I just finished reading an article from the Boston Globe about the conservative shift in my community. The author pointed out that Lawrence is an “overwhelmingly Democratic city” and I would agree with that assessment. The author goes on to point out the fact that the percentage of Trump voters went from 15% (2016) to 25% (2020). The author and those she interviewed, attributed this shift toward conservatism to Lawrence being “a city with a solid religious conservative base that has prioritized antiabortion convictions and social conservative ideals.” This sounds like a win, and in my opinion, at face value this is a political win. Personally my political views are very conservative. I am unapologetically pro-life and it is my commitment to the truth of God’s Word, that makes me pro-life.
I was somewhat surprised to find this article posted by a school board member who has radically liberal ideas, is a fundraiser for Planned Parenthood, and has even made social media posts promoting Communism. His commentary on the article was VERY different from mine. As I read the article and his comments, something stood out to me. For many in our city the most apparent impact being made by churches is a political one. This is a problem.
After the presidential election of 2016 I remember seeing electoral maps all over social media. Many believers discussed the need for church planting in the more liberal areas of our country. I remember reading things like “if you are wondering where to plant churches, the blue spots would be a good place to start”. In fact, I liked and shared a number of those posts.
Now confession time: We were on deputation during the 2016 election. There was a lot of fear about what our nation was going to look like if Mrs. Clinton won. It was not unusual for me to use the political climate of New England as a reason to support church planting ministries, namely the Stelzig’s ministry. I realize now that public policy is a wrong motivation for church planting and Great Commission ministry.
I stayed up on election night and watched the news coverage, breathing a sigh of relief once the results were in. The next day, we had another meeting in a church. I remember commenting to my wife that people were not nearly as enthused about church planting as they had been just days earlier, and I observed this in churches in the weeks to follow.
Now we’re here planting a church in the midst of a pandemic in a city with “a solid religious conservative base that has prioritized antiabortion convictions and social conservative ideals.” Again, I agree with that assessment. However, in my experience with the solidly religious and socially conservative people in our city, most of them are lost.
The catalyst for the tilt toward conservatism in our city was not Nick Stelzig’s church planting ministry. The reality is, the move toward social conservatism was already in motion before we got here. What wasn’t here? A solid, Bible preaching church full of people who are actively sharing the gospel and living a consistent Christian life before their community.
The fact is that a move toward conservative political values in a community does not necessitate a solid, Bible preaching church full of people who are actively sharing the gospel and living a consistent Christian life before their community. A move toward conservative policy can be promoted by churches (of any type) that are motivated to change the next election to reflect their values. This has been evident in our city. What change do those churches really bring? Maybe a conservative government for the next four years or until we elect a different one.
In the 6 months since we started Community Baptist Church we have seen 3 people saved. I don’t know much about their political leanings. Honestly, we haven’t really discussed it. What we have discussed is how their salvation should change how they live. We are encouraging them to develop a personal relationship with their Savior. We are discussing the importance of them sharing their faith with others and we are working to show them the need to identify with Christ in baptism.
This Sunday, I will stand before a room of about 20-25 people, a half dozen of which still need to believe the gospel. What I preach to that handful of people during the next four years will probably never sway an election in our city nor will it change the next four years of policy making in our country. What I preach to those people will, however, affect eternity.
Above, I mentioned that there is a problem, but what is the problem? Let me explain: When the election of a temporary governmental official causes us to be more vocal about our political opinions than we are about the eternal truths of God’s Word, we have a priority problem. When we view a whole region of millions of people as voters rather than eternal souls, we have a values problem. When we put out political signs and stickers, or wear our MAGA hats for our neighbors to see, but we’ve never shared Christ with them, we have an allegiance problem. When we spend more time online being amateur, election-fraud investigators than we do studying the Word of God, we have a time management problem. When we spend hours on the phone petitioning our elected officials, but spend no more than ten minutes of the day in prayer, we have a trust problem. When people in our community know more about the political stance of our church, its pastor, or its membership, than they do about the gospel we have been called to preach, we have a messaging problem. We have a problem. It is not in the election process, it is not taking up residence in the White House or the Capitol, it is a problem in our hearts.
God has not called us to bring about political change. He has called us to be people who faithfully preach the gospel and live consistent, Christ-honoring lives before our community for His glory; not so that the next four years of policy making will be changed, but so that the eternity of people who are still without Christ can be changed. Let’s not settle to proselytize for temporary political reform. Instead, in obedience to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords who will rule and reign for all eternity, let’s get busy doing the job that only we can do!