Posts Tagged ‘Free Church’
Every year, the federal government spends well over a trillion dollars more than it takes in. As a result, it has racked up seventeen trillion dollars in debt, most of it in the last decade. In seven years at current rates, the U.S. will need almost a fifth of the GDP from the rest of the world just to finance our national debt.
Just two of our federal entitlements, Medicare and Social Security, have “unfunded future liabilities” of $46.2 trillion. Total liabilities are $86.8 trillion or more. Entitlements and other mandatory spending will burden more and more of the federal budget in the coming years. At today’s burn rate, before long no realistic amount of tax revenue will be able to service the debt and fund the government’s basic functions.
We need not worry about the federal government defaulting, since, unlike U.S. states or private citizens, it can print the money it needs to pay the bills. It can and will do so if we don’t make a course correction fast. Massive monetary expansion will ultimately devalue every dollar in circulation and trigger the sort of hyperinflation that flattens entire societies in short order. That’s bad enough, but when government borrows and spends for our supposed benefit, somebody else will have to foot some or all of the bill. If our faith applies to every aspect of life, then it must have something to say about this moral outrage.
[...] In the twentieth century, more than a hundred million people were murdered by their own governments. And that was just in communist countries. History and scripture agree: because of sin, governments with too much power become propagators of evil and destruction.
This speaks directly to government debt, since deficit spending is a symptom of government doing more than it can or should. The federal government now borrows and spends with such reckless abandon that it is careening toward a global economic catastrophe. If Christians can’t muster the courage to speak out against what Rep. Paul Ryan has called “the most predictable debt crisis in history,” we won’t deserve to be taken seriously after the collapse.
Sadly, many Christians don’t know how to disciple our nation to turn the tide because they’ve never studied God’s design for economics or the Biblical role of government. They can’t teach what they don’t know. The key to real reformation, says R.C. Sproul, Jr., is for Christians to understand and work to implement Biblical economic principles:
Christian author and teacher R.C. Sproul, Jr. told CBN News Anchor Lee Webb that he believes it’s time to return to the basics when it comes to economics.
“When we’re left arguing about whether or not we should have a marginal tax rate of 45 percent or 48 percent, and the conservative is stuck arguing for the 45 percent we’ve had an insufficient reformation in our thinking,” Sproul said.
Sproul believes that reformation will happen only when we return to scripture to see what God has to say about economics. That’s why he produced a video series called “Economics for Everybody.” It’s a compelling, even entertaining approach to a topic many find boring.
[...] Sproul provides historical evidence that nations most influenced by biblical Christianity are nations that, by and large, have prospered. They are nations marked by decentralized governments and free markets.
But nations that reject God are marked by centralized power, tyranny, and no free markets. Unfortunately, he said he has observed some of those troubling trends in America now.
“The United States is not a free market. It’s an interventionist economy that’s been moving closer to socialism for over a century now,” he said. “I am not optimistic about our nation’s future economically.”
“We live in a country in which the state forbids me to hire a man unless I promise to pay him X number of dollars,” Sproul explained. “We now live in a country where I can’t hire 50 men unless I promise to buy them all health insurance, including access to abortion.”
“This is not economic liberty. This is not free markets,” he said. “We’re missing the fact that we’re the frog and the water is boiling.”
That’s why Sproul believes it’s not enough to think conservatively. We must think biblically and train our children biblically.
“It’s my conviction that education is always and everywhere religious,” he said.
“And it’s not a surprise that when 80 percent of evangelical parents have their children in the government’s schools that they’re going to embrace the religion of the government which is the worship of the state,” he said.
Sproul cautioned Christians to avoid despair. One way to do that is by returning to the beginning, to the Creation Mandate and begin to see that our work is part of worship.
If you have never watched the “Economics For Everybody” series, I highly recommend it! We cannot teach what we do not know!
Many Christians vote for politicians who support completely unbiblical economic policies because they have no idea what the Bible has to say about economics. All they know about economics they learned in secular government schools and the talking points put forth by politicians and political activists.
The world is reeling from poverty, drowning in debt, and suffering from other hardships caused by bad economic policies. God’s Word has the answers. Christians are called to disciple the nations to obey everything Christ commanded, INCLUDING in the area of economics, but we can’t teach hurting nations what we haven’t bothered to learn for ourselves.
A week ago, a lot of Americans received a jolt. After the election dust settled, they realized a majority of voters don’t want to lessen the role of government in their lives. If anything, they want to see government expand.
It was (and continues to be) the talk of the airwaves and Internet. As one radio host put it, in light of the election results, what we need is significant economic education. He is right – we do.
It is a pretty grave problem. The truth is that a majority of Americans in both political parties are radically ignorant of basic economics. In numerous ways, most people in the United States have been committed to some form of economic suicide for generations. They just don’t realize the extent of it.
This is one of the main reasons we created Economics for Everybody. The long-term implications of government intervention in the economy are extremely dangerous to all of us, especially to our religious freedoms. More and more people have a sinking feeling about this. But unless they take time to learn the basics of economics, nothing will change.
What is really at stake here?
If a majority of Americans are committed to the expansion of the welfare state, it will lead to increasing poverty for all. A basic economic principle is that whatever you subsidize you get more of.
If a dad offers to give money to his kids to clean up their rooms, he’ll get cleaner rooms. In the same way, if a government offers money to its citizens when they are unemployed, it will get more unemployment. Strange as it may seem, statistics consistently bear this out. And since the government offers money for all sorts of things it shouldn’t be offering money for, it’s no wonder we are where we are. We discuss this at length in ‘Lesson 10 – The Corporate and Welfare States of America.’
Next, if a majority of Americans are committed to government intervention in business through regulation, it will lead to a shrinking business sector. The basic economic principle here is that governments are unable to make accurate economic calculations.
The whole idea behind a planned economy is that central planners know better than producers and consumers what’s good for the economy. But such an idea assumes that a few people not only can comprehend, but actually direct the unique and ever-changing choices of limitless producers and consumers better than they can themselves.
It would be like a few people telling everyone else what they should buy at a grocery store. It’s functionally impossible to know all the discrete needs and desires of that many people, so the only way to attempt it is through general rules that restrict and direct consumption for all. At a business level, such a regulatory approach always ends in more and more businesses not being able to operate profitably and shutting down, ultimately resulting in the slow strangulation of an economy. We explain exactly how it happens in ‘Lesson 8 – The Basics of Government Intervention.’
Finally, if a majority of Americans don’t understand the relationship between economic freedom and religious freedom, they will inevitably lose both. The economic principle is that we are caught in a cosmic battle that has many economic aspects: God wants us to build up a godly civilization with our resources while Satan wants to prevent us from doing so.
In an economy based on Christian principles, there is economic freedom for people to use their land, labor and capital as they see fit. It is a matter of individual stewardship based on God-given ability and property. But in an economy based on atheistic principles, the government is a tool of Satan to control the lives of individuals so that they cannot steward their resources and time for God’s Kingdom. Think of the many socialist and communist economies that persecuted tens of millions of Christians.
The fact that there is a spiritual battle going on that has economic dimensions is lost on most people. But it is the reality of this, as well as the fact of sin in the world, that is so important economically. History reveals this to us over and over again. We explain it in greater detail in ‘Lessons 6 & 7 – A Tale of Two Theologies.’
There is, of course, even more to economics. We try to explore as many basic principles as necessary in the twelve-lesson series. Our belief is that if people go through the entire Economics for Everybody curriculum, they will be in a much better place to understand what happened last Tuesday on Election Day. They will also understand what needs to happen in the future.
Today I’m hearing a lot of Christians say, “oh, well, it’s the end times, Jesus will be coming soon anyway.” One of the serious problems with the modern church’s obsession with the “End Times” and eschatology is that it has often led to a defeatist attitude.
“The world is supposed to get darker before Jesus comes,” some say, therefore coming to the conclusion that when it comes to fighting evil, “resistance is futile”, especially in regards to the onslaught of secularism and immorality in America. The generations of faith who founded our nation would be appalled to hear their posterity embrace such an unbiblical, defeatist philosophy.
What if the WWII generation had taken that attitude while Hitler was trying to take over Europe? Christians in those days had every reason to assume Hitler was the “antichrist”, yet thank God they didn’t use that as an excuse to just retreat to the hillsides and scan the heavens for Christ’s return! If they had, the world we live in today would be a VERY different place.
I’m not equating Obama with Hitler, but the record of history is that men of ambition, with no respect for constraints on their power or people willing to hold them in check, will soon become tyrants, no matter how “good” they think their intentions are.
“We’re supposed to focus on evangelism, not political issues,” is another lie which has sprouted from the “Last Days” madness. What has given us the unbiblical idea that ANY area of life is the exclusive territory of unbelievers, whether it be music, media, education, politics, or anything else? God created all of these things, and they have all been usurped and corrupted by the Enemy. Our job as believers is not to cede territory to the Enemy, but to redeem these areas for God’s glory. And yes, that includes government!
I find it ironic that as Christians, we admire secular people who fight for what they believe in, but have somehow bought the lie that following Jesus means WE shouldn’t. In fact, the very opposite is true.
Jesus didn’t tell us to “evangelize” the nations, he told us to DISCIPLE them, “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” That means TRANSFORMING SOCIETY with God’s Truth, not just leading people in the “sinner’s prayer”. That battle happens on two fronts: in the spiritual, fighting for the hearts and minds of each generation, and in the physical, holding the line for truth, justice, and righteousness.
Joel McDurmon has it right: the idea that Christians must choose between “awareness” and “activism” is a false choice, indeed.
I also saw a lot of Christians quoting Romans 13 today, urging believers to submit to the governing authorities.
While this is true, we must also remember that we are called to give to Caesar what is Caesar, and to God what is God’s. We must discern, as our founders did, where we must submit and where we must declare, “we must obey God rather than men.”
So let’s open our Bibles and learn the difference.
For too long, Christians have become accustomed to the church muzzling itself on any moral issue usurped by government for fear of losing IRS tax exempt status. But the truth is, Christ has called us to be salt and light, not tax exempt. To refuse to stand for righteousness in the realm of government is to be silent in the face of evil, and God WILL hold us accountable for our apathy and disobedience.
Now, hundred of Godly pastors and leaders across the country are taking a stand. It’s not that the church is “getting political,” it’s that the political realm has been invading the spiritual for far too long, and it’s time to speak up.
In this sobering message, Calvary Chapel’s Dr. Wayne Grudem presents the issues of this election from a Biblical worldview, and encourages Christian voters to examine where the candidates stand on issues that the Bible is very clear about (skip the intro to 6:00 on the counter):
Somebody find me a scripture that says that you’re supposed to stand up for Biblical principals and righteousness in every area EXCEPT politics.
The Bible doesn’t condemn people for being “too political.” It condemns them for being lukewarm (Rev 3:16) and salt that has lost its saltiness (Matt 5:13). Neutrality against evil is not a virtue.
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has responded to rising criticism from people accusing the Rev. Billy Graham of becoming too political by praising GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
“Throughout his public ministry spanning more than six decades, Mr. Graham has been careful to remain non-partisan, but has been a consistent advocate for a biblical worldview and taken a strong stand for biblical values with respect to political issues,” Larry Ross, spokesperson for Billy Graham, said in an email with The Christian Post.
“During this time, a number of political leaders and candidates have stopped by to visit Mr. Graham in his home as their travels would bring them to the region, including President Obama in April 2010 and Sen. John McCain while the presumptive Republican presidential nominee prior to the 2008 campaign,” Ross noted.
Romney visited the Graham and his son, Franklin Graham, at their home in North Carolina earlier this month. The popular preacher praised the Mormon politician for his “values and strong moral convictions.” The BGEA website has also published several articles urging Americans to vote based on issues such as the traditional definition of marriage and the sanctity of life, and released an ad featuring a direct statement by Graham. Unlike President Obama, Romney is in favor of the preserving marriage between one man and one woman, and wants abortion in most cases banned.
Furthermore, an article which calls Mormonism a “cult” was removed from the BGEA website following the Republican’s visit.
This caused a number of critics, both from the conservative and liberal sides, to announce their disappointment with the Graham’s apparent support of Romney. Evangelist Bill Keller, who is warning against Christians voting for Romney because he fears it will allow the Mormon “cult” to grow, said that it was a “sad moment” when Graham decided to give his support to the GOP candidate.
[...] In his statement to CP, however, Ross said that “the biblical values ads sponsored by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) that ran the following week are also consistent with both the mission of the ministry and Billy Graham’s personal methodology throughout his public ministry to diligently and consistently remain politically neutral and non-partisan.”
He added that “against the backdrop of moral decline and a cultural shift in our nation that reflects timely issues, Mr. Graham’s quotation in the ad is an extension of his faithful preaching of a timeless message and strong stand on biblical values for more than six decades.”
I hope more and more Christians are finally beginning to understand this.
The upcoming national elections will be a test of the true mettle of the church in the United States. If the nation loses her greatness, we will have no one to blame but ourselves.
There is a remnant who are standing guard, but the question we must ask ourselves is will it be too little, too late to save the church from going through a dark time of increased persecution?
In moments of private anguish, I have wept, as have many others, over both the state of the nations and the apathy of the church. This has been deepened by conversations with Christian leaders who expressed that, demographically, we could vote in any one we wanted to if the church would just go to the polls and vote our convictions.
Unfortunately, only 50 percent of the church is registered to vote, but an even smaller percentage of those registered ever actually go to the polls. When we asked friends in the know why they don’t register, the sad reason is that they do not want to serve on jury duty.
Historically, while we fought for our independence, only one-third of the people were patriots, one-third were loyalists, and one-third didn’t care. This is the remnant principle. The key is to get enough people to engage that we reach a righteous tipping point.
Our nation would not exist if not for men and women of faith who fought against a tyrannical king whom they believed had violated God’s laws, and established a new constitutional government whose powers were restricted to only those which they believed to be Biblical. They did not want a government which operated outside of its scriptural boundaries, usurping the roles of the family, the individual, the church, or even God Himself in people’s lives.
Their political involvement was shaped by their faith, and their understanding of the Bible demanded it. They knew God would hold them accountable if they stood idly by, doing nothing while the innocent suffered under ungodly oppression.
Today’s Christians are told a very different story. Once an area of life has been politicized by our government (marriage, unborn life, charity, education, health care, etc.), many Christians believe that the church should not “be political” by speaking God’s truth into that issue anymore. That we should remain “neutral” or stay “above the fray.”
Funny thing is, you can call Jesus many things, but certainly not “neutral.” When it came to injustice and unrighteousness, Jesus was VERY clear, and He didn’t pull punches. He wasn’t afraid to offend people with the truth. He wasn’t afraid to take sides against the oppressors and stand up for the oppressed. HIS is the example we should be following.
Dr. Alex McFarland helps to cut through some of the lies that Christians have bought about our civic involvement:
Since our government permits registration of voters and the right to cast a ballot, I believe that Christians have an obligation to vote. Ignoring the privilege (and duty) to vote is, I believe, to be less than faithful in the handling of our Christian responsibilities. The precedent of choosing godly, representative leaders goes all the way back to the Old Testament: God told Israel to, “Choose for your tribes wise, understanding, and experienced men, and I will appoint them as your heads” (Deuteronomy 1:13).
It is estimated that over 170 million Americans profess to be Christians.1 However, it is likely that only about one half of these professed believers were registered to vote (or voted) during the 2008 elections.2As I travel and speak, I hear various explanations about why Christians do not have a responsibility to vote, or ought not be involved in politics at all. Many a sincere person has gently reprimanded me, a minister, for speaking about political issues! Allow me to respond to six common questions that I hear regarding Christian citizenship and voting:
1. Why should all Christians eligible to vote make the effort to do it?
Politicians― whom we elect― legislate and enforce laws. If we elect “non-God-fearing” politicians whose legislation violates God’s moral laws, people will suffer. Those who suffer will be the poor, the widow, and orphans— all of whom God has commanded that His people care for. Ungodly laws have undermined marriage, weakened society by de-valuing the family, enslaved people (literally and figuratively), and have brought persecution upon pastors and missionaries.
In America, churches are being sued and are having to spending millions to defend their right to preach all parts of the Gospel, not just the “politically correct” parts. Christians are now in danger of being silenced because Biblical truth is deemed by some to be “hate speech”. Are these things that we should care about?
It is a Christian’s duty to ensure Godly men and women are elected and are able to make Godly laws that bring liberty to all mankind. As persecution of the church increases, ability to fund and carry out the Gospel mission decreases. Politics has implications for the proclamation of the message of Jesus.
2. Aren’t Christians supposed to keep their faith and politics separate?
Since politics has to do with laws and since all laws are based on morals, Christians can no more keep their faith and their politics separate than they can keep their faith and their morality separate. One’s view of mankind and God will determine your view of government
If you think man is essentially good, you will not see the need for the separation of powers that our Constitution insists on.
As a Christian you may prefer not to think about or discuss politics. But I believe that the Biblical injunctions to be salt and light and to care for others (see: Isaiah 1:17; Matthew 5:13-16; James 1:27) mandate that God’s people utilize every legitimate means to act on behalf of that which is good. Unavoidably, this will involve the church in politics. And this is not necessarily a bad thing.
3. The Bible doesn’t say anything about voting, does it?
You cannot take the Bible’s silence as a sign that we should abstain from voting. Otherwise we’d end up with silly things like having to abstain from using a computer. Yet the Bible does say something about loving your neighbors. It’s only because of Christians voting and being involved in American politics that we have laws against things like child abuse, slavery, racism, animal abuse, and prostitution, to name but a few. Activist Christians fought against illiteracy and helped launch America’s educational systems. Ditto for America’s first hospitals and first disaster-relief programs.
How heartless can we be to not do something about evils like those listed above, when by simply voting and getting involved in politics we can move America towards becoming a more godly and loving nation?
4. Didn’t America’s founders wanted church and state to be separate?
If that were true, why would the Declaration of Independence start by referring to the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God, and then base our rights on a Creator? America’s founders wanted the Church protected from the Government, and not vice versa. They didn’t want any single denomination in control, but they did recognize that a nation’s objective moral laws can only come from God.3
Charles Carroll, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, said: “Without morals a republic cannot subsist any length of time; they therefore who are decrying the Christian religion are undermining the solid foundation of morals, the best security for the duration of free governments.” Noah Webster (1758-1843), an influential patriot, educator, and political thinker, told the people of his generation: “Let it be impressed on your mind that God commands you to choose for rulers, just men who will rule in the fear of God.”
Pastor Jim Garlow on Religious Freedom
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Across the country this morning, pastors are challenging government censorship of America’s pulpits. Is your pastor one of them?
Over 1,200 pastors from across the country have signed up to challenge IRS regulations that threaten churches with the loss of their tax-exempt status if they wade into politics by participating in Pulpit Freedom Sunday this Sunday, October 7. The event, associated with the Pulpit Initiative, is being held by the Alliance Defending Freedom.
Despite IRS regulations forbidding 501c3 organizations from endorsing political candidates, pastors participating in the event are encouraged to give biblical perspectives on topics relating to the election such as abortion and gay “marriage” from the pulpit, and then to mail these sermons to the IRS.
Pastors will be represented from all 50 states, including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Thirty-three pastors participated in the first Pulpit Freedom Sunday in 2008 and since then the numbers have skyrocketed.
Pastors of America are “not instructing people about how the bible applies to the national life of the voting electorate,” says Pastor Jim Garlow in a video about Pulpit Freedom Sunday featured at iPledgeSunday, an event held last month by the Family Research Council in Charlotte, North Carolina. Garlow, who has been involved in the event since its inception, is the pastor of Skyline Church in San Diego, California.
Garlow notes that 40 years ago, everyone would have agreed that abortion is wrong and kills a baby inside the womb. Ten years ago, no one would have argued that marriage is anything but between one man and one woman. But now, says Garlow, when pastors speak out on these issues, their congregations say, “Pastor, you’re being too political.”
Jim Garlow writes at Ministry Today that pastors should “Preach It!” without worrying about being “too political” in the pulpit:
Some parishioners have heard sufficiently diluted preaching for so long that they don’t recognize truly biblical preaching. Therein lies the problem.
After all, isn’t the Bible quite clear? “Go into all the world—except the political realm,” according to some people’s Bibles? How has that type of preaching worked out for us? Is anyone’s community more righteous today than 20 or 40 years ago? Not one.
For 57 years, people have believed a cultural myth that “pastors cannot speak out about politics.” Such is the nature of the 1954 Johnson Amendment, which suddenly stripped way from American pulpits what they had enjoyed for more than 160 years—no governmental intrusion in the pulpit. Not only is this “pastors-can’t-talk-about-politics” myth unconstitutional—check out the First Amendment—but it flies in the face of biblical authority.
What about Daniel, Jeremiah, Queen Esther, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Amos, Obadiah and Nahum? They all failed to get the memo about not speaking out about politics. American pastors are not the first to have “speech restrictions” placed on them. Peter and John dealt with this at the Sanhedrin council, which attempted—unsuccessfully—to dictate what they could preach.
Was John Wesley “too political” for being a cheerleader to William Wilberforce in his crusade to end slavery in the British Empire? Were Orange Scott and Luther Lee too political when they campaigned against American slavery?
Was the congregation of the Wesleyan Chapel of Seneca Falls, N.Y., in 1848 too political when they hosted the first ever conference to obtain the right for women to vote? Was World War II era German pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer too political in his biblical preaching? Why do we celebrate the life of Martin Luther King Jr.? Because he did not tone down his biblical preaching simply because it had implications for the body of politics.
We fully understand, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Matt. 22:21). But what happens if Caesar begins demanding that which is God’s?
Can you see how the demarcation has slid? If I would have said 40 years ago that tearing up a baby in a womb was wrong, everyone would have said, “Of course.” Say it today, and you are too political. What has happened? Caesar demanded that which is God’s. Tragically, some pastors have retreated as the line was moved.
Robby George, the Catholic professor at Princeton, and Timothy George, dean of the Beeson Divinity School of Samford University—under the direction of Prison Fellowship founder Chuck Colson—said it best in writing the final words of the Manhattan Declaration: “We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar’s. But under no circumstances will we render to Caesar what is God’s.”
So how will Pulpit Freedom Sunday help to restore religious liberty, as well as Biblical teaching on EVERY area of life? By forcing the IRS to take a pastor to court (citizens cannot challenge a law in court until it has been used against them in some manner).
The defiant move, they hope, will prompt the IRS to enforce a 1954 tax code amendment that prohibits tax-exempt organizations, such as churches, from making political endorsements. Alliance Defending Freedom, which is holding the October summit, said it wants the IRS to press the matter so it can be decided in court. The group believes the law violates the First Amendment by “muzzling” preachers.
“The purpose is to make sure that the pastor — and not the IRS — decides what is said from the pulpit,” Erik Stanley, senior legal counsel for the group, told FoxNews.com. “It is a head-on constitutional challenge.”
Stanley said pastors attending the Oct. 7 “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” will “preach sermons that will talk about the candidates running for office” and then “make a specific recommendation.” The sermons will be recorded and sent to the IRS.
“We’re hoping the IRS will respond by doing what they have threatened,” he said. “We have to wait for it to be applied to a particular church or pastor so that we can challenge it in court. We don’t think it’s going to take long for a judge to strike this down as unconstitutional.”
An amendment was made to the IRS tax code in 1954, stating that tax-exempt organizations are “absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.”
“Violation of this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise tax,” the IRS says in its online guide for churches and religious organizations seeking tax exemption.
Stanley and others, like San Diego pastor Jim Garlow, say the IRS regularly threatens churches that they will lose their tax-exempt status if they preach politics. But Stanley and Garlow claim the government never acts on the threat because it wants to avoid a court battle.
“It is blatantly unconstitutional,” said Stanley. “They just prefer to put out these vague statements and regulations and enforce it through a system of intimidation … Pastors are afraid to address anything political from the pulpit.”
“The IRS will send out notices from time to time and say you crossed the line,” added Garlow, a senior pastor of Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego. “But when it’s time to go to court, they close the case.”
What does it mean to be a Pastor in America today?
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Jim Garlow at Alliance Defending Freedom explains why churches have become so impotent when it comes to shaping the culture around us:
We find ourselves in a new era. For years, we were urged to be “seeker-sensitive,” and rightly so (who would want to be “seeker-insensitive?”) But we’ve taken that paradigm in an unintended direction, and it’s revealed a glaring weakness in our understanding of what it is to be a pastor.
It goes like this: Pastors, by nature, are people who love and care about other people. That’s a good thing — unless we mistake that love for people as meaning that we are also to be loved by all people. That desire to be liked can reduce the boldness that’s demanded from the pulpit.
“It’s not that complex,” a man told me, as we discussed how so many Christian institutions have become compromised by the culture. “It happens as soon as the desire for the respectability of humans outweighs the hunger to please God.” That said, I have to ask: How has our preaching worked out for us over the last 40 years? Are our communities more righteous? Or less so?
Fifty years ago, people understood that killing a baby in the womb is wrong. Preach that today, and you’re being “too political.” Say that homosexual behavior is unacceptable, or that marriage means one man and one woman: again, you’re too political. What has happened?
A friend of mine lost a lot of weight and became very athletic, a runner. People started worrying, saying, “You’re way too thin.” She finally told them, “You’ve never seen me healthy.” Well, when people tell me, “You’re too political,” my response is, “You’ve never seen biblical.”
As pastors, are we such clear disseminators of truth that we pose a threat to those who would try to oppress freedom, truth, and righteousness in our culture? For so many years, we’ve failed to provide biblical preaching in America. Now, when our people hear biblical preaching, they don’t recognize it as being biblical. They think it’s somehow “political.”
Time to start boldly proclaiming the Truth as it relates to ALL areas of life – even the ares that our government has politicized.
For those Christians who believe that following Jesus means being salt and light in every area EXCEPT politics…
It’s that time again — the time when the younger evangelical generation surveys our damaged nation, observes the terrible reputation of leading evangelical “culture warriors” in the pop culture and with their peers, and says, “You guys blew it. It’s time for a new approach, for a post-partisan approach. We’re not in anyone’s political pocket. We’re not focused on politics at all.” You look at books like Jonathan Merritt’s A Faith of Our Own: Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars and think, “Finally someone is speaking to us. We’re about Jesus — not about Republicans, not Democrats, just Jesus.” Young, post-partisan evangelicals, this letter is for you.
Dear fed-up idealists,
I used to be you. I know that’s hard to believe. After all, I’m pretty darn partisan. I’m a religious liberties lawyer, a pro-life activist, the founder of Evangelicals for Mitt, and the most recent winner of the American Conservative Union’s Ronald Reagan Award. I serve my country in uniform in the Army Reserves and am a veteran of the Iraq War. In other words, for a lot of you out there, I’m less role model than cautionary tale. I’m the guy you’re trying not to be — the guy you think is destroying our Christian witness. Heck, I’m the guy that even I used to hate.
How did this happen? Why did this happen? The short answer is that it happened because life happened — real life. So let’s take a trip back through time.
Step 1: Despising my elders. We called ourselves “Solomon’s Colonnade” after the temple area where Jesus delivered one of his many stinging rebukes to the religious leaders of the day. There were only a few of us, friends from college, but we were determined to upend the silly, partisan hypocrisy of the religious right. I blame Bono, really. I attended a U2 concert during the 1987 “Joshua Tree” tour, and was enthralled as Bono (a real rock star!) not spoke openly about his love for Jesus, he wound up his rousing mini-sermon with a passionate condemnation of the televangelists who were then dominating public religious life. His words were both shocking and exhilarating: “Here’s my message to the televangelists: get the f**k off my TV screen!”
Well, that generation of televangelists did eventually “get the f**k off” the TV screen — doomed by their own insatiable appetites — but that wasn’t enough for me. Simply put, I was convinced we hadn’t been doing church right, and my friends in Solomon’s Colonnade were going to do what we could to reboot the whole thing. We spent hours talking late into the night, discussing everything from ideal church governance to the right way to engage politics and the culture. We didn’t reach any consensus other than the consensus that we could do it better — whatever “it” was. And we had to do better.
I graduated from college, Solomon’s Colonnade faded into oblivion, but my goals didn’t change. Oh, I was philosophically conservative — a biblical literalist, an admirer of Edmund Burke, and very deeply pro-life — but I was convinced that the core, life-affirming values of my faith were being wasted and squandered by partisans and charlatans. Shortly after law school, while reflecting on the latest media-reported “outrage” from Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson or James Dobson, I remember emailing my friends something like this: “There has to be a revolution in American Christianity. The old guard has to go, and we have to put Jesus at the center of all we do. I don’t have to lead the revolution, but at least let me drive the tank.” How those words would come to haunt my conscience . . .
Step 2: Encountering life. I was living my dream. Sure, I was still pro-life (I co-founded Harvard Law School’s only pro-life student group), but you couldn’t categorize me! I had also written a then widely-read op-ed arguing that gay marriage was “inevitable” and that the state had forfeited any legal grounds for denying gay couples the “right” to marry. No labels for me! Shortly after publishing that op-ed, I found myself not only leading a nonpartisan free speech organization but also being profiled in a progressive Christian magazine (sadly defunct or I’d link the article) as an example of nonpartisan Christian leadership. My friends in Solomon’s Colonnade would have been so proud.
But I soon realized that my nonpartisanship had a steep price. I could be pro-life, but not too pro-life. You see, if you’re too pro-life; if you talk about too much, then you can’t be post-partisan. One political party is completely dedicated to legal protection of abortion on demand. The other political party is completely dedicated to repealing Roe v. Wade. If you talk too much about abortion, others will define you, and if you’re defined how can you be independent?
“No problem,” my hip inner voice said. Pro-life is really whole life. Anti-poverty programs, environmental advocacy — that’s all ‘pro-life’ in the broad sense, right? Can’t I be pro-life and maintain my independence?” But my rational inner voice quickly rebelled. If I’m “whole life” without talking about unborn children then I’m functionally pro-abortion, but if I’m “whole life” and bring unborn children into that conversation in any meaningful way, then I’m right back where I started. Besides, the effect on life of driving a Prius over a pickup truck can’t be measured with a (metaphorical) electron microscope. But if an abortion clinic shuts down or a young mom is persuaded not to abort, a real live human being is born — a person of incalculable worth. Yes, I want them to grow and flourish in a just society, and yes I want them to have economic opportunity. But it’s tough to enjoy justice and opportunity when you’re dead.
So I was pro-life. Firmly. Actively.
I clung, however, to my marriage position — with even greater ferocity. But my rational voice rebelled once again against my hip inner voice. Didn’t no-fault divorce fly directly in the face of biblical marriage? Weren’t legal regimes that were focused entirely around adult self-actualization having measurable and devastating effects on our culture? Why then would we continue down the path of marriage as a legally recognized means of adult self-actualization rather than marriage as a legally-protected institution of cultural preservation?
Then, as a lawyer, I saw the catastrophic effects that normalization of same-sex relationships was having on religious liberty. And I realized I was wrong.
As I decisively entered the “culture war” I discovered something shocking: there aren’t that many of us. (What’s that? Are you telling me that Christians aren’t obsessed with gays and abortion? That’s what all the polls say!) As I traveled around the country and spoke at churches, Tea Party rallies, and conferences, I realized that the number of Christians who truly fight the culture war is quite small. How small? In 2011, I researched the budgets of the leading culture war organizations and compared them to the leading Christian anti-poverty organizations. Here’s what I found:
How do those numbers stack up with leading Christian anti-poverty charities? Let’s look at just three: World Vision, Compassion International, and Samaritan’s Purse. Their total annual gross receipts (again, according to most recently available Form 990s) exceed $2.1 billion. The smallest of the three organizations (Samaritan’s Purse) has larger gross receipts than every major “pro-family” culture war organization in the United States combined. World Vision, the largest, not only takes in more than $1 billion per year, it also has more than 1,400 employees and 43,000 volunteers.
In other words, Christians are overwhelmingly focused with their money and their time on the poor, not on culture war issues. Then why are Christians portrayed differently? Because the media is obsessed with the sexual revolution and demonizes dissent. If news outlets focus on Christians only when engaged on culture war issues and ignores the much more extensive work we do for the poor in Africa, in Asia, and at home, then it’s no wonder the wider world sees us as politically-obsessed. Anyone who believes that Christians are in control of their own public image does not understand how public perceptions are created in this country. No one is in total control of their own image and reputation. Not even the President — and shame on me for not realizing that in my days of naive rage.
Make sure your church and religious leaders know their rights in the face of intimidation and IRS threats.
This is a critical election year. Some have said it may be the most important election in our lifetime. With so much at stake, how great it would be to hear from more pastors and priests, during these times when the government encroaches on more of our freedoms.
Some fear that to preach on the moral issues of the day, like abortion or marriage, might be construed as “preaching on politics.” But they are moral issues addressed in the Bible. But I recognize that elements of our culture may have turned them into political ones.
I think part of the reason many pastors and priests are unwilling to speak out on “politics” (so-called) is because they fear the loss of their tax-exempt status.
I believe that the perceived threat is far more insidious than the actual threat. The dog’s bark is much more prominent than the dog’s bite.
I also believe there are some who stoke this fear. For example, Rev. Barry Lynn (a liberal minister) of Americans United for Separation of Church and State sends out letters like clockwork during election years, warning pastors to not say anything too political or he’ll be sure to tell the IRS on them.
For example, during the last president election, Barry Lynn sent out a letter with the headline: “Election Season 2008.” He stated, “Dear Religious Leader….The First Amendment protects the right of all Americans, religious leaders included, to speak out on religious, moral and political issues.” So far so good.
He goes on more ominously: “However, houses of worship…are barred from endorsing or opposing candidates for public office and may not intervene directly or indirectly in partisan campaigns. Any activity designed to influence the outcome of a partisan election can be construed as intervention. If the IRS determines that your house of worship has engaged in unlawful intervention, it can revoke the institution’s tax-exempt status or levy significant fines on the hour of worship or its leaders.”
I asked Mat Staver about this letter. He heads Jerry Falwell’s law school and also Liberty Counsel, his own organization fighting for religious liberty. He responded: “I think Barry Lynn’s letter is bogus. It’s basically full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
Really? Staver continued, “Look at Barry Lynn — how many of these cases has he ever won? Zero. How many churches have ever lost their tax-exempt status since this was put into the IRS code in 1954? Zero. And in fact, if you have that kind of a track record, I don’t think his advice is that strong.”
Staver also clarified: “Churches can’t corporately endorse — say that First Baptist or First Presbyterian Church supports so and so for President or opposes so and so for President. But what churches can do is they can educate, they can give out voter guides that are objective that indicate what the position the candidates [have].” Churches may certainly proclaim what the Scriptures teach on the issues of our day.
Even still, a pastor can endorse a candidate — when speaking only for himself, using this formula: “Rev. Joe Smith. First Church East. (For identification purposes only).” Many pastors I know wouldn’t feel comfortable making such an endorsement in the first place. But legally they are free as citizens to do so.
The two hard-and-fast IRS rules are: A church cannot endorse a candidate, and they can’t give money to a candidate. That’s it.
I spoke recently with Dr. Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of the huge First Baptist Church of Dallas, author of Twilight’s Last Gleaming. He said he often receives letters like the one cited above from Barry Lynn. He views them as a badge of honor.
Dr. Jeffress told me, “Barry Lynn has been after me for years, threatening our tax-exempt status as a church. Look, what Barry won’t tell you is there is never any church in history that has ever lost its tax-exempt status. There has never been a church that’s even been fined by the IRS for anything that the pastor has said in the pulpit.”
The headlines are ominous. Our nation’s financial situation is precarious. Unsustainable deficits, moutains of debt, looming inflation, the possible collapse of our currency. As one after another of our trusted financial institutions shows its weakeness, the façade of security is being stripped away.
What is going on here?
Could it be that God is tearing down one of the principle idols of our modern society?
“The LORD disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.” ~ Hebrews 12:6
Prosperity is the allure for many forms of idolatry. The golden calf of the Egyptians that the Israelites made in the desert was a god of fertility and harvest. Rather than trust that God would not allow His people to starve in the desert, Israel quickly turned to a false god that promised provision.
After correcting His people, God miraculously demonstrated His provision by providing manna from heaven for forty years. (Exodus 16:35)
Throughout Israel’s history, the people were repeatedly seduced by Ba’al, the Canaanite cult of fertility and harvest. The Canaanite tribes believed he was the god who controlled rain and fertility, and engaged in horrific human sacrifices in attempts to appease Ba’al and conjure up rain. Without irrigation technology, the entire Mesopotamian region was completely dependent on the seasonal rains. One year could bring plenty, and the next could bring famine. It was absolutely essential that the rains come on time, that the crops flourish, and that many children be born to keep their numbers strong in the face of so much uncertainty. We can see why the idea of a fertility/rain god one could manipulate was so tempting.
In the reign of Ahab, Israel that had been largely seduced by this dangerous cult (1 Kings 18). God withheld the rains to help Israel understand that Ba’al was powerless and the cruel worship of this false god was useless. After 3 years, God knew He had to send the rain soon, or the whole nation would die of famine. He also knew that the people would have given Ba’al credit for the rain and become even more entrenched in the cult, so He arranged the show-down on Mt. Carmel between Elijah and the 450 prophets of Ba’al. After the people repented of their idolatry, God mercifully sent the rain.
Today, we worship another Ba’al called the State. We grant it power over our lives that belongs only to God, enslaving ourselves in exchange for the promise of guaranteed security and having all our needs provided for. We try to regulate, tax, inflate, and redistribute our way to prosperity through the Ba’al of a command economy, instead of following Biblical principles.
Our founding fathers recognized the Lord as Creator and commonly referred to Him as ”Providence” – the source of all provision. They founded this nation on the principle that God, not the state, was our provider. They knew from the tragic history of the Roman Empire what would inevitably happen if our country’s citizens began to look to the state for provision. They specifically limited the powers of the federal government in our Constitution in order to prevent the state from going outside its scriptural boundaries.
But things have changed. An ever-growing number of Americans no longer value personal responsibility and trust in God as our provider. We demand that the state provide food stamps, HUD housing, Medicare, Social Security, disability benefits. We like the security of “guaranteed” unemployment benefits and welfare checks. We have invited the state to take over the role of Providence in our lives.
The truth is, there is no such thing as a “guarantee” from this idol called the State. It’s an illusion. Our nation is on the verge of bankruptcy. Sooner or later, the creditors will come to call. History teaches us that governments are easily overthrown, conquered, or collapsed.
“For because you have trusted in your works and your treasures, you also shall be taken.” ~ Jeremiah 48:7
Our security is supposed to be in God, not the State. He is our strong tower, our refuge. (Psalm 59:9)
“Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” ~ Romans 10:11
Milton Friedman once observed that “underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself.” In order to control an economy, one must first control the individual actions of people whom God has granted free will.
God has made man in His image (Genesis 1:27). He has instilled in us both a free will, and the capacity to create through our labors. Each of us is designed to use our giftings and hone our skills to the glory of God. As we learn to create goods and services of value, we enter into voluntary exchanges with others around us, to the benefit of all. These voluntary exchanges develop into markets and larger economies.
At the root of all our attempts to control and manipulate the economy through central planning is the desire to control that which only God can control. Our misplaced reliance on man’s wisdom and government intervention is a manifestation of our lack of trust in God as our provider, the One who is truly in control.
Again and again in scripture, God uses miracles to demostrate where our provision truly comes from:
Jesus turned water into wine (John 2:1-11), and fed the 5000 with the small offering of bread and fish from young boy. (John 16:10)
During a long famine, God rewarded a poor widow for sharing what little she had with the prophet Elisha by miraculously multiplying her store of flour and oil so that they never ran out. (1 Kings 17:7-15)
For 40 years, the Lord provided “bread from heaven,” called manna, for the Israelites in the desert. (John 6:31)
In the Lord’s prayer, Jesus reminded us to turn to God for our provision: “Give us each day our daily bread.” ~ Luke 11:3
In truth, our prosperity is in God’s hands, not the state. It cannot be forced or manufactured. It requires complete trust in Jehovah Jirah, our provider, and respect for the free will and creative capacity He has given each individual.
“Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy.” ~ 1 Timothy 6:17
“But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” ~ Jeremiah 17:7-8
America is currently in the cross-hairs of a dangerous, subversive, Marxist revolution. The streets are seething with protesters demanding the demolition of capitalism, the equitable redistribution of wealth and the establishment of a socialist state.
Why is the church silent?
Young people, having spent the past 12 years in a government-controlled education system that left them ignorant of history and economics, indoctrinated with class envy and devoid of a moral compass, are naturally turning their disillusionment with the stagnant economy towards “the rich” they have been taught are to blame for all the world’s injustices. They don’t know how (or where) to constructively direct their frustrations.
Why is the church silent?
Leftist churches who subscribe to the Liberation Theology heresy teach their followers that the key to bringing God’s kingdom “on earth as it is in heaven” is to establish an earthly socialist utopia.
Why is the church silent?
Many Christians have no idea how to answer the most basic questions about Biblical economics:
- What does the Bible say about private property?
- Is redistribution scriptural?
- Should Christians support the Welfare State?
- When scripture talks about justice for the poor, is it referring to “economic equality” or “equality before the law”?
- Is it Biblical for banks to charge interest?
- How about for governments to devalue currency (create inflation)?
- What is the Biblical role of government in people’s lives?
- The Bible tells us to pay taxes, but does that apply only for the legitimate duties of government, or also for all the unscriptural/unconstitutional things it wants to do?
- Does Romans 13 mean we have to submit to EVERYTHING the government demands, even in areas outside of its scriptural jurisdiction?
- What is a Biblical response to a government that has gone outside its scriptural boundaries?
Our nation is desperately looking for answers – answers that can be found in God’s Word. The church must be ready and equipped to provide them, or this generation will have nowhere else but the world – and in this case, Marxist radicals – to turn for answers.
If your church is not prepared to meet this need, these resources are a good place to start:
Some time ago, I asked the question, “Do 84% of Pastors believe the Pulpit Initiative is a bad idea?” The question was in response to a survey conducted of 1,000 protestant pastors by Lifeway Research that asked the pastors whether they agreed with the statement, ”I believe pastors should endorse candidates for public office from the pulpit.” The survey reported that 84% of the surveyed pastors disagreed that a pastor should endorse political candidates from the pulpit. Some bloggers picked up the results and trumpeted them, arguing that they proved that the Pulpit Initiative was wrong and that ADF should just give up and agree that it was on the wrong side of public opinion.
I responded to the research (and the critics of the Pulpit Initiative) by stating that Lifeway had asked the wrong question. The Pulpit Initiative was never intended to answer the question whether a pastor should or should not endorse political candidates from the pulpit. Rather, it was intended to answer the question of who should make that decision for churches. Should the government make that decision for churches or should churches make that decision for themselves depending on their own church doctrine and beliefs?
I am happy to report that Lifeway Research conducted another poll of 1,000 pastors and asked the right question. They asked the pastors whether they agreed with the statement that “The government should regulate sermons by revoking a church’s tax exemption if its pastor approves of or criticizes candidates based on the church’s moral beliefs or theology.” 86% of pastors disagreed with the statement. That is almost 9 out of 10 pastors who disagreed with the idea that government should be allowed to regulate the content of a pastor’s sermon. That’s good news.
In the end, the constitutional liberties of pastors and churches are not subject to polls and popular debate. But the poll results are interesting and demonstrate that pastors “get it.” They understand that it is not the job of the government to review the content of a pastor’s sermon to determine whether it violates some restriction and is worthy of punishment. The very idea that some government official can determine whether to mete out punishment to a church based solely on what a pastor says from the pulpit is repugnant and offensive to these pastors.
And, in the end, that is the only question Pulpit Freedom Sunday is intended to answer. The goal of Pulpit Freedom Sunday is intended to stop the government from acting as the “orthodoxy police.” As the Supreme Court stated way back in 1943, “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in … religion.”
Pastor, if you have not already signed up to participate in Pulpit Freedom Sunday, please sign up today. Become part of the solution and stand with hundreds of other pastors across the country who are reclaiming their ability to speak freely from the pulpit without fearing government censorship or control.
Speak Up Movement is encouraging pastors all over America to break free from government censorship this October 2nd:
The Pulpit Initiative is designed to allow pastors to speak freely from their pulpits without fear of censorship or control by the IRS. The Johnson Amendment was passed by Congress in 1954 as an amendment to section 501(c)(3) of the federal tax code. The Johnson Amendment states that entities who are exempt from federal income tax cannot:
Participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of – or in opposition to – any candidate for public office.
Since its passage in 1954, the Johnson Amendment has been applied to prohibit what a pastor says from the pulpit concerning candidates who are running for elective office. This means that under current IRS regulations, a pastor cannot say anything from the pulpit that may constitute support for – or opposition to – a political candidate.
It has not always been this way. For almost the first 200 years of America’s history, pastors frequently spoke out with great boldness about the great moral and social issues of the dayand about the candidates running for office.
Yet today, the voice of the Church has been silenced by the Johnson Amendment – an unjust and unconstitutional law. Pastors and churches fear loss of tax exemption, and accordingly censor themselves from discussing any “political” issue.
In response to more than 50 years of threats and intimidation by activist groups wielding the Johnson Amendment as a sword against the Church, ADF began the Pulpit Initiative in 2008. The goal of the Pulpit Initiative is simple: have the Johnson Amendment declared unconstitutional – and once and for all remove the ability of the IRS to censor what a pastor says from the pulpit.
ADF is actively seeking to represent churches or pastors who are under investigation by the IRS for violating the Johnson Amendment by preaching biblical Truth in a way that expresses support for – or opposition to – political candidates. ADF represents all of its clients free of charge.
The Pulpit Initiative is not about turning churches into political machines; it is about restoring the right of pastors to speak freely from their pulpits about all matters included in Scripture – even when Scripture is deeply relevant to a pending election or the quality of a candidate for office.
In 2008, 33 pastors from 22 different states participated in Pulpit Freedom Sunday. The participating pastors preached sermons that compared the positions held by candidates with what Scripture says about those issues. The pastors then made specific recommendations about those candidates (including recommendations about whether the congregation should vote for or against them). Finally, the pastors brought their sermons to the attention of the IRS in the hopes that an audit of their churches would spark lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the Johnson Amendment.
In 2009, more than 80 pastors participated in Pulpit Freedom Sunday, and in 2010, nearly 100 pastors participated. As of this date, none of the participating churches have had their tax exemption revoked – nor have any received penalties from the IRS for what was said during their sermons.
The next Pulpit Freedom Sunday is scheduled for October 2, 2011. Will you stand with the pastors who have gone before you in this important endeavor? If you are interested, click here to sign up.