In any community, pastors maintain a large network of influence that goes beyond the walls of their assigned congregation. We are seen as God’s representatives in a community and, for better or worse, the community’s moral compass. That’s why many look to pastors for guidance on community issues and concerns.
Many pastors have the ability to serve their communities with grace and humility without abusing their influence as pastors. But, pastors are human and we can make mistakes in judgments just like anyone else. One area where the potential for making mistakes in judgment can occur is when pastors enter into political discussions, especially in an election year. Pastors run the risk of abusing their influence in a community, and in their church, by becoming partisan in their discussion of certain issues or advocating one candidate over another.
For the most part, pastors are unprepared on how to properly engage the political sphere and how to be cautious in an election cycle. The most advice many pastors receive is to be political without being partisan. That is sound advice. However, it raises a question: What does that mean? The pastor is left to interpret the statement for themselves and their congregation. (For the record, my conference has done an excellent job of getting information to pastors about how to be political without being partisan.)
In general, the statement intends for the pastor to not vocally support a political candidate from the pulpit, while leaving open for the pastor to engage the many social issues facing our communities, nation, and world. However, a pastor would be wise to not stop with just that suggestion. A pastor must be cautious in all areas in how to engage the political without being partisan. As a former journalist and public policy writer who is currently a pastor, I offer these few tips to pastors who desire to be political without being partisan. Continue reading