Monday, 24 August 2015

Casting light, not throwing stones

Like some others I know, I have a passion for politics and love to seek to influence to change lives and society for the better. I've tried to set down here a number of principles that may be helpful for Christians involved in politics:

1. Our preoccupation is Christ, not politics. The desire to change society for the better is good and honourable, and for some of us, politics is the route we use to bring that about. However, our preoccupation in doing this should to bring glory to Him. If 90% of what we post on social media is about politics, and rarely about Christ, where does our preoccupation lie?

2. In all we do and say, bring glory to Him. Remember that we are ambassadors of Christ in all we say and do. That does not necessarily mean working references to Christ in everything we say and write, but it does mean that the beliefs and attitudes we express in our words and actions should give people a glimpse of what Jesus is like. It is particularly important that we express that in how we act toward those who disagree with us politically. 

3. Avoid calling other parties or their members 'evil'. You may disagree with their policies, but you are a sinner now saved and made a saint by grace, in your background no better than those you are calling evil. Are you calling Christians in other parties evil? Are you implying that those who do not know Christ but are members of your party are in some way morally superior to non-Christians in other parties? If so, what is the standard of righteousness you are applying?

4. Make the focus of what you say to be about what you believe and why, not about rubbishing other parties. Spend four times longer explaining what you consider to be right than you do saying why you think the other side are wrong. Be quick to say when you think the other side are right.

5. Be sparing and wise about what articles you link to on social media. Sometimes you may come across an article that expresses what you want to say far more effectively than you feel you can, but if their analysis is right, but their attitude is wrong, don't share it. Remember that people will associate you, not the author, with the attitudes that are expressed there.

6. People in other parties are not your enemies-or, if you think they are, then biblically that should only lead you to love them and seek to bless them.

7. Have nothing to do with gossip or plots to undermine people.

8. Be quick to give honour to those in other parties. Most people in politics that I have come across have got involved because they genuinely want to make society better. They may vary in their ability, radicalism and the degree to which I agree with them, but most of them come from that motive. Wanting to make the lot of those who live around you better is  a worthy motive and people should be given honour and respect for wanting to do do.

9.  Be especially quick to give honour to those in leadership in society. Christians in the early church were told by the apostle Peter to honour the emperor-that same emperor who was persecuting Christians in a way that many of us have never experienced. Yes, Christians should express when they profoundly disagree with a decision, but they should do so thoughtfully and with wisdom-and they should be even quicker to praise when they agree with a decision, and most of all they should give honour to those in leadership simply because they are in leadership. Leaders have been placed in those roles by God and we should pray for them to make wise decisions.

10. Be bold. I am constantly surprised when I find out after 20 years that politician x is a Christian or that, when faced with a policy that most Christians would regard as wrong but their party supported, the most they did was abstain. The world is not changed by abstentions. Call to God for protection and wisdom so that, when faced with situations like those of Daniel and his friends, you are able to speak with wisdom to those in authority and say 'I cannot support this' and look to God to deliver you, and if it ends up costing you office in your party, or prestige, or friendship, still look to the God who loves you and has called you.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

The cult of youth

A question for friends in Newfrontiers and similar groups of churches. When was the last time that you heard of someone over 50 being appointed an elder for the first time? Not someone who had previously been an elder in a different church and was now taking up eldership in another. I mean someone becoming an elder for the first time when over 50 years of age. I can only think of one example in the past five years.

The same is reflected in much evangelism. Yes, you will get some people aged 30 plus turning up at Alpha Courses, but when you look at the publicity materials, most of it is clearly targeted at those under 30. In other focussed evangelism, churches would seem to far more often prefer to target students than older people.

When you ask churches about the reasons for this, you often get the response 'young people are more open to new ideas and so easier to reach'. Young people may tend to be more open to new ideas (although I think that is far too sweeping a generality), but I thought that coming to know Christ came from the call of God? It isn't to do with who would be open to new ideas. It's to do with the call of the Father in bringing people to Him, of which our evangelism is simply us having the honour of being God's agent in the process. When you look at the New Testament, you see people of all ages-and whole families-coming to know God. The same is true of just about every major revival in history. When you read about them, you don't see God doing work in the young people in a nation and leaving the rest untouched. You see all generations falling down before God and calling out for Him to save them.

Similarly in terms of leadership, in the Bible you see people like David who come to leadership in their youth, you see people like Moses who have promises from God in their youth that only come to fruition when they are much older, and you get people like Abraham, who God calls when already a mature adult.

A subconscious message behind the lack of older people coming into leadership is that, if you haven't come into leadership by the time you're forty, you're not really leadership material. Subconscious messages behind focussing evangelism on under 30s is that it really all depends upon us and not God, and that anyone older who becomes a Christian is a bit of a bonus, like extra seeds that happened to spout by the roadside.

As with so many other areas of church life, in evangelism and in recognising leadership it is vital that we are biblical and don't try and be wiser than God,