Make room in your pews, set out a few more chairs, and put on a little more coffee because the real winner in this election will be the church.
I’m not even kidding.
The American public is a few short days away from delivering a new President. Barely a year ago, people were wringing their hands. As national conventions narrowed the field to two options, hands were thrown in the air in disbelief. And following the final round of nasty exposés, the public mood has swung toward despair.
No one, precisely no one, is particularly proud of either party’s candidate, so the best move has been to rail against the opposition. Unfortunately, these emotions have not been limited to the unbelieving public. Church folk have absolutely embarrassed themselves in social media tirades. While attempting to drop some sort of political wisdom laced in Jesus, most only managed to limit the circle of acquaintances willing to sup with them over dinner.
But the people of God have no reason for despair.
The church is in a perfect position during the most disheartening presidential election in recent history.
While many of us got caught up in the angst and anger of the general public, we dangerously lost perspective. This is not a time to wring our hands, throw them up in defeat, nor curl up in a ball on the floor.
It is a time to roll up our sleeves.
People have lost much more in this election than their favorite candidate; they have largely lost faith in the entire electoral system. For many, it feels like a Democratic Republic is no longer capable of delivering the true choice and will of the people. And as the public loses hope in the sacred cow of American Democracy, they must turn to something else for hope, relief, and answers.
The church can offer that HOPE.
The church has the opportunity and mandate to become a city on a hill, a beacon in a dark night.
We can offer hope.
We can offer aid.
We can offer meaning.
We can offer direction to a lost world.
We can offer Jesus.
This is no time for the church to be whining about our losses.
This is a time for winning. Winning souls to the kingdom as we share the hope that can be found in Jesus, not our fickle democratic system. The church has never been dependent upon a sympathetic government to expand the kingdom. In fact, the persecuted church has traditionally borne more spiritual fruit than its comfy cousins tucked away in a western democracy.
But it will require us to dig deep on several fronts:
The church must discover what it’s made of.
The church desperately needs to know this. We simply haven’t been tested. There is little discernible difference between those who claim Christianity and those who practice it out of devotion. They enjoy the very same freedoms; functioning in society without persecution. They give up virtually nothing economically, socially, or emotionally to align themselves with Jesus.
But this may change. Too many of us are voting with our hands planted firmly on our back pockets. If our urgency is vested in gaining legislation that protects our wallets, aligns with our religious views, and awards us worship privileges, it is a rather narcissistic endeavor. Jesus did not function under a government conducive to his ministry, yet his work multiplied. We can celebrate the privileges we have enjoyed, but scripture does not guarantee them. If our security rests on maintaining religious freedom and tax breaks, we are in for a rude awakening. But when our purpose comes from following Jesus under any circumstances, we will find a wealth of opportunity in this political environment.
The church can fill in the gaps left by legislation.
Early in the twentieth century, the church was known for “the social gospel.” Believers took it upon themselves to meet the needs of the poor. Churches operated soup kitchens, missions, clothing distribution, and even housing. They did not wait on the government to roll out social programs.
When a new leader fails to pass legislation righting the wrongs of society as we may see it, we as a church will have the opportunity to step up and take action. Shame on us, for waiting on the government to do the work of the God, anyway. Jesus didn’t tell the government to feed the poor, heal the sick and clothe the naked; He told us to do it. Social justice has always been the responsibility of the believers, but most of us got sluggish.
We must become more intentional in discipleship.
Let’s face it, we’ve all gotten a little lazy. The availability of well-produced biblical materials, classes, and teachers has dampened our teaching skills. A pile of engaging preachers available at the click of a cell phone are doing a bang up job of taking people deeper. But if our political environment becomes hostile to these opportunities, we will need to get our theology on. We might have to read a bit more, study deeper, and learn to articulate our faith instead of our politics.
The church cannot help but flourish when its people take their faith seriously and share it with others. When believers become intentional in word and lifestyle, the kingdom will grow. We will need to tell our children about our faith. We will need to become more familiar with our own Bibles.
We can resist political segregation.
The church is already known as the most racially segregated place on Sunday mornings. But we risk becoming politically segregated when pastors choose sides and politick from the pulpit. As leadership promotes their views through social media, those who resist their view, will seek out other bodies of Christ. Forget denominations, we will develop a two party system of churches as the level of hate rhetoric among those of differing political opinion rivals racial discrimination.
But as the church claims Jesus as our common allegiance, we can look past the politics of our neighbors. We can actually worship next to someone who votes differently. We can show the world that God transcends human politics. The church likes to talk about showing mercy to the down-trodden and the socially marginalized. Can you imagine if we developed that kind of mercy for each other?
The church can shine in a dark world.
Let’s face it: the church has not always been a bright spot. We have been the brunt of mean-spirited but often accurate criticism. Hypocrites run amuck inside our walls and give us a bad name. It is often difficult to differentiate us from the world.
But as people become less trusting of their government, they will look for stability somewhere. The church can offer the mooring that many people are craving. It is no surprise that churches experience a surge in attendance following a national tragedy. As humans, we desperately want to make sense of our existence. And when the government cannot be trusted to keep us safe and free, we will have to look elsewhere. The church is ready. We have every opportunity to show people that Jesus is the only one they can trust.
So paint your walls, clean out your clutter, and get ready to welcome those who may visit your church for the first time.
Yes, we can spend our time fretting about who will lead this country. But the church is poised to win. Let’s make the most of every opportunity to point people to Jesus.
Ephesians 5:15-16New International Version (NIV)
15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.