are moral atheists, some more moral than Christians. The basis of salvation is not morality but righteousness. It’s why salvation is by faith in Christ Jesus, not in human morality: “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 NLT)
But shouldn’t the Church limit herself to prayers? Should Christians really get involved in politics? After all, the heart of the king is in God’s hand. (Proverbs 21:1)
Truth is, the Church has always prayed. But as many can attest, prayers alone are not enough. It’s important to pray, but we must also get in there to do the job. We must get involved in politics. The principle in scriptures is that when a house occupied by malevolent spirits is swept clean the demons go and recruit stronger demons if the space remains unoccupied. (Luke 11:24-26) Perhaps that explains why every time Christians pray a bad government out of power more potent malefactors seem to move in. The space is unoccupied. May explain the corruption conundrum.
Prayer without participation potentiates worse episodes in a political system. There are different roles in politics. Not everyone will run for office. The most fundamental role however is voting in an election. Get your voter’s card.
We continue the series next week. We’ll be looking at how we pick a candidate. To read the full version of The Church and Politics Part 7: Why the Church is not pulling its weight, please go to www.myilluminare.com/the-church-and-politics/
If you’ll like to receive Jesus into your life please pray this prayer: “Father I acknowledge that I am a sinner, that Jesus died for me, that you raised him from the dead. Father please forgive me. I accept Jesus today as my Lord and my Saviour. Amen.”
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