Hopefully I can articulate the simplest reason why pastors should not be involved in electioneering from the pulpit. It is, quite simply 🙂 that people can get their politics from anywhere. From Sean Hannity to Jon Stewart and a panopaly of voices in between or more extreme, the person seeking instruction on politics or other worldly matters has an abundance of sources to get it from, and as far as spiritual things are concerned, one source will be as good as another.
But on spiritual things, there should only be one authoritative voice: the pastor. Do not get me wrong, a Christian can and should spiritually benefit from the works of people like John Bunyan, Charles Spurgeon, John MacArthur, John Piper, Paul Washer etc. However edifying their preaching and teaching may be to you, though, such people are not your pastors. As you are not in their congregation (presuming such to be the case with Piper, Washer, and MacArthur and as it is obviously the case with Bunyan and Spurgeon) while they can expound to you spiritual truth, it will not be authoritative because such people lack the spiritual accountability from their God – appointed role as shepherd over your congregation (and over you) without which spiritual authority cannot exist.
You can listen to a John Piper or Voddie Baucham sermon, and unless you are a member of their congregation you can take that information and do whatever you want because they have no authority over you. However, if you are in a particular congregation hearing the word given by a pastor, then said pastor not only has the responsibility and authority to teach you the word of God, that pastor also has the authority and responsibility to see that you live by it. Any pastor that refuses is abdicating his authority, derelict in his responsibility and as such is not a true pastor or shepherd. But moreover, any pastor that is not the leader of a local congregation to which you are a member by baptism and confession lacks such authority to you, and you lack accountability to him. For that reason, though what he says may be true, for you it is neither authoritative or binding.
Incidentally, this is I, being the liberal feminist that I am, have no problem with women pursuing teaching ministries through television, websites, tract publishing etc. Such women – presuming that they are doctrinally sound – may disseminate truth that benefits a lot of people, but in ordained local congregation roles where they are not in authority over men. From my perspective, watching videos created by a spirit filled Christian woman on her Youtube site is no different from listening to the podcast of a male pastor whose congregation you are not a member of. That male pastor has no more Biblical right to discipline you than does the woman on Youtube!
So, if you are the pastor (or assistant pastor or youth pastor etc.) of a local congregation, you are providing a service to your flock, whether it be 5 people or 50,000 people, that no one else on the planet has the Biblical standing to do: serve as an accountable authoritative voice on the word of God. (Yes, I believe in the universal priesthood of believers, but the same Bible that speaks of the universal priesthood of believers also speaks of the Body of Christ with its many members, the offices in the Body of Christ, and the authority and accountability contained therein.) So if you are the only person that can fulfill this duty for your congregation in spiritual things, why on earth would you allow earthly things that can distract you from your unique position or dilute or undermine your authority and standing in order to parrot Bill Maher or Rush Limbaugh?
If your flock wants to participate in worldly political activities, then let them get their information to do so from the world where there are plenty of authoritative, qualified accountable voices. You don’t tell the doctors in your congregation how to perform neurosurgery do you? You don’t tell the engineers in your congregation how to design bridges, do you? You don’t tell the schoolteachers in your congregation which pedagogical theory to adopt do you? Or a plumber, carpenter, welder, janitor etc. how to do their jobs? So why do you do the same regarding politics? If you are not an authority over people’s trades and occupations, what makes you an authority over their politics? If anything, people’s occupations are more spiritual than their political activism. The Bible says “the man that does not WORK should not eat”, not “the man that does not vote should not eat.” It certainly doesn’t say “if you don’t vote then you don’t have the right to complain about anything” which incidentally is unscriptural because 1) Christians should never complain to begin with and 2) Christians have not only the right but the responsibility to publicly verbally denounce and oppose evil, including from their civil magistrates.
But what if the voters in your church choose wrong? Well consider it this way. If the people on your church rolls are born again as a result of your preaching (or have been forced to move on if they are not because of it), and if by rightly dividing the word of truth in giving your congregation strong spiritual meat and provoking them to good works, then they ought to have the spiritual maturity and wisdom to make a Biblical decision for themselves – inspired and led by the Holy Spirit of course – which of course does include refraining from voting in a particular race if God will not suffer them to. But if you have a congregation filled with people that are unable to make a simple decision with virtually no impact on their daily lives such as who to vote for every 4 years because they are ignorant of the word of God and insensitive to the Holy Spirit … then my goodness are these people regularly reading their Bible and praying? If so, do they understand what they are reading and know how to pray? Are they regularly worshiping and praising God, or even know how and why? Are they regularly evangelizing the lost, or know how to do so Biblically? Are they showing compassion to the poor, oppressed and dispossessed? Are they supporting the church and missions financially and personally? Do they have strong Bible based relationships with their spouses and children? Are they good employees? Honest and prudent in their financial dealings?
If they are not – or if they are unsaved – then it is your duty as shepherd of the congregation to make sure that they are with your teaching and preaching the word of God and by your appointing able deacons to administer your church. And if that is not your goal when you not only get up in the pulpit every Sunday to preach your sermon, but also during the week when you are researching and writing your sermons, as well as when you are counseling, visiting, encouraging etc. your congregants, then what is your goal? What are you doing?
Are all these religious movements (religious right, religious left, religious center, religious libertarian?!?!) based on getting unsaved or spiritually immature people to the polls to do what you tell them to do? That isn’t a pastor, that is a dictator, someone who is pushing people around and telling them what to do in areas where they have no standing, no authority, no right to do so.
What example do we have of this? Jesus Christ! Recall when the man came to Jesus Christ asking him to tell his brother asking the brother to divide his inheritance with him. Jesus Christ replied “Who appointed me as a judge or ruler over your affairs?” Now please know that even if the Torah did cover this situation, of family inheritance disputes, it would have sided with the other brother! Therefore, that was a worldly matter, not a spiritual one. Jesus Christ did not come to rule a secular kingdom concerned with earthly matters, but a spiritual one, a kingdom in this world but not of it, and a kingdom that will reign forever long after such issues as inherited land or pro – abortion pro – homosexual marriage presidents have passed away. Were anything else the case, then Jesus Christ would have been what the Jews were expecting: a political Messiah come to lead a rebellion against Rome and take David’s throne.
Now of course the true Jewish mindset – and please recall that Christianity is nothing but fulfilled Judaism – is that there is no division between holy and secular. There are no truly secular activities, but every thought and action must be held in captivity to Jesus Christ as an act of service, worship, and praise to Jesus Christ as guided by the Holy Spirit that ultimately glorifies God the Father. So should the brother have divided his inheritance? Maybe. Is there a specific candidate that a Christian should vote for? Maybe. But that is not the point.
The point is that pastors cannot and should not direct their flocks in matters of routine and daily life. Moses tried to do so and almost ran himself crazy until his father in law Jethro, the Yahwist priest of Midian, instructed him wisely and told him to divide the labor. That was before, of course, the indwelling Holy Spirit, so now we have the Holy Spirit to be an even better guide and judge in our daily lives than the wisest ruler over 10s, 50s, 100s etc. that Moses appointed. So, the job of the pastor in his teaching and preaching should be to get Christians to the point where their daily decisions are governed by their own personal knowledge of the word of God that comes from regular Bible study and knowledge and sensitivity to spiritual things that comes from regular prayer, fasting, praise, worship, and good works. And yes, it is the goal of the pastor to exhort his flock to obey the Bible and the Holy Spirit!
If the pastor does this faithfully, effectively, and effectually then he should simply have faith in God (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit) in knowing that as he has done his job, God will do His job. After all, they are ultimately God’s sheep and not the pastor’s anyway! Any pastor unable or unwilling to do this and is given to frittering away what God has made him master of should really either straighten himself out or get out of the pulpit.
Instead of trying to micromanage the affairs of their congregants, pastors should get their congregations to the point where the Holy Spirit rules them. After all, unlike the Holy Spirit, pastors are sometimes wrong! If a person errs by not adhering to the Holy Spirit, then that is between him and God and the pastor is out of it. But if a pastor errs by misdirecting the flock, then it is between the pastor and God and the congregation is out of it. So pastor, in which position would you rather be? That is what you should consider before you try to preach politics from your pulpit.