Why Pastors Must Take A Stand
by Bishop Harry Jackson Jr., Senior Pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Maryland
Bishop Harry Jackson Jr. is the Senior Pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Maryland and founder and Chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition, which works to educate and empower churches, community and political leaders to make grassroots influence in their communities, states, and our nation. The author of several books, he is a frequent guest on national television and radio programs. His own radio commentary, The Truth in Black and White, can be heard daily on more than 400 stations nationwide.
It is in the teaching of Scripture that, for every godly leader, the challenge comes. An opportunity to take our faith beyond our daily circumstances and relationships … to step out onto some broader, brighter stage and speak the Truth to power.
For Daniel, for Shadrach, for Meshach, for Abednego - it was a quiet, firm, consistent, refusal to comply with the directives of a hostile government.
For Esther, it was a bold stride across the throne room, to plead for justice for her people.
For Elijah, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Amos, John the Baptist … it was a cry for truth and justice, and a frank denunciation of the leaders whose ungodly behavior threatened the soul of a nation.
For Peter and John and the other disciples, it was a public decision to obey God, rather than men.
For Paul, it was the courage to stand toe-to-toe with governors and emperors, telling them the Truth of Jesus Christ.
The precedent is clear. The examples ring down through the ages. God’s people – and, in particular, their shepherds, their priests, their prophets – must not shrink from the challenges of a hostile culture, a savage opposition, an uncomprehending government.
We must stand. The witness must be faithful. The trumpet must make a certain sound. The Word of God must be proclaimed without fear or compromise.
Not everyone in our churches today recognizes the relationship between compliance with our government and compromise of our biblical principles. The 501(c)3 tax regulations that came out of the Congressional actions of 1954 must have seemed like an outrage to the pastors of that time, but the years have worn away the sharp edges of our collective conscience.
"Not everyone in our churches today recognizes the relationship between compliance with our government and compromise of our biblical principles."
We look on these regulations now, and see only the power of the government, and the potential for financial loss. We don’t glimpse, amid all the red tape and fine print, that towering statue of Nebuchadnezzar … the arrogance of Ahab … the maneuverings of Herod … the dictatorial decrees of Caesar.
We have long since embraced the casual constraints a careless government forced upon us. We’ve grown used to the shackles of censorship that sharply limit how much of the Bible we dare preach to a contemptuous society that is wading deeper and deeper into self-destruction.
That is why, at the Alliance Defense Fund, the Pulpit Initiative is so critical. For 50-plus years, most of America’s pastors have chosen to remain behind the bars of the Internal Revenue Service’s philosophical jail. The government says that it’s not our place to comment on the public character and the public record of the men and women who would lead our nation – and we the preachers have said, "Okay." We’ll leave it to our people to search out the Bible for themselves.
The government says that it’s not our place to encourage our congregations to be dynamic, vital, moral leaders in their community … that it’s not for us to encourage them to vote on those issues that could damage our culture or warp our children’s future. And we the preachers have said, "Okay." We’ll pretend the Bible is just for the church house. We’ll tell our people to apply their faith to their daily lives in whatever way they like.
As pastors, we tell ourselves it’s compliance. That we are honoring some mythical idea that the influence of the church and the influence of the government must be kept apart – even in our hearts. But our hearts tell us that what we are truly accepting is a compromise. We are going along to get along.
And we are communicating to our people the deadly conviction that the principles of Scripture have no place on the political platform … in the voting booth … in the decisions of our leaders.
That is why we must stand. That is why we must speak Scriptural Truth on political matters. That is why we must speak when our government and our culture and so many of our own fellow pastors and parishioners demand that we be silent.
Should we exchange the proclamation of the Gospel for political haranguing? No. But neither should we let our churches become incidental islands in the swirling seas of a society drowning in its own delusions. Nor should we let our government believe that it has the authority to dominate and dictate to the Spirit of God.
Either God matters or He doesn’t. His Truth guides and infuses every aspect of our lives – or it is irrelevant, and nothing but pretty poetry and impossible standards.
I believe He matters. I believe His Truth covers all. I believe the church is about politics at least as much as it is about potlucks. I believe, in our hearts, our people know this.