20 Sep Why I’m NOT Participating in the October 7 – “Pulpit Freedom Sunday Campaign”
In the thirty years I’ve been pastor at Calvary Chapel Oxnard there have been many national and regional campaigns to recruit local churches to join some cause, to devote their pulpits for a Sunday or series of Sundays to some issue. I’ve consistently resisted joining these campaigns.
Let me explain why.
I take the pulpit ministry at CCO very seriously. It is a sacred and solemn trust. What I teach and preach is at the direction of God’s Spirit to me as the spiritual shepherd to His flock. So for thirty years we have followed the course of teaching expositionaly through the Scripture, verse by verse, chapter by chapter, and book by book. There are seasons when we need to do a topical message or short series to meet a specific need in our fellowship. But even then, the message is an expository study in God’s Word.
When that Word lends light on a contemporary topic, we deal with it forthrightly and unapologetically. But I’ve resisted bending a passage just so I can give my opinion on a current hot topic. Using a text as a pretext to merely sanctify an opinion is misrepresenting what God says and a violation of the pastoral trust.
The current Pulpit Freedom Sunday campaign busily recruiting pastors and churches is one more of a long line of such campaigns to push what I consider an inappropriate agenda. Using the pulpit to force the IRS to sue a church so that the IRS code can be reviewed by the Courts is, in my opinion, degrading to the dignity and purpose of the pulpit. Preaching ought to carry the weight of prophetic authority. It demeans the dignity and duty of the Gospel message when it’s made a vehicle for challenging a mere aspect of a tax-code.
I’m being asked by the Pulpit Freedom Sunday Campaign to say why everyone should vote for a certain candidate. I’m not going to do that. And I’m not, not because it violates the IRS code but because it violates the trust God’s given me as a pastor. IF the Spirit directed me to explain why one candidate in a race was unalterably evil and another was manifestly God’s choice, I would indeed speak out. I don’t have that direction. So to presume to announce God’s will of who to vote for is, in my thinking, the height of arrogance and a gross violation of the pastoral-pulpit trust.
Hasn’t the recent past taught us that a candidate who looks and sounds good while campaigning, once he/she gets into office turns out to be a terrible disappointment? How many candidate say they are pro-life and will end abortion, but do NOTHING about it when they are elected? How many promise to lower taxes but end up growing government, raising the debt and forcing later officials to raise taxes to pay the bill? And who’s to say that the candidate who makes no claim to faith won’t be elected, come to Christ, and turn out to be far more Biblical in his/her term of office than the candidate who campaigned ON his/her faith?
Let me be clear: If we were living in 1930’s Germany I would join Bonhoeffer and Niemoller in denouncing the Nazis from the pulpit. If the Holy Spirit moved me to speak out on a candidate either in support or warning, I would do so, regardless what the IRS said. He hasn’t, so I can’t.