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.