In the midst of much public angst, fear, etc. over the past week, accusations have been flung at Christians, specifically Evangelicals, about what should be done, changed, etc. In this post I will address that topic. But more, there is much about what Christians say and do, especially relative to the elections and who is elected/not elected, than has been addressed.
Catholic, Orthodox, Evangelical
I use all three of these terms, but not as identified by a church body or movement. That may cause confusion, so let me explore this a bit. When I teach hermeneutics (principles of interpretation) I repeatedly point out that one key is looking at the referent of a word, i.e. what is it referring to, pointing to.
When the word is capitalized (Catholic) it refers to the church body that is headed by the pope and headquartered in the Vatican. In my references to that church body I use the fuller title, Roman Catholic Church (RCC).
When the word is not capitalized (catholic) then it carries the basic sense of “universal.” Historically catholic referred to the universal Christian church, that is, believers in Jesus Christ, regardless of location or affiliation. It also meant that the Christians were identifiable by the confession they publicly professed.
I am catholic, in that I confess the Christian faith, and as articulated in the three ecumenical creeds (Apostles, Nicene, Athanasian).
Like catholic, when Orthodox is capitalized it refers to a specific church body (or a group of church bodies: Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, etc.). When the word is not capitalized, orthodox carries the basic sense of “straight praise” (literalisticly) which came to indicate “straight doctrine.”
I am orthodox in that I confess the true, straight Christian doctrine (and praise/worship that reflects such) proclaimed in the Bible (as as expressed the creeds of the Christian Church.
Again, when capitalized the word, Evangelical, refers to a movement within the last 100+ years. Most of the rhetoric of the past 60 years about “Evangelicals” is used in reference to a conglomeration of people from various Reformed, Calvinist, and other Protestant backgrounds.
When not capitalized, evangelical has the historic meaning “gospel.” Interestingly, in Germany since the time of the reformation the Lutheran church was and still is known as the evangelische kirche, the gospel church.
I am evangelical as an expression historically meaning “gospel.” I adhere to the confession of the Gospel in all its purity, as articulated in the Book of Concord 1580.
Confusion and Caution:
These three words can also be used in a sociological way. That is, it might refer to many groupings of people who have the sociological identification as such, but are not theologically included in the terms. Thus, when each is used in a sociological way, then they might include Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses etc. However, when used in their historic theological understanding, the words do not apply to those groups.
I do not write this to cause problems but to note that using a word like “evangelical” (in a sociological construct situation) includes these groups which are not necessarily theologically accurate. For instance, I will never include these groups because I use the terms in their strictly theological sense.
Ministry in a Changing Social/Political Arena
What happens to the message of a Church/pastor when the social, political, economic situation drastically or subtly changes? The answer depends on how the terms above are used, sociologically or theologically? Sadly many churches/pastors don’t make that distinction. Is it any wonder that those outside the Church are confused when trying to provide an answer, demand changes?
With the election of Donald Trump as President, many are questioning how the Church can/should be changed or exhorted to respond. First, I would like to approach this from a secular standpoint. I served in the U.S. Navy 9½ years active duty and 4 years reserve. I served under four different presidents: Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan.
In fact, my final processing interview (May 1973) took place when the Watergate investigation was reaching its peak. I was asked how this changing environment would affect my service in the Navy. I answered that my oath is to defend the country and the Constitution. If the President were impeached, then the VP would serve. It would not change my service at all. Thus, over the next decade, changing presidents didn’t affect my work, my commitment to the Navy, the nation, or relationships with family and friends.
So what is the Church to do?
So when the Church is called out now for not addressing the current hot points, I think I need to follow a similar path as a pastor. Note that most of these calls are for Evangelicals to change, or become what the Church should be, etc. My first response is: I am not part of the Evangelical movement, never have been, even though I am evangelical.
Second, I have pastored at the time of six different presidents (Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama, Trump). Over the past 30+ years, my focus as pastor has been on proclaiming the Gospel as historically understood. That means that much of my ministry is to and with people who are broken, abused, outsiders, etc. I began using the term “fringe ministry” to summarize this approach, which I think reflects Jesus’ ministry. Not once did the national climate affect the message or my ministry.
From that perspective, I do not have to change church bodies. I do not have to reinvent myself for the current situation. It is not because I am insensitive to what people are experiencing. Rather it is because I have been in the trenches of what people are experiencing: brokenness, abandoned, abused, neglected. The Gospel I proclaim is not a new social construct, in fact, to be Gospel, it cannot be.
What many, or most, people do not realize is that my ministry has even happened. It has not received public acknowledgement. And for that I am extremely thankful. Such public notice could easily close doors to ministry to the broken, abused, forgotten people, not open doors. I have seen God work changes in peoples’ lives that demonstrate exactly where God’s heart is, and therefore where my heart is.
Church and ministry do not change for anyone or any political, economic condition. I think we can learn from our Christian brothers and sisters throughout the world: that even extreme, true (not artificial) persecution allows the Church to still be the Church. No president, no congress, no political platform can change that.
So what is the Church to do? In my case, exactly what we have been doing in the past. Thus, I speak Law to expose sin, but most importantly I speak Gospel to bring forgiveness, reconciliation, restoration, hope in Jesus Christ. And the Church responds in caring for others as well.
8 thoughts on “Church in the Midst of Turmoil”
Your entire post seems to be predicated upon some notion that the church should be upset about and therefore “do” something about Mr. Trump’s lawful election. From a Christian perspective, I must say, Mr. Trump’s opponent actively and openly promotes late-term abortion, even up to the date of birth, which to anyone who will open his or her eyes is the murder of an infant who is able to survive outside the womb. In partial-birth abortion, which she strongly supported, the infant’s body is already 2/3 outside the mother’s body before it is killed. She also, by shirking her sworn duty as Secretary of State, allowed the murder of several Americans in a U. S. embassy, including a U. S. ambassador. Not to mention her security breaches, destruction of evidence, lies, attempts to absolutely ruin the lives of her husband’s sexual abuse victims, and her bashing the reputation of a 12-year-old child, a rape victim, in her role as a defense lawyer for a rapist whom she herself believed to be guilty. (Saying this child victim “fantasized about being raped” and “liked older men.” Inexcusable!!) Such unethical behavior by attorneys has, thankfully, since been outlawed.
If Mr. Trump happened to be guilty of every single thing of which he’s ever been accused, the total of it would pale in comparison to Mrs. Clinton’s sins. Therefore, why are we even having this discussion?
I agree that Christians should continue to pray for our nation, its leaders, and that all will come to know Christ. I just don’t get your Trump thing. He is our lawfully chosen President-elect.
Maybe I wasn’t clear about this. I wasn’t addressing the qualifications and problems of each of the candidates. That’s the pre-election discussion. I am addressing the reality that Trump is President-elect and soon to be President, just like the 13 before him in my lifetime, and the backlash that is used as a basis for what is happening and accusations that “Christians don’t care about people and should do something about it”
The purpose of this post was to note that critics of his win assume that Christians (evidently me) approve of everything he has exhibited and approve of all the fear-mongering going on. I don’t approve any of that, and my ministry addresses those issues on a daily, personal basis wherever I happen to be. But whether he was elected or not, my ministry as a pastor would not change anything for me, just like it did not change when Obama was elected or Bush, or Clinton, or Bush, or Reagan.
Nevertheless, realistically there were only two choices, and voters rejected the one who had done all the misdeeds (to put it mildly) I mentioned in my first post. Trump won. That’s how elections work in this nation. Christians are to love everyone, but we don’t need to apologize for not catering to these sore losers’ and protesters’ whims. We are not to encourage wrong behavior. I totally agree that your ministry as a pastor should not change; that’s why I don’t understand the need to even dignify these over-reactions with an explanation. Did you give an explanation after the election eight years ago?
Eight and four years ago. somehow conservatives/Republicans/others who didn’t like the results managed to accept those lawful election results without publicly weeping, wailing, protesting, giving a “primal shriek” (Yale), burning the American flag, jumping on police cars, and cancelling college classes because the students were “traumatized” over the election results. Enough of this current nonsense. They need to grow up and learn they won’t die if they don’t always get their way. When a two-year-old is pitching a temper tantrum, ignoring it is usually the most effective response, and in fact helps teach the child (as we are called to do) that the behavior is not acceptable. (Perhaps I shouldn’t have watched the news today. Right now some woman protester on TV is saying people must die to change this. Pray for this nation!!!)
For the record, Trump wasn’t my first (Dr. Carson) or second (Mr. Cruz) choice, but of the two realistic choices in the election, as a Christian it was a no-brainer. And had Mrs. Clinton won, I’d still not see a need for this discussion. It is what it is. Thanks for allowing my comments.
There is much talk among Christians about whether politics should or should not be addressed from the pulpit or even from an overall ministry. I appreciate this post bc it addresses that question. Ministry to the broken and hurting should be (probably is?) a normal part of a pastor’s role. If something dramatic happens in a community, I assume it just means there will be more ministry to the broken and hurting, based on this post.
In light if my own brokeness, I am struggling with the lines between calling out sin and being disrespectful. The racism, selfishness, and disrespect for a variety of people exemplified by the president-elect concerns me a great deal. I’m stumbling through the appropriate way to deal with this reality as a citizen of both the left and right kingdoms. Frankly I’m afraid I may have fallen flat on my face in the process.
Howdy, Angie, thanks for reading and commenting. You are addressing the right issues, ministry as opposed to political solutions. The only thing I would add is that ministry to the broken and hurting is the normal part of everyone’s ministry, not just the pastor’s. The pastor can help equip the people in the congregation for this kind of caring ministry.
Your second point is also right on target. If we are going to minister to the hurting then we are to examine ourselves and where we are. Obviously we can speak against racism, etc. as we have opportunity. If you are stumbling through the KoR and KoL issues, then you are going in the right direction. None of us have this all figured out. But we can encourage each other. And if we fail, to walk alongside to forgive, restore, comfort, and sustain one another. This is not just an election issue, but life in a sinful world and includes the devil’s attacks against our actions, our words, our thoughts. But we have the answer, the forgiveness, the hope, and the desire in Christ. Let’s continue to do this together.
One more thing, and then I’ll hush. As to the accusations you quoted that “Christians don’t care about people and should do something about it,” millions of people are of the opinion that we just did. We elected Mr. Trump, which was the best option we had to change the non-biblical and destructive direction this nation is headed. Things are in an awful mess at present, and the heart of this nation is fed up. Let’s give him a chance and see what he does to help the people of this nation. If we don’t like the job he does, kick him out in four years. That’s how our system works. No apologies needed. Blessings…
Again, the issue I addressed was not the election, but ministering to people on both sides in the wake of the election. That is a far different subject. I have said nothing for or against Trump or Clinton. The issue is that people on both sides may be hurting for different reasons, and that is where I will continue to advocate for the Church to be.
PS: My cute little icon is probably flattering, but I’m a female, retired elementary teacher. 🙂