Make room in your pews, folks. Set out a few more chairs and put on a little more coffee because the real winner in this election is the Church.
The American public has just elected its new president. For months, people have been wringing their hands. Last night, hearts across our nation were broken in disbelief or fulfilled with hope. And following the final round of a nasty election, the public mood still feels despairing. Not to mention, church folk have absolutely embarrassed themselves in social media tirades.
By attempting to drop political wisdom or assign a political party to Jesus, most have only managed to shrink the circle of acquaintances willing to sit with them at dinner.
But the people of God have no reason for despair. The Church is in a perfect position to respond to the most disheartening presidential campaign in recent history.
Seriously, folks, we have to see this opportunity.
While many of us got caught up in the angst and anger of the general public, we dangerously lost perspective. This is not a time to wring our hands, throw them up in defeat, nor curl up in a ball on the floor.
It is a time to roll up our sleeves.
People have lost much more in this election than their favorite candidate; they have largely lost faith in the entire electoral system. For many, it feels like our republic is no longer capable of delivering the true choice and will of the people. And as the public loses hope in American democracy, they must turn to something else for hope, relief and answers.
The Church can offer that hope.
The Church has the opportunity and mandate to become a city on a hill, a beacon in a dark night. We can offer hope. We have a mandate to offer aid and we have a hope for the lost world.
When a new leader fails to pass legislation righting the wrongs of society, we as a Church will have the opportunity to step up and take action. Shame on us, for waiting on the government to do the work of the God, anyway. Jesus didn’t tell the government to feed the poor, heal the sick and clothe the naked; He told us to do it. Social justice has always been the responsibility of the believers and now, it’s more imperative than ever.
We are called to share the hope that can be found in Jesus, not our fickle democratic system. The Church has never been dependent upon a sympathetic government to expand the Kingdom. In fact, the persecuted church has traditionally borne more spiritual fruit than its comfy cousins tucked away in a western democracy.
But it will require us to dig deep on several fronts:
The Church must discover what it’s made of.
There is little discernible difference between those who claim Christianity and those who practice it out of devotion. They enjoy the very same freedoms; functioning in society without persecution. They give up virtually nothing economically, socially or emotionally to align themselves with Jesus.
If our urgency is vested in gaining legislation that protects our wallets, aligns with our religious views and gives us privileges to worship, it is really a rather narcissistic endeavor. Jesus did not function under a government conducive to his ministry, yet his work multiplied. We can celebrate the privileges we have enjoyed, but scripture does not guarantee them. If our security rests on maintaining religious freedom and tax breaks, our interests are misaligned to the heart of Christ. But when our purpose comes from following Jesus under any circumstances, we will find a wealth of opportunity in this political environment.
The Church can fill in the gaps left by legislation.
Early in the 20th century, the Church was known for “the social gospel.” Believers took it upon themselves to meet the needs of the poor. Churches operated soup kitchens, missions, clothing distribution and even housing. They did not wait on the government to roll out social programs.
This opportunity is upon us.
No one has to wait for legislation. The Church can get busy discovering how to truly help the marginalized people in our communities. It will never be a perfect system; even Jesus warned the disciples the poor would always be with them. But the Church dare not sit on its hands because it can’t help everyone. We must do for a few, what we wish we could do for all.
We must become more intentional in discipleship.
Let’s face it, we’ve all gotten a little lazy. The availability of well-produced biblical materials, classes and teachers has dampened our teaching skills. A pile of engaging preachers available at the click of a cell phone are doing a bang up job of taking people deeper. But if our political environment becomes hostile to these opportunities, we will need to get our theology on. We might have to read a bit more, study deeper and learn to articulate our faith instead of our politics.
The Church cannot help but flourish when its people take their faith seriously and share it with others.
When believers become intentional in word and lifestyle, the Kingdom will grow. We will need to tell our children about our faith. We will need to become more familiar with our own Bibles. And discipleship begins with seeing the image of God and human dignity in all.
We can resist segregative policies and tradition.
The Church is already known as the most racially segregated place on Sunday mornings. But we risk becoming politically segregated when pastors choose sides at the pulpit. As leadership promotes their views through social media, those who resist their view will seek out other bodies of Christ. Forget denominations, we will develop a two-party system of churches as the level of hate rhetoric among those of differing political opinion rivals racial discrimination.
But as the Church claims Jesus as our common allegiance, we can look past the politics of our neighbors. We can actually worship next to someone who votes differently. We can show the world that God transcends human politics. The Church likes to talk about showing mercy to the downtrodden and the socially marginalized.
Can you imagine if we developed that kind of mercy for each other?
The Church can shine in a dark world.
The Church has not always been a bright spot. We have often been the brunt of mean-spirited but accurate criticism. Hypocrites run amuck inside our walls and give us a bad name. It is often difficult to differentiate us from the world.
But as people become less trusting of their government, they will look for stability somewhere.
As humans, we desperately desire to make sense of our existence. And when the government cannot be trusted to keep us safe and free, we will have to look elsewhere. The Church is ready. We have every opportunity to show people that Jesus is the only one they can trust.
So paint your walls, clean out your clutter and get ready to welcome those who may visit your church for the first time.
Yes, we can spend our time fretting about who will lead this country. But the Church will still win. Let’s make the most of every opportunity.