In times of fear and despair, where do we look for guidance? In the very moment when Americans need it the most, one of the hidden tragedies of recent political dynamics is that even more have concluded that religious voices are less relevant (and more problematic) than ever— with increasing numbers seeing devoted believers as a threat to American “progress.”
They are wrong. Whatever people might believe about religious folks supporting President Trump (and there are very different ways of making sense of that), the wisdom and power in the larger message faith leaders have for America right now is as timely and urgent as ever.
During a challenging time of my own life in graduate school, I was introduced to two local pastors in Champaign, Illinois—Gary Grogan, (at the time) Senior Pastor at Stone Creek Church and Wayne Wager, Pastor at a campus ministry, Illini Life Christian Fellowship.
Like most Latter-day Saints, I had a wariness after repeated experiences feeling condemned by evangelicals for my own conviction that the beautiful Bible wasn’t the only source of God’s word and that we are His literal spiritual children. And yet, I experienced something with Gary and Wayne that quickly evaporated these earlier fears: the sweetness of friendship and a surprising strengthening of my own faith.
Although serious disagreements remained theologically, I felt edified, heard, and loved as we spent time together over pancakes and other random places. In one conversation at a bus stop, Wayne said as he was turning to go:
I’d like to believe that Jesus visited the Indians, Jacob—I really would! I don’t right now. But I will say this: there’s a goodness in your people—and a goodness in mine. Maybe one day, the Lord will perform some kind of “AT&T/Sprint merger” between our communities.
I smiled and thought…I really could see that! As I accepted invitations to attend some of their sermons, I came away strengthened in my own desire to follow Christ (and converted to Christian contemporary music—“aka, rocking out to Jesus”—if not to the particulars of their theology). This was partly due to the profound love these men had for the Lord, and partly because the way they spoke of Christ and His message felt fresh to Latter-day Saint ears (accustomed, as we all are, to our own discourse norms).
I will always be grateful for how they strengthened, lifted, and renewed me in a painful time of life (and since). As America faces its own uniquely painful time, I reached out to both men to ask what they’ve been feeling and sharing with their own congregants. Like all pastors, they are careful to not get overly drawn into national political debates. Yet like all pastors, they also feel a sacred obligation to speak to the current climate and broader issues of the day, even head-on sometimes.
After reviewing recent sermons, letters, and postings from these good men, I’ve summarized below some stand-out themes from the counsel of these wise leaders—in hopes they might inspire new insight and encouragement in others. Along with words from their own ministry, I drew upon a fascinating recent document Pastor Grogan prepared with other leaders called “The Issachar Report: Preparing for Postelection Ministry in an Age of Chaos” (occasionally bolding a phrase or excerpt that deserves special attention too).
If spiraling chaos is, indeed, in our future—thank God for continuing to provide inspired guidance in our day to, and through, good men and women all around us. And heaven knows Americans could use a rousing sermon right now! We hope you enjoy.
1. Don’t underestimate the seriousness of these times in America right now.
Pastor Grogan and colleagues start by summarizing what has become painfully aware to most in the U.S.: “Our nation is being torn apart by political Armageddon, civil unrest, social violence, an international pandemic, and economic meltdown”—which he separately elaborated by saying: “In my heart, I believe that every praying Christian and thinking person knows intuitively wealthy nations like the USA have crossed a line of some kind—God’s patience is near an end, and a day of reckoning has come. America has so much wealth and has become such a wicked nation. How can God keep blessing such an evil nation?”
- Our Federal courts have done everything within their power to outlaw even the mention of God’s name, certainly Jesus, in public life. Judges have banned the symbols of faith—crosses, plagues, manger scenes, prayer in schools.
- We are awash in an ocean of bloodshed, as we continue to allow the murder of millions of unborn children. Americans protest the killing of whales, rabbits, deer, on and on but say it’s okay to kill a baby in the womb. Such arrogant hypocrisy!
- There are more TV sets and movie theaters in American today than ever before. Along with the Internet which is now on our phones, they are all conduits for pornography!
- Violence in this country has surpassed that of the days of Noah and Lot in the Bible. Most Americans I know are dumbfounded by all the senseless killings, especially among students. Our schools are now unsafe.
“These are just a few signs of America’s moral decay” he notes. “I know there are other nations that are just as bad and some worse, but America was founded on Christian principles.” And yet, “American Christians think our nation is immune to God’s judgment, due to the number of praying Christians. But, I don’t see it!”
Pastor Grogan goes on to describe lackluster attitudes among some Christians, before pointing out, “America has enjoyed economic growth and blessings for so long but NO ONE, or at least very few, ever give God the credit for blessing us. In Jeremiah 44 we read how overnight Judah’s good days turned into a hellish nightmare overnight. Jeremiah was dumbfounded the people could not see it was their idolatry that brought them all down. I could go on and on with other Biblical examples.”
“These are some of my discernments,” Gary says. “I am not a prophet, but I see patterns in God’s Word,” adding:
We need to recognize that COVID-19 will have longer effects than most people realize. It literally could bring us to the brink of an economic and social collapse. If this COVID-19 decimates the United States, do you think this country would turn to God? Would we wake up and repent? Would the ungodly cry out for mercy? Probably not….Young ministers ask me if I think we are going to have revival after this is all over. I say that is what I pray for, but sadly, I don’t think we will. People, by and large, are not turning to the Lord during this crisis (and least here in America), so what makes us think they will turn to Him after it is over? They won’t…Of course, there will be a few who find the Lord and have their lives changes. Sorry to say, most won’t. I wish I was wrong but as you carefully study the history of Israel and Judah, this is the pattern.
Stepping back to see the big picture, Pastor Wayne Wager notes that looking at our nation as a whole, he has “enormous respect for the idea of America—a land of liberty and opportunity, where the rules of law really matter and where government is strong enough to preserve peace (But not so strong it oppresses us).” Then he said somberly, “All these virtues are threatened as we head into the future.”
In a list of other ailments he lists, Wayne says, “wow, the world is so quick to beat up the church. And YET not hold the secular society accountable for the evil it does. Our society strives to avoid any possibility of offending anyone. Except God.”
These are not the only pastors raising a warning. In the Washington Post earlier this week, another pastor was quoted as saying, “I know that other nations faltered by becoming divisive, amoral, totally based on personal ambitions and agendas. We seem to be there.”
2. Diagnose the problems correctly, so we will look in the right direction for our solutions.
Where are all these many issues arising from? Most popular explanations of suffering and sorrow around us focus on one of the many “isms” proposed as driving all the pain of society (racism, sexism, classism, etc.). Yet Pastor Grogan says:
It is basic Bible knowledge to know that disease, accidents, war, bad weather, crime, etc.—all things that take human life, and things that cause human suffering are a result of the fall of Adam and the curse of sin that is upon the world. The earth is literally groaning for the coming of the Lord, For, we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now (Romans 8:22).
On that basis, Pastor Grogan and colleagues write, “We do not believe political or social reform is the solution for our world or nation. Divine salvation and regeneration of the human spirit are the most effective ways to transform our culture.”
Gary and Wayne are united in preaching that God is not baffled by what is currently happening in America—and that Jesus Christ knows how to get us through whatever lies ahead. As Pastor Grogan and colleagues summarize: “God is not surprised by COVID-19, riots, racial tension, or these perilous times.”
They continue, “Keep preaching hope. Preach on lamenting. Preach salvation, Holy Spirit baptism, divine healing, and the coming of our Lord! With great passion, preach repentance, brokenness, and revival… God doing what we cannot do….Revival is what we need both personally and corporately. We do not want the fire to go out on our watch.” They cite Joshua Yancey as saying,
If you aren’t pleased with our current government, don’t worry. A new government is on its way that is greater than any monarchy, oligarchy, dictatorship, republic, or democracy—it is God’s Kingdom! The Book of Revelation assures us this world is passing away.
More than just declaring God’s truth, Pastor Grogan adds, “Don’t forget spiritual warfare. There is a real devil who has real objectives and has a veritable army. By that, I mean he has methods, schemes, devices (wiles), power, and strategies”—citing another text that states, “The devil is the adversary, a liar, and a deceiver. He is in opposition to God, His plan, and His people and is fierce and relentless.”
He continued, “Our weaponry is prayer and intercession: persistent private prayer and focused public prayer meetings”—quoting Dr. Terry Teykl who said, “People have to be taught to pray just like soldiers have to be taught to shoot.” More than prayer alone, Gary teaches:
Part of spiritual warfare is teaching people how to protect their minds from fear, destructive imaginations, confusion, and paranoias. All Christians are engaged in warfare, whether they know it or not (Ephesians 6: 10-12). In this spiritual battle, only God’s spiritual weapons will work (2 Corinthians 10: 3-5). Spiritual warfare involves knowing ourselves, knowing our enemy, knowing our Lord, and knowing how to use the weapons God has provided. It consists of exercising vigilance and discernment, along with staying balanced.
3. Identify with God first, before any other affiliation.
Pastor Grogan and colleagues caution, “We are already seeing the people of God elevating a social and political distinctive over their spiritual identity. As a result, they will [continue to] have conflicting opinions concerning the message of the gospel.” They continue:
The church has allowed culture to divide them more than now. COVID-19, social unrest, and politics have fractured the church into a million islands of unyielding conviction. Overnight, pastors and churches are expected to be Hollywood producers, social justice gurus, community leaders, real-time commentators, and a spiritual version of the CDC. As independent expectations, these beliefs seem reasonable; however, their convergence upon the local church is causing polarizing division, mission creep, and irrational expectations.
That means “believers [are] continuing to be divided into camps depending on various priorities or situational interpretation of kingdom theology,” continuing:
- Patriots will want the church to lead them in civic dissent and will prefer Matthew 6:33 to read, “Seek ye first patriotic conquest and all these other things will be added unto you.”
- Activists will want the church to lead them in social justice and will prefer Matthew 6:33 to be interpreted, “Seek ye first social justice and all these other things will be added unto you.”
- Medical professionals and those impacted by COVID-19 will want the church to lead them in public health. They will prefer Matthew 6:33 to be interpreted, “Seek ye first a vaccine and all these other things will be added unto you.”
- The indifferent will want the church to lead them back to normalcy. They will interpret Matthew 6:33 to read, “Seek ye first convenience and all these other things will be added unto you.”
“However overly simplistic these observations may seem,” they continue, “the disunity they have created unearths one alarming truth: God’s people seem to lack a prevailing perspective that enables them to live out ‘kingdom first’ priorities and navigate the spiritual realities of a world rotting from the inside out.”
Turning towards an answer, Pastor Grogan and colleagues go on to write,
While culture seems obsessed with focusing on our differences, the church should focus on what we as a community of faith have in common…We must encourage our people to focus on the main event of the kingdom and not become distracted by the political sideshow. Steve Pike stressed the need for intense focus saying, “We need to get back to the basics of making disciples first and respond to the current reality with truth and love.”
Pastor Wager agrees: “I care how the country is run. But this nation’s success shouldn’t be our priority. The urgency of the Great Commission and the advance of the Kingdom tower over the importance of America’s moral health.”
He then asks the question all this begs, “Should we, as Christians, work to gain power? And then make Biblical morality laws of the land?”
“Or,” he continues, shall we “see ourselves as pilgrims and citizens of God’s Kingdom? Just ‘passing through’ exclude ourselves from any part of the political process? Even from Voting!”
Wayne goes on: “Or is the BEST answer somewhere in between?”
After acknowledging this isn’t an easy question to answer—involving as it does, theology, politics, and ethics—“every part of it charged with emotion”—he asks, “So, where do we start on such a complex topic?”
I think we have to start with our IDENTITY as Christians. Knowing who we are in this world! As Christians, Christ is our President and King. We are citizens of His Kingdom and His Nation. We have no divided loyalty!
Pastor Wager continues, “When Peter writes to the ancient church, he reminds them how they’re “aliens and strangers in the world”—citing a 2nd Century Letter from one Roman to another Roman Diognetus, describing the 1st century Christians: “They live in their own countries, but only as aliens; they have a share in everything as citizens, and endure everything as foreigners…they busy themselves on earth, but their citizenship is in heaven.”
Pastor Wager acknowledges, “Our life now IS HERE. But our destiny is not bound to the affairs of this world. As Paul writes, our destiny is with our ‘fellow citizens God’s people’—Citizens of a Kingdom that is ‘already here, but not yet complete.’”
The question these pastors suggest this poses for all of us is, “Where have you seen socio-political conviction superseding your identity in Christ, whether in yourself or those you serve?”
Pastor Grogan and colleagues go on to warn about “political eclipse” where “all things will be viewed through a political lens”:
The politicization of all things will infiltrate nearly every area of our lives—everything from transportation; housing; food choice; preferred products; and yes, even the postal service will carry some form of political identification. This eclipse will also manifest itself through blame-casting in all sectors regarding COVID-19, national deficit, social distancing, and economic consequences.
They write: “As Christ-followers, we are not Republicans, Democrats, or Independents; we are children of the living God and citizens of an eternal kingdom. That means our passion for patriotism, social justice, social health, and normalcy must pale in comparison to our passion for the kingdom. It means when we leave the presence of others, they should unequivocally and undeniably be able to come to the conclusion that we are Christ-followers more than to be able to recall our political affiliation, social convictions, or patriotic leanings.”
Evangelist Tim Enloe was quoted as saying, “It seems some people have more passion for political things than for their lost grandchildren. We need to build God’s kingdom over any earthly kingdom. Those who identify with a political banner will shipwreck. They will shipwreck on politics. Preach love and the character of Jesus.”
This same leader argues that “our churches should be political free zones and gospel rich zones.” After leading a major multiethnic large church through nine national elections (while “standing firm on biblical justice issues”), Pastor Grogan argues that “people are called to the political process but not the church.”
4. Focus more on the changes we need to make as believers.
Both pastors draw priority attention to a worry they say rises above others: the hearts and lives of believers themselves. Pastor Grogan says,
I am more concerned about the church—God’s people. Will they go to church? Will they go to prayer meetings? Will they pay their tithes and give to missions faithfully? Some do, but most who call themselves Christians in this country do not. They even created their own theology that says tithing is not New Testament. So sad. Most Christians in America don’t even tithe let alone give to missions. America spends more money on dog food than it does on missions.
He concludes “God’s people are hardened and they don’t even know it.”
Gary then pivots to focus on the fresh opportunities these challenges raise:
Let’s take a fresh look at soul care. We must use this time to grow authentically in their relationship with Jesus. Despite the complications, anxieties, and difficulties of leading in such a time, now is the time to find joy. It is not a trite saying that the joy of the Lord is our strength. My mother lived through the Great Depression, and she said her mother kept everyone laughing despite hard times.
Citing another leader’s admonition that “Living out your values will become more important than ever,” Pastor Grogan and colleagues teach that “more than ever” we need to look at “every area of our life” that may need adjustment—citing Dr. Charlie Self as admonishing leaders to “Use this time to let the Lord heal us of our past wounds and do lots of carpet time.”
While acknowledging the impact of wise or foolish leaders, Pastor Wager argues that “the American public are the real problem, not our leaders. It seems as though Americans on the whole” are “really interested in their own selves”—more so than “building an excellent society.”
To illustrate, he continues, “In Illinois, we have racked up a huge debt. We need to pay the debt! We have incredible new cars but terrible rotting school buildings.”
“Let’s work to set things right in our towns and our country,” he adds, noting “I’m really excited that almost all of Champaign’s elementary schools Are being beautifully renovated. But our hope is not in human progress but in the coming return of God’s Lordship over the earth and the present power of the HOLY SPIRIT as we live here as revolutionaries!”
Noting the sensitivity of what he’s about to say, he adds, “Now may not be the best time for the Black churches to be speaking out calling the Black community to address its own sins while it is addressing the sins of white people. Both populations need to repent!”
Pastor Wager concludes, “So, the first responsibility of God’s people is to “be the church.” Really BE IT! With an all IN investment—commitment to God, to each other, and to a lost but searching world. To live by forgiveness, not retribution. To care for the sick, visit the lonely, care for the poor, instead of watching TV all the time.”
“We need to look out for the weak and the oppressed and remember the forgotten”—making it clear to America that we are about “open-handed generosity, friendship, and sacrificial service.” In this way, believers “may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” Again, not lives consumed by the internet and TV. But actively involved moving God’s Kingdom forward!”
So, in sum, “What is God saying through this COVID-19?” Pastor Grogan asks.
I believe God is talking to the world AND He is testing the church. He is saying to the whole world, “Come to Me, depend on Me, your life on earth is fragile and brief.” He is reminding us that He and He alone is the source of comfort, fulfillment, and meaning. And He is testing the church and saying to the church, “Will you be the people I want you to be? Will you be people of faith that live for Me? Will you be people of generosity? Will you lean into Me? Will you forsake your idols of wealth, sex (pornography), and the things that separate you from Me? Will you repent and live dependent and broken before Me?”
5. God expects those seeking to follow Him to buck the trend of incivility, while demonstrating appropriate respect for authority.
Pastor Grogan and colleagues write with concern about “villainization as a means for problem-solving”—drawing attention to what they call the “glorification of dissent.” They predict we will continue to see “hyper gridlock and political polarization…become the norm locally, regionally, and nationally. All the world will seem to be an activist of sorts, and people will wear the spirit of offense like a badge of honor.”
Pastor Wager reminds his congregants that “God approves of civil government”—citing Romans 13:1-2 that reads, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.”
“If it weren’t for laws and limits on people’s actions,” Wayne underscores, “there would be violence unleashed everywhere. That’s why in God’s mercy, He approves of human government.”
He then asks, “Does this mean anything a government does is OK? Not at all. If push comes to shove, ‘We must obey God rather than Men.’”
He continues, “But as much as possible we cooperate with government, live respectful of laws and honor people in government.” He also cites Peter as teaching early believers to “show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.”
That means, he underscores, “not publicly mocking [leaders]…which is why I really don’t enjoy political humor guys like Conan O’Brian.”
“As much fun as mockery can be,” Wayne continues, “God hates it. All of us need to take this to heart.”
He goes on to suggest, “one reason we don’t have the best leaders, is that most talented citizens don’t run. They won’t expose themselves to abuse—they and their family. False accusations against our civil leaders that come from both the public and the media are poison to them and their families.”
Pastor Wager elaborates, “Who wants to be a president over the American people? We treat presidents like crap. Every little thing they do wrong is pounced upon by the opposite political party. We need a movement in our nation of criticizing and putting pressure on our media”:
We think by berating our public officials we will create a form of accountability that will lead to better leaders. That’s like thinking if you sternly confront your wife almost every time she makes a mistake, she will eventually do better at loving you. By not giving some grace to our public officials we are causing the very thing we lament—a scarcity of talented government leaders. We have met the enemy and it is us!
Should we hold leaders accountable, Pastor Wager asks?
“Yes. But respectfully so. We’re hurting ourselves by making them a running joke, particularly on social media.” By way of counsel, he adds: “Avoid people cynical about everything and everyone. Skepticism is appropriate. But cynicism is poison.”
Focusing again on the positive alternative, Pastor Wager goes on to note, “I’m impressed by the power of honor when given to leaders. Think about how Daniel and Nehemiah honored outright tyrants in Asia” and “how the respect of those men of God drew out the best in those godless Kings.” As another example, he mentions, “how Joseph continually honored his Egyptian captors that God used that for GOOD. Even Jesus, when asked if it was right to pay taxes to Caesar, saying ‘Yes, give to Caesar what is Caesar’s.’ The Apostle Paul also taught that we owe more than taxes: ‘Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.’”
That honor is something we can extend to each other as well. As Pastor Grogan acknowledges, “When we are under pressure, our ability to give grace goes down; we cannot listen to others and have empathy and compassion. With everything going on, we seem to get to the end of the rope quicker and lose our ability to cope. This causes us to look without seeing, listen without hearing, and speak without understanding.”
He continues, “Our challenge then is to listen more, talk less, and calm down. This is the wisdom of James 1:19 ‘Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry’ (NLT).”
Pastor Grogan and colleagues propose “the church can create geographic islands of civility by facilitating public conversation”—while “preaching peace”—citing Dr. Wager Kraiss as saying, “Regardless of who wins the election, the division and hate-mongering will continue. People will panic and be fearful, uneasy, overly worried, and anxious. Again, keep preaching peace and repentance, and please teach on the coming of the Lord.”
“Instead of being sucked into circling the drain of godless culture,” they conclude, “the church must present Christ to a world distracted by personal disillusionment, emotional instabilities, political division, and social injustice.”
6. Seek to judge candidates for office fairly and righteously.
Pastor Wager recalls, “I was asked whether is it possible, perhaps, that those that hold [critical] opinions about President Trump cling so exclusively to what they call ‘his poor character,’ that they forget about the log in their own eye?”
Wayne continues: “I think this is a fair question” and asked his congregants how that teaching of Jesus applied. “He’s not saying I shalt not call out faults in another. He’s saying that before I do that, I need to first look at myself. What are the logs in my eye? Am I a jerk? In other words, I should first consider my own sin. Until I can do those things, I will not presume I’m fit to lead.”
“Is Mr. Trump doing the same?” Wayne asks:
It’s only right, especially at this moment in time, to ask that question and to look for things in Mr. Trump’s eyes. Because to make a comparison, we citizens are considering his qualifications for “ordination,” not as an elder, but for the highest office in the land. A position where CHARACTER and MORALITY really matter! It’s too often said by Christians that “we should not hold the President to the standards of a pastor.” Why not? Yes, we are a secular nation. So, in some sense, they’re right—the call to be devout and faithful in doctrine do not apply. Yet the moral qualities required to lead people and do right seem to apply. I think scripture says so. The Old Testament is, among other things, a long series of lessons about unrighteous CIVIL RULERS bringing calamity to the people.
While conceding that “imperfect people hold positions of leadership” and “no one is good except for God alone,” Pastor Wager said, “Our government was designed by moral people who built checks and balances into our process, and where the character of a candidate is supposed to matter. So, always ask yourself, is this candidate:”
- Honest enough to be trusted?
- Experienced enough to solve problems?
- Diplomatic enough to lead other leaders?
- Strong enough to handle the strain?
“It asks a lot of a person to be all that. But these are the traits that matter!” Wayne exclaims. And “it matters who we vote for!” he adds, citing three verses from Proverbs:
- “Upright citizens bless a city and make it prosper” (11:11).
- “When the wicked are in authority, sin increases” (29:16).
- “When there is moral rot within a nation its government topples easily. But with wise and knowledgeable leaders, there is stability” (28:2).
While righteous judgment may often involve closer scrutiny, Pastor Wayne suggests it also involves being realistic about leaders—and avoiding what Pastor Grogan calls “politics as Savior.” As Wayne puts it, “Be realistic about what any politician will or can do”—recounting a friend asking him before one presidential election, “Do you know what Abraham Lincoln promised in 1860 if he was elected president?”
The answer: “Nothing!”
“But how could that be? Back then, you see, we didn’t look to the government to fix everything. The government’s job was to keep the peace, provide law and order. The goodness of life was in OUR hands. Not the government’s. And that’s what we [Christians] believe!”
Then Pastor Wager said: “My great hope is not in government. The task of fixing this country is beyond any leader we have. They all promise change and most political leaders try hard. But keep it all in perspective. The challenges our new president and congressman will face are staggering.” During the presidential primaries, Wayne also wrote, “Abandon unrealistic expectations about this current crop of candidates. And if you take them seriously, you are in for some disappointment:
- Cruz is going to abolish the IRS?
- Trump is going to force Mexico to build a wall?
- Bernie is going to make college free?
“It pains me to see Christian people be seduced by the world’s circus. Of all people, we ought to be the realists who test the truth of what we are hearing.” He reiterated, “The Church is the hope of the World. And this means the People of God need to wake up.”
7. Be actively involved in supporting leaders that we believe will act in line with God’s will.
“I for one, make God’s Kingdom my passion and life’s work,” Pastor Wager continued, “But I still look for ways to do my part as American.”
He added, “We have a rare privilege as American citizens to actually influence the laws of the land. Most people in history had no leverage at all. So, I think we should be influencers.”
Speaking personally, Wayne cautions, “I believe evangelicals who support Trump are missing the long term cultural damage our support for him is doing. Biblical Christians in the U.S. became a mocked subculture in 1925 greatly due to how we were portrayed during the Scopes Trial. Our support of Trump, given his poor character, is doing the same thing. This may be another century-long loss of respect by the watching world.”
He then noted, “Jesus paid taxes to Rome, but I doubt he would defend or vote for Tiberius. And I do think Jesus meant more Caesar as an institution than Tiberius himself. I’ll support forceful actions by Christians to change abortion laws. Supporting Trump is a step too far for me.”
It’s worth noting that other influential, thoughtful pastors feel differently, including Bill Johnson of Bethel Church in California, who said President Trump’s “passion for godly counsel is legendary. His historic actions for Israel should appeal to believers, as the biblical mandate to pray supportively for Jerusalem is a clear priority in scripture.” As he prayed for other presidents, he added, “that he would have great wisdom for his near impossible assignment, and that he would always listen to godly counsel … that he would increase in favor with God and man.”
Despite what one may feel about a particular leader, Pastor Wayne agrees about encouraging congregants to “pray for our leaders,” citing 1 Tim. 2:1-2, “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority.”
And when we rise from our knees, he said, “We must stay engaged and work for positive change. And never give up.”
That includes participating in an election: “A believer should register and every believer should vote.”
8. Be bold in offering to a flailing world the message of where it’s true deliverance lies.
Even more than voting, Jesus said we’re to be “the salt of the earth.” What does that mean?
Pastor Wayne explains, “Salt in the ancient world is a preserving agent, So, what Jesus is saying is that we can keep society from rotting, if we keep our saltiness!”
He notes, “The early church didn’t have a participative government like we do but their moral influence on Roman Society was huge.”
That can be true in our day as well, Wayne taught—echoing other faith leaders in asserting: “As the darkness of the world gets darker, the light of God’s Kingdom will shine more distinctly.” And if the Church rises to its potential, “that light will be very bright.”
9. Be grateful for what we have been given in our country.
Pastor Wager encourages listeners to be “thankful for the good things we have as Americans.” He elaborated:
Much of America has a desire for excellence. We have a high view of law and most people observe it. We live in a remarkably safe and ordered place. Think about it, 24/7 people are waiting in firehouses in this town ready to come rescue us in an emergency. We should all be grateful for things like that.
Good government does bless us. Think of all the schools and towns that are run well in this country
Do you believe things are sometimes corrupt in government?
Yeah! There’s some of that.
Is politics sometimes a disgusting mess?
But giving up is not acceptable, as bad as things can feel.
Think how much better things are with government than without it. Which is better? Life in Illinois? Or life in Somalia, or Afghanistan, or Haiti?
10. Look to God’s wisdom to guide us in these perilous times.
Pastor Grogan and colleagues write with concern, “Our current disruption caused by COVID-19, rioting, and political division is exhausting, unsettling, annoying, and challenging. Most leaders I talk with are dealing with fatigue, stress, anxiety, and a plethora of puzzling emotions. The reality is that any sense of normal might not return or at least might not happen for a long while.”
They continue with empathy, “We have all been going through so much in the last 5-months! The Big 3 have been a global health pandemic, economic crisis, and sustained protests against racism and injustice. The amount of change and challenges we are all experiencing is incredible. Because of this, people are blowing up on those around them and especially on social media. Leaders cannot do this; we must maintain balance in all areas of life.”
They repeat, “Regardless of who wins the election, the division and hate-mongering will continue. People will panic, be fearful, uneasy, overly worried, and anxious. Again, keep preaching peace, repentance, and please teach on the coming of the Lord.” Then they enjoin, “We must prepare ourselves, our teams, and our churches for what’s ahead in post-election America. What we need to navigate post-election American is the wisdom of God. For example, what will be the long-term unintended consequences of churches not meeting together? We don’t know. This needs to be part of our conversation.”
Pastor Wager taught, “When God listed the brave warriors of Israel he lists the ‘men of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what Israel should do’ (1 Chr. 12:32) and this means understanding the moral issues, the justice issues, [and] the wisdom issues we face and what the Christian responses might be.”
Citing Proverbs 4:7, “Wisdom is the principal thing,” Pastor Grogan says, “notice the definite article ‘the.’ I have always defined wisdom as knowing what to do next, and then doing it.” Then as a model we can follow, Gary said:
Think of the early Jesus followers in Jerusalem. They knew about the prophecy of Jesus that Jerusalem would be destroyed. Just like us, they lived daily lives of commerce, family, and pleasure. They owned, bought, sold, and existed. It is reasonable to think that discerning people knew judgment was coming. James, the Pastor of the Jerusalem church, did not tell them precisely what to do or say but told them to ask God for wisdom (James 1:5).
Emotionally we must be prepared to live in a different world of life, commerce, travel, education, and church. Thanks to massive cultural, generational, and technological shifts, the world we once knew no longer exists. We have to be OK with that. Ministering in post-election America will be a challenge, but we have to embrace our call to Nineveh. We take care of ourselves, do what we can, and the Lord will have to do the rest.
By way of encouragement, Gary says:
He created, called, and commissioned you to take your place in this divine intersection. All the days of your life “were written in [his] book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:16 NIV). You have a rendezvous with destiny, and you are God’s man or woman for the moment. Like Esther of old, “You have come to [the kingdom] for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14 NIV)—before adding, “Like Israel in the wake of a national, political, and social crisis, we will need men and women like the sons of Issachar “who understood the times and knew what Israel should do” (1 Chronicles 12:32 NIV).”
Compare that hope, that confidence, and that encouragement in all these words, with the despair, resentment, and uncertainty all around us.
To conclude, we cite another wonderful pastor, Francis Chan, in a message from earlier in the year, after COVID had shut down so much of society: “I don’t know about you, but I’ve never appreciated and loved being a follower of Jesus Christ more than right now. Just to know that I can be secure in Him. Just to know that He really did conquer the grave so I’m not afraid of death.”
Doesn’t mean I’m going to go out and do stupid things. But I’m just not fearful. I mean, how many times in scripture does He tell His disciples, “fear not.” That’s the most oft-repeated command. We are to be those people like He describes in the Book of Luke, when he says, “When all these things are happening in the end, straighten up and lift up your heads for your redemption is near.”
Pastor Chan concluded, “That’s got to be us right now, fearless.”
To hear more from Gary, click here – or here to listen to Stonecreek Church services. To hear more from Wayne, click here or here to listen to current Illini Life teachings to encourage college students to follow Christ.