Having seen the hesitation in pastor-leaders to respond to the political redefinition of marriage in New York, offered some thoughts as to why that was the case, and explored the urgency of viewing this issue by, and for the sake of, the Gospel. I turn now to some suggested steps forward.
At the outset, I must say that these are exactly as advertised: suggestions. A pastor knows what he must do within his own context. If a pastor is convicted in one way, I ask only that he consider my counsel in the spirit in which it is given.
We, at the Family Policy Council of West Virginia, ask only two things of the pastors who partner with us – whom we hold in the highest regard: (1) continue to preach the Gospel in its entirety and (2) let us know how we may serve you. Theirs is such a high calling. We simply wish to come along beside them in service.
That said, if counsel would be helpful to you as a pastor, or just as a church member, here are some suggestions:
1. Preach the Gospel.
It may seem obvious, even redundant, but it has to be said. Many of the culture-changing, socio-political issues facing us today are here because the church has forgotten (or rejected) the Gospel. Preach it! If you think you’ve said it enough, you haven’t. Teach your followers the Gospel and make sure they know how to apply and articulate it to the world around them. Use current events to apply the Gospel.
Using the issue of marriage as an example, explain how they can see the Gospel. Teach them how this relationship mirrors the relationship between God and his church, his people. Teach what Scripture teaches about the positive, appropriate design for sex, gender, and how each reflects the Creator and our abuse of it merits the wrath of God, exposing our great need for a Redeemer. Preach the Gospel.
2. Get in the public square.
How you do this, I do not know specifically for you, but somehow we need pastor-leaders to take the lead in explaining the Gospel response to the political redefinition of marriage beyond the four-walls of your church.
Why? If our pastor-leaders will not at the least point their flock in the right direction, those in the pews will be much less inclined to obey the Biblical mandate to steward the government entrusted to their care.
Many pastors can make use of social media, blogs, and podcasts. That’s a good start. But, declare what is your territory and look for ways to speak the Gospel within it. Some can speak in public places. Others can speak just to a brother. Perhaps some can write to the newspaper, while others might pick up the phone and call a lawmaker. Whatever it is, pastors, please do so.
Pastors, there is – for the moment – no legal obstacle in place preventing you from speaking directly to politicians, privately, publicly, or in the pulpit or, more importantly, from addressing your parishioners on political issues.
Proclaiming the Gospel throughout society is the very essence of your calling as a pastor. We can easily see how the pastor-leaders who responded to Rob Bell managed to elevate that discussion such that it pervaded the public conscience. Why not do the same with another core Biblical issue?
3. Encourage your followers to submit to government.
I have read a lot of books and heard a lot of sermons of Christians and Politics. All of them demand Christians obey Paul and Peter’s instructions to submit to government. Very, very few explain what it means to “submit.” It does not mean to sit idly and quietly by while the government does what it will do. How many times have I heard that “submit” means that if Paul required the Roman Christians to submit to Nero, then we ought to submit (I.e., acquiesce) to this government.
This is not Nero’s Rome. In this country, we the people are the government. Our elected officials serve us, we do not serve them. To submit to our government means that we actively steward our government. That means we ought to be actively involved in voting for our leaders, encouraging them to vote rightly while in office, and holding them accountable at election season if they do not.
Ask yourself these questions, pastors: Does your flock know what it means to submit to a government of the people, by the people, and for the people? Is your flock truly grateful to God for the liberty of maintaining a free society in which we enjoy the freedom to preach the Gospel?
About Jeremy Dys
Jeremy Dys is the FPCWV's President and General Counsel. In addition to his duties of providing strategic vision and leadership to the FPCWV, Dys is the chief lobbyist and spokesman. Dys is regularly featured in local, state, and national print, radio, and television outlets. He lives close to Charleston with his wife and growing family.