By Mark A. Taylor
Maybe the best thing we can say about the current U.S. election cycle is it’s almost over. Just three more weeks to go, but as the quality of the rhetoric continues to degenerate, we can fear these may be the most distasteful weeks of all.
How is the church reacting? In any election, we’re interested to see or hear how the church is preparing its members to glorify God with their votes. But there’s a harsher light on that question this year for more than one reason. The candidates both have higher negative ratings than any others in memory. Their formal debates have resembled a reality TV show more than a confrontation between statesmen. Their appeals to voters are based on denigrating each other’s character more than discussing vital issues. And, speaking of character, well-documented flaws in both nominees have not dissuaded Christians from vocally advocating for each of them anyway.
Our purpose here is not to rehearse or rehash any of the dissension and disagreement but simply to ask how local congregations are responding to it.
An informal survey of CHRISTIAN STANDARD readers and Facebook friends yields one answer above all others: prayer.
First Church of Christ in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, will have “an open call for prayer at the church building” on the evening of November 6, according to senior minister Tom Cash. Jim Conner reports 40 days of prayer for our country at Andover (Ohio) Christian Church where he ministers. And Mike Sandlin, preaching minster with Hi-Point Church of Christ, Bellefontaine, Ohio, said midweek prayer meetings there have been devoted to praying for the community, state, country, and world.
Don Crane, minister with the Howard (Pennsylvania) Christian Church believes “it is critical that Christians pray for the coming general election.” The elders at Howard Christian are hosting a prayer meeting Monday evening, November 7, and the church building will be open all Election Day for prayer.
Tim Sutherland, now a private counselor and formerly teaching pastor with Community Christian Church, Naperville, Illinois, commented wryly, “It could be the first time our churches truly prayed for an election. Desperation will do that to a person!”
But some Christian leaders are teaching and preaching as well as leading prayer.
For example, Eric Allen, lead pastor with Bluff Creek Christian Church, Greenwood, Indiana, said, “We are preaching two sermons on Christians and government and Christians and voting while keeping silent on supporting a candidate.” Cash’s three sermons before the election are “Do We Live in Despair or Hope?” “Do We Pray for Leaders with Whom We Disagree?” and “Do We Misapply Scripture to Support Our Agenda?”
Tom Fodi, lead minister with The Hills Church, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is preaching three sermons: “What Would Jesus Say to the American Voter?” “What Would Jesus Say to Trump?” “What Would Jesus Say to Hillary?”
“I preached a single message,” Steven Chapman, minister with First Christian Church, Chicago, Illinois, reported. It “communicated this truth: We tend to place our hope in politicians, policies, and political parties when our trust ought to be in Christ. We hear whispers of misplaced trust in each statement Christians make about this being the election which will save or destroy America.”
Brian Jennings, minister with Highland Park Christian Church, Tulsa, Oklahoma, preached a sermon called “How Should a Christian Engage in Politics?” A two-minute clip from that message has been viewed by more than 2,000. “I do think you should preach about politics,” Jennings advised. “People are dying to hear some good advice. But I would bounce your sermon off several people who think differently than you, but whom you trust love the Lord.”
What is your church doing to prepare people for this year’s election? We’d like to share more answers here.