Pastors and Politics

It was probably back in the early 2000’s during a trip to Michigan when I picked up the Ann Arbor News and found an opinion piece written by a local pastor about politics and the pulpit. Ann Arbor, home of U of M, is a bastion of liberal politics, so I was curious what this fella would have to say about it. In his opinion, pastors should not make political commentaries, but should stick to spiritual issues. The “political” examples he gave were abortion and homosexual marriage, among others. “Right,” I thought, “because God doesn’t have anything to say about those political issues!”

two man facing each other

The reality is that God’s Word is authoritative and comprehensive over the affairs of man. God established government as a means of restraining wickedness so that the righteous might prosper. God’s people have frequently found themselves in conflict with human government, often suffering at its hands. God holds human authorities accountable for their use of power and authority in the world. These are all self evident, biblical truths.

Nevertheless, it does seem to me that pastors can misuse the authority of the pulpit when it comes to politics, and thereby weaken their ministry. There are 2 simple principles that I try to follow when it comes to politics in my church:

The Partisan Principle

A partisan is someone who is fully and passionately committed to one side. A partisan is a democrat or a republican. A partisan has a flag in their front yard every election cycle. And in one sense, there is nothing wrong with that. A pastor simply has to be a partisan for Christ, not a political party.

I think this is worth expanding in another post, but there is a reality in the United States where the platform (that is, the essential dogmas) of the Democratic party has become so anti-Christian in nature that it is difficult to support it at any level, and I think there is a legitimate argument there. But the resulting logic of that should not be that every pastor becomes a Republican Party partisan.

The problem with being a partisan from the pulpit is that the pastor becomes associated with the totality of a person or a party, and there will never be a president or party that honors God completely. The pastor risks his personal reputation (as well as the reputation of Christ and His Church) by embracing a candidate or party exclusively.

Back in 2000 I was in Bible College and was preparing to vote in my first presidential election. The college president, in a chapel service, said something like, “I’m not allowed by law to endorse a candidate, but I am involved in a committee to beautify the White House, so would you join me in planting a Bush at the White House?” And everyone laughed and eventually Bush won. Over the next 8 years of his presidency, Bush did several things which I profoundly disagreed with, including the expansion of executive powers, No Child Left Behind, and the invasion of Iraq. I think all of these have had profound and negative impacts on our nation, and yet I suspect that there would be an equal if not longer list had Gore won the presidency.

Voting is an exercise in choosing the lesser of two evils. But we preach Christ without reservation. Vote for a politician and you are sure to be disappointed at some level. But choose Christ and rejoice eternally. Choose a candidate and you get all of them- warts and all. Choose Christ and you get all of Him- righteous to the last drop.

The Prophetic Principle

Back in the Old Testament days God established an Office called Prophet. The purpose of the Prophet was to speak the truth of God to the people. The need for the Prophet had arisen because God’s people had demanded a King, and many of the Kings abandoned their role as Keepers of God’s Law and substituted their own Law, to disastrous consequences. So the Prophet came and spoke God’s truth to the people, regardless of whether or not it aligned with the messaging from the local government PR office.

There is a long history of prophets who put the king in his place: Samuel took the kingship away from Saul, Nathan accused David of adultery and murder, Micaiah only prophesied “evil” to the king of Israel, Elijah confronted Ahab, and Jeremiah refused to stop telling the people that exile as judgment was inevitable. When we come to the New Testament, John the Baptist accuses Herod of adultery and Jesus derisively refers to him as a “fox”. Along the way, there are a lot of false prophets who just tell the king what he wants to hear.

The pastorate, though different than the Prophet, is still an office that demands bold truth telling to all, including those in authority. When the pastor becomes a partisan, his prophetic ministry often becomes one sided. So Jerry Falwell Jr (though not a pastor) can pose for a picture with Trump in front of a Playboy magazine cover.

The pulpit has to be a place of not just truth, but a holistic truth. We have all seen what happens when righteousness is limited to five filthy things you shouldn’t do and the church becomes a little league of legalists. It’s easy to rail against the sin of homosexuality while ignoring the abundant sexual sins of heterosexuals that fill the pews. It’s easy to rail against the latest Democrat debacle of morality while ignoring the latest Republican one. Pastors should never defend the indefensible. The truth of God must shine into the corners of liberalism and conservatism so that men everywhere might know that their only hope is the forgiveness that is found in Jesus Christ. The only hope for Trump is the only hope for Clinton, Biden, and Harris, and that is the cross of Christ.

The pastor must never abandon the prophetic aspect of ministry in order to please men.


These two principles leave a broad range of involvement in politics for the pastor. In reputation, he must not be known as a political partisan who lacks impartiality. Given these parameters, a pastor can make political commentary, involve himself in social issues, and educate his congregation in the purpose and role of government as well as issues on the ballot. The pastors job is to make disciples, and those disciples will vote. Let them learn to vote wisely.

One thought on “Pastors and Politics

  1. Just a couple of thoughts. The duty of the church is to proclaim the glory of God and the Gospel of Christ. The Evangelical church in the U.S. has been selective in their approach to social issues, i.e., abortion, and homosexual marriage. In the Old Testament a Jew could not be drafted in the Army if he had been married less than a year, or over 20 years of age. Although Hell, Fire, and Brimstone were called down from the pulpit upon hippies, war protestors, during the Vietnam War not one word was said about the governments abuse of power. There are reasons the Bible says what it says about the draft laws but its too long of a discussion to go into now. Only the Blood of Christ can wash away sin, not some one enforcing morality. Its not that Christians should not be concerned about morality, social justice, racism, poverty, et al. but there are enough portals if an individual Christian wants to get involved in attacking these social evils, i.e., I support financially and otherwise Right To Life, The Innocence Project, NRA, The Heritage Foundation etc. Let the church proclaim the glory of God and the Gospel of Christ. Also if the Evangelical Church had not spewed such venom on hippies, war protestors, and other ” undesirables ” they might have their children sitting in the pews today. Also, as a individual Christian I keep my priorities straight, I try to love my neighbor regardless of their world views, life styles or whether they are locked up in prison for life. It would probably take a lot more time to discuss all issues regarding this ” politically ” charged issue.


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