Politics in the Church
By Matthew Corbitt
Politics within the church is not a new phenomena.
Politics is an amoral practice, neither good nor evil. The Holy Spirit can be a part of politics or absent from political dealings. Politics is the method by which we deal with other people (Politic, n.d.). The Bible is nothing if not a political book. Wildavsky (2005) argues that studying political thought without both studying and referencing the Hebrew bible leaves a strong component of Western political philosophy unexamined. Without reading the Bible to find its political philosophy, one cannot truly understand Western political philosophy.
Politics happen in a local congregation on a daily basis and large organizations have a preferential desire to engage in politics. To be a leader within a local church requires a certain amount of political skill. This skill is increased by degrees when one rises within an organization. The superintendent of any organization is most often the one who is most adept at the political game.
Politic is not a dirty word. Politic and leadership are inseparable.
When Paul stressed that he became ‘all things to all people’ 1 Cor. 9:19-23, he was engaging in politics. Remember politics deals with relationships in society and the structure it forms as well as the art of government (Politics, n.d.). To the outside world, Paul was behaving politically.
Acts 15 deals with politics within the early church. There was a split between the judaizers and those believing the Gentiles were not required to obey the Mosaic law. The church of Antioch sent groups of men to Jerusalem in order to have the matter resolved. A debate ensued and the resulting political ruling paved the way for the Gentile expansion of the early church. This political rift helped shape Christian views even today.
Why does politics have such a bad name within the church?
The simple answer is the abuse of power. Lying, cheating, embezzlement, spin, fraud, fornication. These sins are more tempting and more accessible when an individual has achieved power. Politics is one sure way of achieving power and position within a local assembly or an international organization, and when that power and position is achieved, some find the temptation for sin to be too strong. Pride is often the ‘gateway drug’ to other indulgences, but just as often power has a way of magnifying our own weaknesses. This magnification causes leaders to try to compensate and hide their weaknesses from the accountability of public light. This hidden weakness creates an environment for private indulgence.
Failure is not always the case.
Of the three major Oneness organizations, each organization has a master politician as superintendent. These men are capable, godly, and adhere to the doctrines of the Bible. In many ways these individuals put into practice the political philosophy of the Bible. When one allows the Holy Spirit to guide their political agenda, one engages in the best form of politics. Being political should not be considered a negative label, however the dangers of power and influence that often come with politics should be recognized. Politics without Biblical principles is dangerous and slimy. Politics within Biblical principles is a godsend to any church or organization.
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Politic. (n.d.). Retrieved October 13, 2017, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/politic
Politics. (n.d.). Retrieved October 13, 2017, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/politics
Wildavsky, A. B. (2005). Moses as political leader: Shalem Press