Evangelism in an Election Year

February 18, 2016

Randy Adams | Executive Director
Northwest Baptist Convention

**This article was previously posted by Randy Adams on his website randyadams.org and is used by permission. 

President Clinton was impeached when I was a local church pastor. The issues involved matters of morality that required a response from pastors, on occasion, but doing this in a “non-political way” wasn’t always easy. The Sunday following his impeachment was most memorable. I began my message saying that in the past week someone had done something to our country for which I could never forgive them. “The harm to our country was so great it could not be overlooked,” I said. I could see the congregation bracing themselves for what I would say next. They thought, “Oh no, here it comes!” And then, just when they thought I was about to launch into a political rant, I said, “I will never forgive Michael Jordan for retiring from the NBA!” which was the other “big news story” of the week. That statement prompted the biggest outburst of laughter we ever enjoyed together.

All laughter aside, political issues are always difficult for pastors and churches, and perhaps doubly so in an election year. And when politics intersects with biblical teaching, it often requires a response from pastors. But as important as elections are, and they are important, evangelizing the lost is truly vital. And lest you want to evangelize only Democrats, or only Republicans, I want to suggest some guidelines for our conversations with others, particularly with unbelievers.

First, the Gospel of Jesus Christ must be the supreme message of our lives. When speaking with unbelievers, do not risk offending them and lose any chance of witness by discussing politics. Stick with Jesus as your subject. If we confuse receiving Jesus with adhering to a particular political viewpoint we will destroy our witness to at least half of our neighbors.

Second, God’s ways are not man’s ways. Politics and elections don’t deter or detour Him. There are many biblical examples of God orchestrating the politics exactly the opposite of what believers would have preferred. Nebuchadnezzar and Cyrus were God’s instruments, the Bible says, though they were pagan rulers and wicked men. Contemporary historians say that Chairman Mao Zedong, the atheistic ruler of China for 27 years, who sought to destroy the church, helped to establish the conditions for the explosive church growth that China has experienced in the past 30 years. I read recently that the two countries in which the Church is growing fastest, as a percentage of the population, are Iran and Afghanistan. The article suggested that growth is being accelerated by hardline, Islamic rulers, which are turning people away from Islam and toward the Prince of Peace.

Third, heart transformation is the work of the Holy Spirit. The most important thing we can do for the lost is lead them to Jesus, then teach them to pray and read the Word. If they (or we!) will do these things, the Holy Spirit will transform their (our) minds so that they (we) become more like Jesus. When people come to Jesus their morality and worldview changes. About a year ago one of our Northwest churches led a young couple to Christ who made their living by farming marijuana. The pastor told me that they got very involved in Bible study and were hungry to grow in Christ. By the fall, the couple became convicted that they needed a new line of work. Jesus saved them, forgave them, and He is transforming their hearts and minds. Note that salvation came before transformation.

Fourth, the “world” already regards us politically. The message of the Church to the lost world is too often a political message, and that is a shame. If you ask an unbeliever what a conservative, evangelical Christian is, he will describe them with political language. We have already seen this in the current presidential race as various candidates vie for the “evangelical vote.” It is far better to be known for the ministry we do and the God honoring character we have than the political stand we take, or the candidate we endorse, if we want to have spiritual influence with the lost.

Finally, the true Gospel is cross-cultural and cross-political. It works in every context. The Gospel works in Afghanistan, Ethiopia and the United States. It works in free societies and in those ruled by tyrants. The true Gospel can bring conviction of sin to liberals and conservatives, and both need Jesus.

I once had a professor whose father was a pastor. He said that a man once came to his father asking for spiritual counsel. He visited with the man, and then asked, “Aren’t you a member of such-and-such a church? Isn’t so-and-so your pastor?” The man said that yes, he was correct on both matters. My professor’s father then asked, “Why didn’t you go to your pastor for counsel?” And the man said, “If I needed a golfing tip I would speak with my pastor, but I needed to speak with a man of God.” Ouch!

That is the greatest lesson that professor ever taught me and I’ve never forgotten it. Whether you are a pastor or a layman, the people you know will figure you out. In time they will know what is most important to you. Each of us must decide, is it more important to share our political opinion or to share Christ. Don’t be known as a political preacher or political Sunday school teacher. Better to be known as a lover of Jesus and seeker of lost souls.

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norm

Thank you, Randy, for this insightful and encouraging article. With so many writing books about “What is the Gospel,” the simple answer is the definition found in 1 Cor. 15.3-4. And evangelism is sharing the Gospel — telling people what Jesus did for them. It stands to reason that, the more we share the Gospel the more people will believe it since the Gospel is also the power of God unto salvation.

Jim P

I would add the place of the ‘cross’ in this discussion.

It is the each person own ‘cross’ that will draw the boundary line of those who will and those who won’t understand the points in your discussion.

Luke 14:27 “And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.” Words of the One Who showed the way.

Les

Thank you Randy for this article. Great advice. We in the church should be known for the gospel message, not our political leanings. While we never fully do this as we should, our church has as our vision, “By the grace of God the Father, through the work of the Holy Spirit, Twin Oaks Presbyterian Church strives to become a congregation whose reputation is synonymous with fidelity to Jesus Christ, whose people live for Him, and whose ministries shine the spotlight on Christ and Him crucified, resulting in the maturity of His saints and in the salvation of the lost.”

We start our annual missions conference tomorrow night and I think it is vital that churches be or become known for preaching the gospel any and everywhere to the praise of His glorious grace!

May it be so more and more. Sharing the gospel with a lost and dying world is our mandate–our commission. That’s what we should be known for.

God bless.

    Ken

    Les:

    “You said, I think it is vital that churches be or become known for preaching the gospel any and everywhere to the praise of His glorious grace! . . . Sharing the gospel with a lost and dying world is our mandate–our commission.”

    I’m curious, so perhaps as a died-in-the-wool Calvinist, you could explain to me, what is the “gospel” that you and your church members would share with the world concerning God’s plan for what part God, Jesus, and man play in the eternal salvation/condemnation processes.

    For example, my gospel message to the world (i.e., every person born into this world since Jesus came to earth. I’ve never been absolutely sure about the way to salvation for persons before Jesus although it appears from what I read in Hebrews that love for, faith in, and believing God were the sole criteria) would be, as stated in John 3:14-18: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whosoever(i.e., any and every person born into this world) believeth in Him(i.e., accepts fully that Jesus is the Son of God, even God Himself, who came into the world to die on the cross for the forgiveness of the sins of all mankind and that He has the power to save all who recognize that sacrifice and call on Him for salvation) should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world(i.e., all the people of the world) that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever(i.e., any and every person born into this world) believeth in Him(i.e., accepts fully that Jesus is the Son of God, even God Himself, who came into the world to die on the cross for the forgiveness of the sins of all mankind and that He has the power to save all who recognize that sacrifice and call on Him for salvation) should not perish but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world(i.e., all the people of the world) to condemn the world, but that the world(i.e., all the people of the world) through Him might be saved. He that believeth on Him(i.e., accepts fully that Jesus is the Son of God, even God Himself, who came into the world to die on the cross for the forgiveness of the sins of all mankind and that He has the power to save all who recognize that sacrifice and call on Him for salvation) is not condemned; but he that believeth not(i.e.,rejects the fact that Jesus came into the world to die on the cross for the sins of all mankind and that confessing one’s sins to Him and accepting Him as Lord and Savior is the one and only way God has established to permit one to inherit eternal salvation) is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

    You see, I cannot reconcile what I believe the Holy Scriptures so clearly state concerning the way to eternal salvation vs. the way to eternal condemnation with the Calvinist “gospel” message that the only way for a person to inherit eternal salvation is if God “chose,” “elected,” “selected” him or her for salvation before the foundation of the world while at the same time and in the same fashion He chose those whom He desired to be eternally condemned to Hell.

    With the SBC being overrun with Calvinism and my own church sporting many Calvinist supporters, I would like to try to understand how the scriptures deal with this dichotomy. I have read your and many other’s comments on this before but have never seen what I consider any acceptable scriptural-supported rationale. Agreed, I am a fully indoctrinated Traditionalist and have been for over 68 years so maybe I can’t see the forest from the trees.

    Anyhow, thanks for whatever you may be able to provide.

    Les

    Ken,

    Thanks for the question. You basically ask, “…what is the “gospel” that you and your church members would share with the world concerning God’s plan for what part God, Jesus, and man play in the eternal salvation/condemnation processes?”

    Well we share the same gospel that Norm mentioned from scripture above-1 Cor. 15. The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Several places in scripture provide us with what to say to people. The Philippian jailer was told, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” So we follow that biblical example and tell people that. I also like Peter’s words in Acts 10, ” So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” (Acts 10:34-43 ESV)

    This is a great example in scripture and of course we know that even as Peter was giving that short sermon, “While Peter was still saying these things, ithe Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word.”

    So there’s no dichotomy here. We proclaim the gospel that Jesus died for sinners and trust God with the results. I remember in seminary back in the mid 1980s at Mid America Baptist Seminary in Memphis, Dr. Gray Allison used to say that a lot. Preach Jesus and leave the results to God. After all, He is the only one who can save a sinner. And by His grace, we saw many people saved through our street preaching and homeless shelter preaching.

    Later I was trained in Evangelism Explosion (EE) and became a trainer and actually our church mentioned above became an EE training church for the St. Louis region. God has been good over the years to allow me to be in a church that places a high value in taking the great commission no only to our area, but around the world through the over 30 foreign missionaries we support plus many in the USA. God was and is good and has blessed with much fruit through our congregation.

    Hope that helps Ken.

      Ken

      Les:

      Thanks for your response. It almost leads me to believe that you believe in the same way to salvation as do I although I have always concluded otherwise based on previous postings on this blog. To quote an old English proverb, “everybody is crazy but thee and me, and sometimes I’m not sure about thee.”

      But since my 84 year old mind sometimes doesn’t always grasp some nuances inherent in a person’s writing permit me to ask you a couple additional specific questions in my quest to understand those who don’t agree with my understanding of certain scriptures.

      First, seeing that you say you believe I Corinthians 15:3-4, same as Norm, do you also believe verses 1 and 2 in that same chapter and that “ye” in verse 2 refers to all men of all time?

      Secondly, do you think that the whosoever in John 3:16 refers to every person in the world and that that verse also describes the one and only way every person can be saved?

      I realize that not all Calvinists believe the same regarding the way to salvation and forgiveness of sin – admittedly as is also the case with we Traditionalists and any other group – so I would like to make sure I don’t judge your positions incorrectly.

      Sounds like you are a member of a very active evangelistic church and I realize you are personally active in ministry in Haiti. May God bless you and those ministries!

      Thanks

        Andy

        I’m sure Les will respond as well, but I’ll give it a go too:

        In both cases, with the question: Does sit refer to “all men of all time” or to “every person in the world,” …that the calvinist view is that if any person in the world were to believe in Christ, they WOULD be saved; but that due our sinful nature, no one will believe of our own volition (no one seeks God, etc..). So God elected some and gave them the desire and ability to repent and believe in Christ.

          Andrew Barker

          Andy: If you enjoy circular arguments, you’ll find that one endlessly fascinating!

      Les

      Ken,

      Thank yor for the gracious way you interact, even if we differ on the precise ways God saves people. And notice I don’t say that we differ on the gospel. I do not think you and I differ on what we proclaim when we preach the gospel…Jesus saves sinners. I will say about this sentence from you, “I realize that not all Calvinists believe the same regarding the way to salvation and forgiveness of sin – admittedly as is also the case with we Traditionalists and any other group…” I don’t think that Cals and Trads differ on the way to salvation and forgiveness of sins. I think we all agree that people are saved by grace through faith in the risen Jesus.

      As to 1 Corinthians 15 vv. 1-2, I do not believe that the “ye” or the “you” in v. 2 refers to all men of all time. I think there Paul is speaking in his letter to the Christians in the church in Corinth. Of course it also speaks to Christians of all time too. Here are the verses, “Now I would remind you, brothers,[a] of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.” He addresses them as brothers. Obviously not all people of all time are “brothers” in Christ.

      I also think that the whosoever in John 3:16 refers to whoever believes. I think that is all it says. And yes, John 3:16 describes the one and only way every person can be saved–by faith.

      Thanks again for your kind words and manner of discussion. It is indeed refreshing here.

Tom

Is it possible to be a Democrat and a Southern Baptist?

    Scott Shaver

    Tom:

    Obviously a lot of idiots and Republicans already are Southern Baptist, so I don’t see why “Democrats” would present a problem.

Lydia

Tom,

Bill Clinton was a Southern Baptist democrat. He recieved quite a chunk of evangelical votes, both times. The lines were even sharper back then than they are now. The voting blocks have shifted so much they are really guessing. Are democrats really socialists like Bernie?

My goodness, jimmy carter was voted in on the evangelical moral majority (go back and read Pat Caddell) block. He was just so incompetent they opted for the divorced Reagan. :o)

John Gregory

Thanks for leaving POLITICS OUT OF YOUR message! I am 70 years old, been a Christian
for 60 years. (Baptist). & a Democrat for 50 years. I’ve been told 3 times that if I vote for a Democrat that I would go with o hell. That I
cannot be Democrat & Christian. SAD!

    Ken

    John Gregory:

    You’re right, it is sad for any, or three, as in your case, persons to make such a judgment. I’ve always told my SS class that every man is entitled to his opinion, no matter how wrong he is.

    I always make sure I advise one and all that I am just kidding, of course, about the latter part of that statement. But if you and I were to discuss politics or even some scriptural interpretations I, as a staunch conservative both politically and religiously for the last 50 years, might strongly disagree with every position you might take, but I also think it is incumbent upon me while strongly supporting my own positions to respectfully but strongly oppose your positions with which I disagree. However, it is also incumbent upon both of us, to leave the discussion without condemning each other.

    In other words, Christians should able to meet and have a rip-roaring disagreement yet leave the meeting being friends and without any leftover ill feelings.

    I guess that is sort of a slight paraphrase of that old proverb, “I disagree with everything you have said but I would die defending your right to say it.”

    Anyhow, the purpose of my long-winded blog is to encourage you to understand that the judgments made by those three persons is not typical of many Christians – in fact, most probably, very few.

    Robert

    John,
    Seeing your comments here really saddens me, not because you are a Democrat! :-) But because some people just don’t get it so badly as to say that you are going to hell based upon which group you vote for.

    The truth is, all of us are saved only if we are in a personal and saving relationship with Jesus Christ.

    And you can be in that saving relationship and be Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Calvinist, Traditionalist, Arminian, Presbyterian, Baptist, American, Russian, Mexican, Chinese, Japanese, young, old, male, female, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.

Todd Benkert

Thanks, Randy! This is good advice.

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