Pulpit Freedom Sunday??
I recently received the enclosed picture in an email asking me to register and join a movement called, “Pulpit Freedom Sunday.” It is to take place this Sunday October 7th. The organizers are asking those pastors that register to join to preach messages about those running for office in the upcoming November elections. A recent Fox News story gives more detail. Those that take part are attempting to send a message to the IRS that what is preached from the pulpits of churches cannot be controlled by the government and is protected under the First Amendment to our United States Constitution. Sounds like a cause that every pastor ought to get behind and participate in, right? Well, let me give you some reasons why I won’t be participating as a pastor. I am sure this won’t necessarily be a popular decision and I can even think of some friends who will totally disagree with my decision as I write this post. Nevertheless, I think there are some important Biblical principles to consider when deciding whether to participate or not.
Now, before I give you my reasons for not participating, let me make it very clear that I whole-heartily believe in supporting our rights as Americans and standing up for those rights when it is needed. Free speech is a very important part of our country and our ministries as pastors. Without it, we would be ministering in a country like the former Soviet Union or Communist China. I understand that the underlying purpose of a movement like this is to make sure that we don’t become like one of those countries. I get all of that, and I support the thinking. BUT, our freedoms have not been taken away and we still have the right to preach and proclaim God’s Word and the gospel to every individual without government interference. That is the most important! If you ask any attorney about this whole issue, they will tell you that there is a difference between a church and a non-profit 501c3, and different rules apply. If you are a pastor and your church has become a 501c3, you may want to consider asking your attorney whether or not you should be one. My understanding from our attorney is that churches are automatically considered to be a non-profit organization and therefore, do not need to take on the extra burden of becoming a 501c3 and having to obey the IRS in rules like not making political recommendations. In essence, and right understanding of this fact makes this whole thing a non-issue, at least from my perspective.
So, why is it that I won’t be participating as a pastor? Well, here are just a few of the reasons I have gathered and committed to when it comes to this issue:
First, the Freedom to Preach God’s Word is of Primary Importance. This movement is in essence, an act of civil disobedience that I don’t believe is justified. The IRS can be a bit confused and they can be that way because most of the time government has no idea what the right hand and the left hand are doing. There is not communication and a great deal of confusion. To this point, pastors and churches have not been told that they cannot preach Scripture, the name of Christ, or that they cannot give the gospel. Therefore, no damage has been done. If that ever happens (and I pray that it never does) I will then be very active in disobedience to a law like that for I am a Christian first, and an American after. Those courageous Christians that were killed at the hand of Nero were killed not for their political stand, but for their faith.
Second, the Job of Pastors is to preach God’s Word not Political Positions. Paul commanded Timothy to preach the Word (II Timothy 4:2). It is interesting why Paul would have had to command Timothy to do this. You would think that that would be a no brainer because that’s what Pastors do, right? Well, Timothy was getting a great amount of pressure from false teachers not to preach the Word and to water down its message and in doing so, not fulfill his role as a true pastor. Paul said, don’t do it, for this is what you are to be doing. His command was to keep at it for there is a time coming when people are not going to want to hear it. I am not going to harp on this, but I would encourage my fellow pastors to consider those leading, encouraging, and organizing this movement. Are they true believers? Are they false teachers? I am not pointing fingers; I am merely asking questions…seriously!
Third, the Purpose of Church is Worship not Politics. During election years, there is a great amount of pressure on pastors to use your pulpit as a political mascot. I say that we ought not to reduce the purpose of that sacred desk to something like that! Pastors are to preach the Word and lead their churches in the worship of Almighty God. This ought to cause pastors to leave politics to the politicians and focus on the shepherding of the flock of God (I Peter 5:2-5).
I do want to exercise my freedoms as a pastor, so while I won’t be registering as part of this political movement, I will be exercising my freedom as a pastor on pulpit freedom Sunday. First, we will be holding our Friend Day outreach this Sunday morning. This is a gospel outreach with the purpose of getting the gospel to as many folks in the community as we can. Praise the Lord for the freedom to do that! Second, I will have voter guides present at our information center so that the people in my church can educate themselves on where the candidates stand on issues that are important to them and to the Word of God. That is part of my role as a pastor, but it won’t go further than that, at least not yet.
Posted on October 1, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged Bible Reading, Christianity, church, faith, gospel, preaching, religion, Roman Empire, spirituality, United States. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a Comment.