The rule of thumb in the art of not offending people is to avoid two conversations that generally get people’s panties in a bunch: politics and religion. Talk about the weather, sports, or something innocuous and no one is offended. Talk about the democrats, republicans or the Second Coming and tread lightly. As a pastor, it’s kind of hard (read: Impossible) to not talk about religion. Call it an occupational hazard. But politics is an area I try my best to avoid knowing I will get into a fight with half the crowd quicker than I can say “Russian Collusion.” But even more dangerous is to venture into the even murkier merged world of “politics in the church.” This topic virtually assures that church folks will be offended at some point in this little essay. (I apologize in advance).
You could make the argument that politics within the church has been around since Ananias and Sapphira wanted to make a big splash with their donated land scheme. What would you call the election of the deacons in Acts 6 if it was not politics in the church? Surely there was some backroom church politics discussions with the circumcised/not circumcised debate of Acts 15. And Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 1 about those who follow himself or Apollos or Cephas or Christ sounds an awful like a political brouhaha. All of this to say that church politics have been around nearly as long as cheesy potatoes at church potlucks.
Not a News Flash: Politics still exist in the church today. When pastors with a thoroughly unremarkable record get appointed to the role of District Superintendent based on the big wig they know and not on what they have done, politics is at work. When a district “votes” on a lone candidate during an “election,” then you might assume some backroom politics were in play. When a female pastor with a Masters of Divinity can’t get a sniff at an interview with a church, but a first-year home study male pastor does, then you know church political “gerryMANdering” has taken place. When a pastor with a famous last name gets a choice assignment and more qualified candidates get passed over, nepotism is still in style. When people refuse to speak up at injustices within the church for fear it might hurt their career or hurt their chances at the next sweet assignment, church politics is thriving as the shadowy underbelly of the church.
As stated politics within the church have been around for nearly as long as the church has existed, so what is the answer? Here are a few reminders, I’ve told myself:
1) Remember the church isn’t perfect (neither are you). Humility, gentleness and submission to Jesus’ are still the answer to shortcomings within and without of the church.
2) Refuse to become bitter when you see things that might discourage you about the church.
3) Be glad your name is in the Lamb’s Book of Life more than on a church ballot or on a “big wig’s list of candidates.”
4) Walk in the footsteps of Jesus who according to John 1:14 came “full of truth and grace.” Be that way too– truthful and loving. Always.
5) Your work is for the Lord, not anything or anyone else. I have a friend who was snubbed this week by a religious big wig remind me, “I work for Jesus not that guy.” Sometimes I need to remember that too.