I went to college at Liberty University in the late 1990s. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I love Liberty and I’ll be forever thankful for my time there.
As a young man in college with a burn in my heart to preach the Gospel, I was at a very impressionable stage of life. During the first few years, I learned things about preaching and ministry that will stick with me for the rest of my life.
I also learned to be political.
I started preaching at 19 years old; and if you were to go back and listen, there were at times, a clear political tone to the message. I realized early on that there is power in the pulpit. There is a trust given from the listeners and therefore, influence to the preacher. At first, I felt some sort of responsibility to use the pulpit to move people not only to respond to God’s Word, but also to certain political crises of the moment.
Enter Billy Graham.
Like many aspiring Gospel preachers over the past 80 years, The Lord saw fit to cross my path with Dr. Graham in the Fall of 1999 in St. Louis, Missouri. From that day forward, I would read, study and pay very close attention to the preaching and ministry philosophy of Billy Graham as well as his son Franklin, whom I love dearly to this day (I named my middle son Franklin).
The Lord used the Graham Family and their heart for the pure and simple Gospel to confront many things I had come to believe about God and politics. It was like I had a head-on collision with a train and I recall a season of struggle in my own heart. While there are many things I could say here, this quote from Billy Graham sums up that season of political “de-programming” that I went through.
“I came close to identifying the American way of life with the kingdom of God. Then I realized that God had called me to a higher kingdom than America. I have tried to be faithful to my calling as a minister of the gospel.”
- Billy Graham, Christianity Today after Richard Nixon resigned.
In short, I did an about-face in the early 2000s and vowed to never preach anything but the unadulterated Word of God for the rest of my life.
The reason for this is that I came to realize my faithfulness must first stand with my heavenly citizenship. When Heaven and America collide, Heaven must win. Every time.
This runs deeper than preaching though.
I am currently hoping for a friend of mine to be elected as a state representative. My kids said the other day, “Dad, we can’t put a yard sign out for him can we?”
I explained that as Christians, we could, but we choose not to. I want to be a light to both my friend and his opponent and I don’t want my politics as a stumbling block to the Gospel.
I once refused to speak at or even attend a politically charged anti-abortion meeting and offended some Christians. I tried to explain to no avail that while I agreed with them about what abortion is, only the gospel can truly stop it. I also said that I want any woman who has experienced the pain and heartache from abortion to know she can come to my wife and I as Christians and receive grace, mercy and restoration. Their meeting would have in my opinion, communicated something different.
As a pastor, I’ve refused all political pamphlets and causes to be present in our facilities. Not because I disagree with them or their positions, but because our mission and message comes from the Kingdom of Heaven and we should never muddy those waters.
I prayed at the State Capital a few years ago and when a state representative (not the one who invited me) sat down next to me and asked if I would encourage The Rock Church to support his politics, I said no. He was clearly annoyed and confused because we obviously agreed politically.
A friend of mine asked me in the 2016 election to encourage The Rock Church to support Donald Trump. When I said no, he said I was a coward who is worried about being politically correct.
All of these instances and more are occasions where the Heavenly Kingdom collides with America. Heaven, the gospel, and most importantly, King Jesus must win that fight. For the sake of being a witness to lost sinners. Heaven must win. Every time.
Jesus said in John 18:36, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.”
I was once fighting for the wrong kingdom. I repented.
Which kingdom are you fighting for?
Check back tomorrow for the 4th and final part of: God & Politics: First Love.