Politics in the Church

Credit:  Aram Vartian

Credit: Aram Vartian

Last week I read correspondence from two esteemed church leaders about church politics and centralized power. Both are public, selectively quoted here with authors’ permission.

One leader wrote: “Church politics. Maybe you have seen the ways of worldly politics at work even in your local congregation. The same tactics can also creep into district and synod gatherings as well. Sometimes, it can get unpleasant or even downright ugly.”

“While Christ-centered, diplomatic attempts at proper persuasion can honor God and move the Savior’s mission forward, the temptation to copy the political ways of the world can cause offense and get in the way of our witness to the welcoming love of Jesus.”

The other leader wrote: “In recent dealings with an entity that believes power should be centralized and politicized, I couldn’t help but be reminded of this quote: ‘I do not trust people who don’t love themselves and yet tell me, ‘I love you.’ There is an African saying: ‘Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt.’”

Having personally experienced both positive and negative church politics, I offer these thoughts:

  • “Politics” comes from a Greek word that literally means “of, for, or relating to citizens.”
  • Properly understood and implemented, “politics” is a neutral or even positive term.
  • Politics can be honorably utilized as well intentioned, non-self-serving, honest efforts to persuade people to pursue and achieve a purposeful and godly course of action.
  • On the other hand, politics can be sinfully and dishonorably used to gain power and control for selfish purposes that do not serve the common good.
  • Politics can even be an evil tool used to accumulate wealth, influence and notoriety not honestly earned or deserved but achieved through false witness, innuendo and wrongful allegation or accusation of those who stand in the way of those goals.
  • Politics used wrongly can injure or ruin the reputation of individuals and organizations.
  • Contrary to the opinion of those who use politics wrongly, the end does not justify the means of political activities lacking integrity and godly motivation!

The only proper use for politics, especially in the church, is truthful and objective description of reality as it currently exists, followed by presentation of a positive plan for accomplishing honorable and godly goals. The process will be truly blessed if it promotes positive objectives, helps people holistically, honors the Eighth Commandment, and is motivated by the love of Christ.

Holy Week

Cross 10For Christians around the world, this week is holy, special, sacred, set apart. It marks events of crucial significance in the history of the Christian faith:

  • Maundy Thursday – the institution of the Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion.
  • Good Friday – the crucifixion of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
  • Holy Saturday – the day Jesus’ body lay in the tomb between Friday and Sunday.
  • Easter Sunday – the Festival of the Resurrection of our Lord from the grave.

The early church and liturgical churches today call the three days from Good Friday to Easter Sunday the triduum, the intent of which is to signify the walk with Jesus through the darkest hours of his life. The conclusion of the triidium is the celebration of the glory and miracle of the resurrection on Easter Sunday morning!

Terry and I pray for each of you a blessed Holy Week. We, like many of you, will attend services of worship this week that will renew in our hearts an ever growing appreciation for the life, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus.

At the end of the day, at the end of our life here on earth, what really matters, eternally, is made possible and provided for believers in Christ through the events of this Holy Week!

April Birthday Ladies in My Life!

Credit:  Zsuzsanna Kilian

Credit: Zsuzsanna Kilian

April is an important month for some very important ladies in my life!

April 10 is the date my dear mother, Elda Mary Hellman Kieschnick, was born in Nashville, Kansas. The year was 1916. Do the math! This young lady turns 98 years of age today! Her health is strong, with relatively few minor aches and pains. She lives independently, cooks and entertains folks with bed and board. She is called “Granny” and works like the Energizer Bunny!
Two years ago Mom gave up driving but still goes lots of places, with kind assistance from her friends. She has been blessed with four children, 12 grandchildren, 21 great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren, two of whom are still living here on earth. One of the premature Christmas triplets passed away two days after birth. Granny is a blessing and loved by many!

April 10 is also the date my dear wife, Terry Lee Roos Kieschnick, was born in Austin, Texas. That makes it easy not to forget either birthday! The year was a few decades later than that of my dear mother noted above. Terry and I have been married more than 48 years and have been blessed with two grown children, one grown son-in-law, and two grandchildren who call her “Mimi.”

Terry has been and continues to be a genuine blessing to our immediate and extended families and to many other dear friends and loved ones across the country and around the world. She is blessed with many gifts, including the gift of hospitality. She loves to feed people, as few as two and as many as 120 at one time! Terry also loves to decorate our home, which she does beautifully and joyfully! She is very special to me, to all our family, and to many others!

April 15 is the date Terry’s mother, Dorothy Nell Gruesen Roos, was born in Austin, Texas. The year was 1926. She left this earth for her home in heaven on June 21, 2011, at the tender age of 85. She was blessed with two children, two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Dorothy was a lifelong member of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Austin. Her life is remembered in many ways by many people and is especially memorialized by a beautiful wooden cross dedicated to the glory of God in the chapel auditorium at Concordia University Texas.

April 6 is the date our dear daughter, Angela Lynn Kieschnick Keith, was born in Springfield, Ill. The year was 1970. Angie arrived shortly before Terry and I left the seminary for our first call in Biloxi, Miss. She is a very special young lady who has blessed us with much joy and pleasure!

Baptizing our infant daughter moments after I was ordained on June 6, 1970, was my first official pastoral act. She was crying! Her pacifier was not handy. So I put my index finger in her mouth. That did the trick! Angie and Todd have been married nearly 25 years and are blessed with our two awesome grandchildren, Kolby and Kayla. Kayla, born in August, broke the April birth pattern!

In our home April is an important month! I am blessed to have all these wonderful women in my life, together with three sisters and other female family members. I thank God for each of them!

Children Who Hurt Themselves

Credit: Penny Mathews

Credit: Penny Mathews

Recently I read an article in the Austin American Statesman. The front page headline was quite disturbing: “Austin schools tally 1,000 students who intentionally hurt themselves.”

Here’s a portion of the article: “When Lizzie was in seventh grade, she would use a mechanical pencil to cut her arms and ankles under her desk. Her teachers never noticed. She would do it to make herself feel numb when she was anxious or when her emotions overwhelmed her. It became an addiction that Lizzie, now a high school student, is still fighting.”

“Health officials say self-injury – cutting, hitting, burning, bruising or otherwise hurting oneself to relieve stress or anxiety – frequently stems from underlying emotional or psychiatric problems, such as bipolar disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder. It is an often misunderstood problem that is more widespread than parents might think.”

The Austin school district last year began tracking when students tell counselors or teachers that they are cutting or hurting themselves, and it has tallied nearly 1,000 such reports so far. “When I got those numbers, I was alarmed,” said a crisis counseling coordinator at the district who started the program. “For many years, we’ve known it is high, but the last two or three years we started paying more attention to it.”

The article goes on to describe self-injury as something teenagers and preteens have seen their friends and classmates doing, and some try it, not realizing that it can become addictive or that it can be a precursor to suicide. The body reacts to the injuries by releasing serotonin, dopamine and endorphins. Self-injury can become addictive as the body builds tolerance.

In the Austin instance, school officials are working to prevent self-injury in schools, rewriting the crisis handbook to include a protocol for dealing with self-injury. They provide staff development with counselors and are creating a DVD aimed at middle school students to teach them what to do if they or their friends are hurting themselves.

One school official said: “Self-injury is one thing a lot of people aren’t aware of. What surprises me time and time again is how well the kids hide it. Our kids are good at masking – their grades look great and they’re still involved in clubs and look happy, but they’re doing this.”

Once adults do find out, though, they need to be sure to treat it like it is: an unhealthy coping mechanism. “There a lot of things people do that are unhealthy, and this is just one of them. It’s not like you’re crazy for cutting … you just learned a way to cope that’s not healthy.”

My thoughts are simple. In addition to providing appropriate professional assistance, parents, grandparents, pastors and teachers can help immensely by affirming in young people a sense of individual self-worth as children of God. His love, forgiveness and acceptance have great power!