Why Involve Pastors and churches in civil government?
An essential element of our mission is to restore biblically-grounded, Christ-centered citizenship as an effective ministry of the local church.
Scripturally We Must
MIN'ISTER, n. [L.] Properly, a chief servant; hence, an agent appointed to transact or manage business under the authority of another; in which sense, it is a word of very extensive application. (Webster 1828 Dictionary)
Romans 13 provides a clear understanding of God’s limited purpose of governing authority. The term “minister” is used in verse 4 as part of that description, using the Greek word:
Diakonos - dee-ak'-on-os 1. one who executes the commands of another, esp. of a master, a servant, attendant, minister; the servant of a king
The words Diakonos and Diakaneo appear a combined total of 59 times in the New Testament, including the familiar passage in Matthew 20:26, “It is not so among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your (diakonos) servant.” Most Christians would agree that we should be servants, regardless of our profession or vocation. TRUTH: All followers of Jesus Christ are in “The Ministry” including those in governing authority.
Biblically, civil rulers are servants and since all civil authority is granted by and accountable to God (Romans 13:1-7) the purpose of civil authority is indeed to “minister”. Is it possible for this ministry to be conducted with God’s design by those who don’t believe in the God who gave the authority and established the laws, or by those who claim to believe but insist His Word is full of errors? It seems evident that like any ministry, the exercise of civil authority will be performed best by disciples of Jesus Christ who think and act Biblically.
When the ministry of governing is disconnected from Biblical Christian men and women, principles, and practices there is no possible way for it to retain an appropriate balance of justice and mercy. It must then be tossed upon the waves of selfishness, greed, sin and corruption. Sound familiar?
Moses was instructed by his wise father-in-law to, “…provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens: And let them judge the people at all seasons: and it shall be, that every great matter they shall bring unto thee, but every small matter they shall judge: so shall it be easier for thyself, and they shall bear the burden with thee.” The qualification criteria for civil leaders and the principle of decentralization and delegation of authority are evident in this passage.
Biblically, the church cannot separate God’s authority from government or our role as ministers in it.
Historically We Did!
This history of the New Testament church is filled with examples of how “men of the cloth” served as instruments of change both in reforming a corrupt church institution to serving as the prophetic voice of truth to rulers who led justly as well as those who were tyrants. Pastor and nineteenth-century historian J. Wingate Thornton wrote that, “To the pulpit, the Puritan Pulpit, we owe the moral force which won our independence.”  Historian Alice Baldwin stated that, “…the Constitutional Convention and the written Constitution were the children of the pulpit.”  The British army referred to the patriot clergy of during the War for Independence as the “Black Robed Regiment”, referencing the color of their robes and the moral and spiritual influence they had in support of liberty and independence. Some examples:
St. Patrick – Converted King Loeghaire of Ireland and served as his counselor, or “annchara”, and wrote “Book of the Law of Moses” (432 A.D.) that was used as civil law by chieftains and kings throughout Ireland and emphasized the rule of law and self-government.
Martin Luther – By nailing his 95 Theses on a church door in Wittenberg, Germany in 1517, he was used by God to facilitate the Reformation grounded in the “Sola Scriptura” or “Scripture alone” position that placed all earthly authorities – including the church – under and accountable to God and His Word.
John Calvin – Wrote “Ecclesiastical Ordinances”, which included policies for jails, education, and the physical health and safety of citizens such as sanitation requirements. He stated that, “…in order to become free outwardly, man must first succeed in being free inwardly.”
William Tyndale – Was burned at the stake by King Henry VIII as a heretic for translating the Bible into English for the common man. His translation was later authorized by the king (unaware that he was approving The Heretic’s version!) as part of his separation from the Catholic Church and used to launch the Church of England – a critical link in the chain of civil liberty and freedom.
John Robinson – Pastor to the Pilgrims who landed at Cape Cod in 1620, and described by historian Marshall Foster as a clergyman who, “More than any other man…prepared a people to take dominion over the wilderness to the glory of God. Through his godly wisdom, he taught the Pilgrims individual Christian unity.”
Jonathan Mayhew – Minister of West Church in Boston and a major influence in opposing King George on a variety of issues; was called “The Father of Civil and Religious Liberty in Massachusetts and America” by Declaration of Independence signer, Robert Treat Paine. After the passage of the Stamp Act in Parliament he preached that, “The king is as much bound by his oath not to infringe the legal rights of the people, as the people are bound to yield in subjection to him. From whence it follows that as soon as the prince sets himself above the law, he loses the king in the tyrant. He does, to all intents and purposes, un-king himself.”
Samuel Davies – Pastor, Ambassador to England and President of Princeton College; he was one of the greatest orators in colonial America and served as mentor for the man Jefferson called “the greatest orator who ever lived” – Patrick Henry.
Peter Muhlenberg – Lutheran Pastor who one Sunday preached “In the language of the Holy Writ, there is a time for all things, a time to preach and a time to pray, but those times have passed away…there is a time to fight – and that time has now come!” He removed his robe revealing the uniform of a Continental officer and called for recruits, rising to the rank of Major General.
Jonas Clark – Pastor at Lexington who stood with his men when “The Shot Heard Around The World” was fired on the green. He was one of the pastors and church leaders who recruited and served as “The Minutemen”. A British general was asked what he feared most during the war, and he said, “The thing I feared most during the war was the Minutemen. Those crazy soldiers were improperly armed and barely clothed, but the American Minutemen did not know the meaning of the word ‘retreat.’ If you every wanted to gain victory over the Minutemen you had to kill them all because they never quit.”
Charles G. Finney – Renowned evangelist who was an outspoken abolitionist and a key figure in the Second Great Awakening stated that, “The church must take right ground in regards to politics.... The time has come for Christians to vote for honest men, and take consistent ground in politics or the Lord will curse them.... God cannot sustain this free and blessed country, which we love and pray for, unless the Church will take right ground. Politics are a part of a religion in such a country as this, and Christians must do their duty to their country as a part of their duty to God.... God will bless or curse this nation according to the course Christians take in politics.
Henry Ward Beecher- New York pastor, son of theologian Lyman Beecher and brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe who wrote “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, he spoke strongly against civil corruption, supported women’s suffrage and preached against slavery. “It was said that if you wanted to hear him take on New York’s corrupt judges, ‘Just take the ferry to Brooklyn and follow the crowd.’”
Martin Luther King Jr. – Pastor and Civil Rights leader who was assassinated for his role in leading cultural and political change regarding racial discrimination, he said, “We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God-given rights.... One may well ask, "How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?" The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I agree with St. Augustine that "an unjust law is no law at all."...
Dr. D. James Kennedy – Senior Pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, creator of Evangelism Explosion and founder of the Center For Reclaiming America, he said that, “The solution to the desperate problems of our world is for us to become involved in our culture and to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If Christians would do those two things, our nation - and ultimately our world - would be transformed almost overnight.”
Other Related Quotations:
- The highest glory of the American Revolution was this; it connected in one indissoluble bond the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity. (President John Quincy Adams)
- First, it is their judgment, and that from Scripture taught them, that those who are chosen to a place in government, must be men truly fearing God, wise and learned in the truths of Christ....(Rev. Jonathan Edwards, 1654)
- It is hoped that but few will think the subject of it an improper one to be discoursed in the pulpit, under a notion that this is preaching politics instead of Christ. However, to remove all prejudices of this sort, I beg it may be remembered that "all Scripture is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. Why, then, should not those parts of Scripture which relate to civil government be examined and explained from the desk, as well as others?..." (Rev. Jonathan Mayhew, 1749)
- “ I often hear it said, ‘Do not bring religion into politics.’ This is precisely where it ought to be brought… We have had enough of clever men without conscience. Now let us see what honest, God-fearing men will do.” (Rev. Charles H. Spurgeon)
(Source of quotes: America’s God and Country Encyclopedia of Quotations, William Federer)
Legally We Can!
Activist courts and militant secularist organizations have helped create an environment in which pastors and churches have been intimidated into believing that we must violate their god-given responsibilities as the prophetic voice of righteousness and remain silent on the issues of our day. The two-prong attack by groups like the ACLU and Americans United for Separation of Church and State have successfully used The “Separation” myth and The 501 (c) (3) political restrictions to silence most churches in regard to current moral and policy issues.
“Separation of Church and State” – The Founding Fathers’ desire to assure religious freedom by keeping the institutions of church and government separate and the government out of the church has been turned on its head by liberal revisionists in recent years. There is a myriad of materials produced by respected historians, legal scholars and Theologians (as listed in the “Suggested Reading” section) that clearly prove the vital role that Biblical principles, Christian leaders and clergy played in the development of Western Civilization, its culture and laws, and specifically our Constitutional Republic. “We the People” ARE the government and “We the People” ARE the church. Moreover, the church pre-existed the state and in a Biblical worldview supersedes it in authority. Why then should churches be prohibited from choosing, speaking to and influencing the direction of policy and our elected leaders?
“Tax-Exempt Status of the Church” - “Do’s and Don’ts” information in the “Guidelines For Political Action by Pastors and Churches” available in Church Resources and produced by one of the nation’s leading legal scholars on this subject, clearly shows what pastors and churches CAN do in regard to activities regarded as “political”. The bottom line – even within the legally discredited parameters of the 501 (c) (3) non-profit regulations, the church has great latitude to assure that her members are active, informed, involved and voting according to Biblical principles. Most importantly, nowhere in Scripture or in the Constitution is government vested with the authority to interfere with the free exercise of religion. The current restrictions on politically related speech in churches were imposed as recently as 1954, and are so vague that the IRS has been forced to admit it’s limitations through the Pulpit Freedom Project of Alliance Defending Freedom. As the appendix shows, the IRS has given us a mile and we have only taken an inch.