It is Independence Day in these United States. Many are questioning the way forward in light of recent political upheaval. The following is a guest post by Matthew Barnes charting at least one part of the way forward for Christians. He is a good friend and fellow servant of Christ. He minsters with Capital Commission Indiana and Public Servants' Prayer. Though he writes for an Indiana audience, the principles can be applied across these United States.
I have been ministering in the Indiana Statehouse for more than 10 years. God has opened more doors than I would have ever imagined, and it all started with God impressing on my heart to pray for leaders. I found that it is impossible to hate someone for whom you earnestly pray. I can honestly say that I love politicians! Politicians are simply people who hurt, feel and bleed the same as you and I. Some of them know Christ, others do not. The political arena has a vacuum of pastoral care.
Many people want to influence politics and politicians. Every time there is a perceived political loss for people of faith, there are passionate calls for pastors and churches to engage. This is true of churches on all sides of the political spectrum. However, influence takes time and integrity. Let people know you care about them, and they are more likely to listen. Earn the right to be heard.
**Biblical Foundation **
In 1 Peter 2:12-17, God gives us a path to sharing the Gospel with leaders.
"Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation." (vs. 12)
- "Conversation" in this verse refers to how we talk and conduct ourselves, or our behavior. We are to be a benefit to our communities and society at large.
- "Among the Gentiles" calls attention to unbelievers.
- "The day of visitation" can have several applications, from civil leaders visiting a church, to Judgement Day. Matthew Henry and John Gill indicate that "the day of visitation" likely refers to when God visits a soul to draw them to Himself.
- Note the parallel language and concept in 1 Peter 2:18 and 3:1
Verses 13-14 admonish the believer to submit to civil government.
“Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.”
Verse 15 reconnects the unbelieving leaders mentioned in verses 13-14, back to verse 12.
“For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.” (vs. 15)
The will of God is that while you are submitting to authority and doing good works, you are stopping the mouths of those who speak ill of you. If your local government sees your ministry and appreciates the efforts, God can use it to draw their hearts to Him. So how do we engage these leaders who think badly of the people of God?
Here is a three-fold mission plan that is both biblical and practical.
Prayer, Honor, Service
- PRAY - Although it may seem to lack the flashy appeal that comes with political action, it is the biblical believer’s mandate found in 1 Timothy 2:1-4. Prayer is the most powerful action you can perform. Why settle for twisting the arm of a political leader when we know the One who holds their heart in His hands? (Proverbs 21:1) While it is indeed vital to have Christians serving in the public sphere_, prayer should lead to action, not vice versa_.
"Prayer does not fit us for the greater works, prayer is the greater work!" Oswald Chambers
Our team has spent countless hours and resources to develop a free tool to assist you in systematically praying for all of your state and federal legislators. You can find it at www.publicservantsprayer.org. Sign up for a daily or weekly email, follow us on Twitter, or like us on Facebook from your state page on the website.
HONOR - “I respect the office, but not the officeholder.” Is this biblical reasoning? First Peter 2:17 states, "Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king." It appears we are to honor both the person and the position. We do not have to agree with their actions to honor and love them. It is difficult to influence someone without first honoring them.
SERVE - Peter encouraged the people of God to let civil government leaders see their good works, which will bring God glory. Serving communities by helping the widows, fatherless, poor, needy, and elderly actually directs people to Jesus. This is not advocating for a works-based gospel, but merely pointing out that believers are saved to good works. (See Ephesians 2:10, Matthew 5:16) Be aware that government leaders see straight through a façade and often presume (rightly so) that everyone wants something from them. View the political arena as a mission field. Serve with authenticity, sincerity and integrity. Steer clear of ulterior motives and hidden agendas.
All states have local governments. Indiana has 10,746 elected leaders. There are 92 counties with courthouses, scores of cities and towns, numerous school boards, elected sheriffs, judges, township trustees, etc. The doors to government meetings are open to the public. Go to the various bodies of government and silently pray while public meetings are being held. If you want to know where a community needs ministry, listen to elected leaders. They have their finger on the pulse of the problem areas. There is a local unit of government quite near you and your church. If you need help finding when your local government meets, our team can help. We are even willing to assist you by attending meetings with you or making introductions with leaders.
We may be surprised what God will do with this initiative. As you begin to pray specifically for your leaders and their requests, your church may find ways to assist local civil government. Your church may already do many things to benefit your local community. This is wonderful, but a key piece of 1 Peter 2:12 says that the leaders will "behold" the good works. We don't have to trumpet our good deeds, but we can let local leaders know what we are doing and ask how we can be more effective.
Use this simple mission statement to guide you - I will PRAY, I will HONOR my leaders, I will SERVE my community.
Access is granted. Influence is earned.
Rev. Matthew Barnes
"I will speak of Thy testimonies also before kings,
and will not be ashamed" Psalm 119:46