On Sept. 28, a pastor whom I respect and appreciate as a leader on moral and ethical issues endorsed a presidential candidate from the pulpit of his church. He joined a couple of hundred pastors across the nation who chose to defy the IRS regulation that nonprofit, tax-exempt entities cannot participate in partisan politics by endorsing candidates. They believe that this regulation violates their religious freedom. While I respect my friend and his right to take such action, I cannot support it.
Across the years, I have always defended the right and responsibility of pastors to teach biblical truth. This truth sometimes stands in opposition to popular opinion and the moral climate of the nation. So be it. A pastor is compelled to stand on the truth of Scripture. There are times when a pastor should be prophetic in the tradition of the Old Testament prophets regarding spiritual and moral truth. To do so may place him in conflict with a political party or candidate or align him with certain political positions espoused by a party or candidate.
When a pastor teaches the truth of Scripture, week by week unfolding the mysteries of God, he is laying a foundation for a biblical worldview. Our goal as spiritual leaders ought to be the laying of precept upon precept so our people can recognize the truth in every arena of life. Our task is to inculcate a Christian worldview week by week so the people of God can use it as a filter when confronted with moral and ethical issues as well as candidates.
When a pastor is faithful and ties his people to biblical truth, they are given the tools to discern true from false, right from wrong and eternal perspectives from temporal ones.
The Bible becomes a plumb line by which we stand the political positions of parties and candidates as we decide for whom to vote. If I have been faithful to teach the people truth, they can make wise decisions on candidates.
To endorse candidates from the pulpit divides people over politics, rather than the Gospel. My greatest responsibility is to proclaim the unsearchable riches of the Gospel. That must take precedence over everything else. I want to preach the glorious Savior, knowing He is our hope. No political party or candidate can save this morally bankrupt society. Jesus alone is our hope.
I do not believe the pulpit needs to be politicized over candidates. It does need to be politicized over truth. Some would suggest that they are endorsing a candidate who represents the greatest alignment with biblical truth. This is shaky ground. While one may find a candidate who is more aligned with biblical truth, most have a hard time holding their moral compass to true north.
As private citizens, pastors should be free to endorse, support financially and work to see that their chosen candidate wins. Yet, even then it is a fine line to walk. I have walked it personally, and it is not easy. As spiritual leaders, we have a hard time separating our personal lives from our occupation. People rarely see us as the guy down the street. We are pastor of . . .
In the end, I admonish pastors to stand in the pulpit with the Bible in hand. Preach its truth and let the people use it as a filter for decision making. Preach Jesus. Leave political endorsements for the political stump-not the pulpit.