One of my early memories in my “preaching career”, having been converted as a 15 year old, was preaching in the open air and helping out in gospel services, not long after. I remember a wise old mentor exhorting me to “preach the word in season and out of season” and always have something up my sleeve such that I could preach at the drop at the hat, in any setting, on any subject, to any audience.
Since then I have preached many sermons but have never become a full time minister and do not preach regularly these days. When I do, I regard it as a great privilege and a grave responsibility, since I see my job as pointing people to my Lord and Saviour and I try to share what it is I believe God wants them to hear. Coming from the sort of background I do come from, it seems to me that my job as a preacher is to exalt Christ and try to draw people to him, especially that they experience his salvation. While these days I have many community activist interests that have been inspired by my Christian understanding, and since those early days there has been many controversial subjects where I have taken a view, I have generally sought to heed that early advice and focus my preaching around the gospel narrative (see here) and not to be sidetracked.
I have been interested in politics since my youth and while there was a lull in-between the subject again intrigues me even though I do not align myself with any party or person. My faith informs my politics and yet I recognise many fellow Christians do the same and see things differently. Politics does affect peoples lives, for good or ill, and therefore cannot be ignored. While I do touch on issues like social justice and others where politics has a bearing, in my preaching, I take care not to preach partisan politics. Instead, I encourage my listeners to think through the issues from a biblical perspective, mindful that they may come to quite different conclusions politically. Yet in the light of the shaking that seems to be taking place in the world, evidenced for example in the surprise Brexit and Trump votes, and events in the Middle East, I am aware that preachers all too often wish to share their views, and in many cases I find myself out of step with those who do so.
In order not to abuse my calling as a preacher, in many of these cases I will accept my views are best left for settings like my Blog and Facebook page and they are best left out of the pulpit. I seek diligently to understand God’s perspective on things that matter and in turn I seek to unravel these things, without using my privileged position to tell people how they should vote for example or over-push my views on matters that are not central to my gospel calling. There is a time to speak and a time not to speak; there is a need to promote peace and reconciliation, yet sometimes people need to be shaken out of their complacency and erroneous ways and stirred to come out of their comfort zones.My biggest concern is people understand the mind and will of God and act accordingly.
I can mainly only speak for myself, but I do feel a sense of unease when preachers do not follow this line and use the pulpit to present their opinions, and am inclined to anger when they do not reflect the mind of God. As a preacher I read widely, especially the Bible, trying to gain a deep understanding, and also prayerfully that God will be honoured in my preaching and those I preach to are helped. The challenge is recognizing the time and the place to say what needs saying. One thing I have learned though – preaching cannot be divorced from everyday life, including politics. I have learned that God is interested in all aspects of our lives, and our preaching should reflect this. Jesus rattled many cages in his three years if ministry and was not afraid to say what his Father in heaven had given him to say. That remains my earnest desire also.
Most of all, I want people to grow closer to the Lord and live the sort of lives he wants them to live, following him. The one I follow, the Lord Jesus Christ, spoke (and lived) truth, righteousness and justice and he did do so in love. When it comes to preaching politics, I don’t; rather, I preach Christ. In God alone can you put your trust.