Olsen Park Church of Christ

Should the Church be Involved in Politics

Introduction. Since at least the 1980s (in conservative circles) and long before that in more liberal circles many churches in the religious world have begun to take a very active role in political elections and various political causes.

  • In the last Presidential election one popular “mega-church” actually conducted an open forum with some of the candidates being asked questions about their positions and beliefs.
  • The more that the federal government has made decisions that impact religious beliefs and practices we can well understand the desire for the church to take action to influence the direction things are going.

Historically some Christians have take positions that argue that even as individuals the fact that Christians are citizens of heaven means we should avoid any participation with earthly governments—avoiding voting, military service, or serving in any political office. Since World War II, fewer Christians take this view regarding individual involvement with civil government, but what should be the position of churches collectively? Should churches be involved in political action?

Note:  All examples of Christian interaction with civil authorities concern:

1.          Individuals testifying before the authorities. 

2.          Teaching, not political action (i.e. registering to vote, promoting candidates, protests, lobbying, etc.).

I.  The church is the pillar & ground of the truth.  (1 Tim. 3:15).

A. This sets the bounds for its activities in the fact that it defines its purpose.

II.  The work of the church involves "equipping" and "edifying."  (Eph. 4:11-13).

A. To expand into the arena of politics is to either expand beyond authorized works of the church or (by necessity) neglect authorized works of the church.

III.  There are good things with which the church ought not be burdened (1 Tim. 5:16).

A. A problem that has plagued us for generations is the false assumption that if something is a good work for individuals it must naturally be a good work for the church collectively.

B. This is not true! Unless the church is authorized to do something it cannot presume to do it without altering the focus of its work, purpose, and nature.

With that said, a few points must be kept in mind...

IV.  Civil authorities are God’s servants for good (Rom. 13:1-7). 

A. While we must oppose the church turning away from its authorized purpose of teaching the truth, that does not mean that Christian are anti-government or opposed to government.

B. It fulfills a God-ordained purpose.

1. As individuals we can (and should) exert influence in all areas of our lives in a way that promotes good and allows the light of the gospel to shine around us (Matt. 5:14-16).

2. That does not mean that the church should use its facilities as polling places, organize and host demonstrations, or work to promote or defeat particular candidates.

V.  Christians are to submit to laws (1 Pet. 2:13-17).

A. When the church fulfills its task to teach and preach the truth, it lays the moral and ethical groundwork that helps to demonstrate what is right and what is wrong in accordance with the standard of God’s word.

B. Civil government exists to uphold this as well as to protect and defend against those who disregard it.

1. When churches move to involve themselves in political action, they focus on the effect rather than the cause.

2. Unless people are taught God’s law they will never see the reason to make, pass, and enforce human laws that conform to divine will.

VI.  Only God knows the heart of a man.

A. Paul describes God as “He who searches the hearts” (Rom. 8:27).

1. Peter said simply that God “knows the heart” (Acts 15:8).

B. Keeping the church separate from political involvement has a preservative effect as well.

1. If the church was authorized to promote a certain candidate, and then that man or woman did wrong the church would bear shame.

2. When we follow the biblical pattern this danger is avoided—As individuals we may be disappointed by candidates that do wrong whom we once supported, but it does not bring shame upon the Lord’s church.

VII.  The church and political parties are separate institutions, governed by separate authorities. 

A. The Head of the church is Christ (Eph. 1:22-23).

1. Local churches are led by elders and deacons (Phil. 1:1). 

B. Political parties such as the Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Reformed, or any other parties are governed by human ideas, and human leaders, to carry out human goals, objectives and ideals. 

1. Some may be good—but, some may be bad. 

2. Just as the church has no authority to support, maintain, and promote any human institution—it has no authority to collectively support, maintain, and promote political parties and candidates.

3. Just as the church must keep itself pure from the unrepentant Christian whose sinful deeds would negatively “leaven” the church (1 Cor. 5:6)—the church must be wholly separate, pure and spiritual.

Kyle Pope 2015

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