How Your Church Can Be a Voice in the 2016 Presidential Election

How Your Church Can Be a Voice in the 2016 Presidential Election

April 13, 2016 by

Here in the U.S., we’re in the midst of presidential election season, marching toward a November vote (so far away!). But more than any recent election, this one has been marked by anxiety, fear and even violence.

Regardless of your political leanings, it’s a scary time.

As the church, we’re supposed to be a voice for love and grace. What are we supposed to do when that message is drowned in the noise of politics?

What role can the church play in being a voice of grace, hope and love?

Season of Anxiety

First, let’s recognize the season of anxiety we find ourselves in.

There’s a lot of negativity in the air. The fear is palpable. People of every political stripe seem to be genuinely afraid of the opposing candidate.

It’s not just disagreeing with policies—oh, we disagree on abortion, so of course I don’t like that candidate. It goes much deeper to a guttural fear of what that candidate could do in office.

Much of that negativity comes from anxiety and mistrust. A survey actually came out in the fall—The Anxiety, Nostalgia & Mistrust Survey—that explains all this unease. As you read through the survey, there’s vast disagreement on nearly every issue. There are sharp divisions along political, racial and economic lines.

People are feeling disaffected, afraid and upset. And since we disagree on every issue, we just alienate one another every time we talk.

Deeply Divided

No political party has a monopoly on faith.

So let’s recognize the division at the heart of all this anxiety and fear.

Let’s be honest that there’s much disagreement, even within the church (especially within the church), when it comes to politics. There are Christians all along the political spectrum.

Christians can be Republicans as well as Democrats, or independents or Greens or Libertarians. No political party has a monopoly on faith.

If that seems obvious to you, then be sure to keep it in mind when you see a Christian supporting a candidate you think is the worst. It’s hard to even talk about this issue in the church because of our disagreements and our unwillingness to recognize them.

We forget people disagree, we blurt things out on Facebook and arguments ensue. It’s an ugly reality because that’s what politics in America has become—ugly. And the blame is bipartisan.

The Voice of the Church

So as American politics gets uglier, as we become more divided, what role can the church play in being a voice of grace, hope and love? How can the church speak into an atmosphere of such rancor and distrust?

1. Understand Where People Are At

The church can never overlook how people feel.

An important step in good communication is to understand your audience. The church needs to recognize where people are at right now. We need to digest surveys, read articles and listen to what people are saying.

Then go listen to what people in the opposing political camp are saying. You might discover that it sounds like they’re speaking a foreign language.

Now here’s the kicker: You probably have both sides in your church.

Yes, we like to think everyone in the pews around us believes the same thing. But they don’t: there are Republicans and Democrats in every audience.

Even if your church does lean heavily in one direction, there are likely people there who disagree. And the church around the corner? They probably have the opposite breakdown.

The church needs to be aware of all this division and anxiety, and be willing to speak to where people are at.

There’s a vastly underestimated candidate who’s doing really well right now because this person did exactly that. Regardless of your feelings about that candidate, they are connecting to a certain segment of disaffected voter.

The church can never overlook how people feel.

Now this is a tall order. Overcoming a sharply divided society is no easy task. If it were, we’d have a candidate everybody loved and there wouldn’t be so much animosity. But if anyone should be able to do it, it’s the church.

2. Quit Politics

There could never be a better time to say this than during an election year: The church needs to quit politics.

We’ve got a new book about quitting. It’s about giving up what’s holding you back, what isn’t working, what’s driving people away, and embracing what does work.

There could never be a better time to say this than during an election year: The church needs to quit politics.

Now most of our churches aren’t giving political endorsements from the pulpit (which the IRS frowns upon), but too often we give coded messages about who you should support. Or maybe the church stays vaguely, sort of politically neutral, but the people of the church are loud and proud on Facebook (causing even more of that division we’ve been talking about).

It might be time to stop.

Make sure your pastor, your leadership, your volunteers are setting the tone about how to talk about politics. Maybe it’s not realistic (or wise) to quit completely, but find a way to be a voice of unity and not another voice of division.

Yes, it’s important to care about your country, do your civic duty and vote. But we are citizens of the kingdom of God first and foremost.

Let’s not allow our political leanings to get in the way of kingdom work. Our success or failure as the church has nothing to do with which political candidate or party wins on election day.

3. Offer the Hope of the Gospel

Instead of mundane details, let your church communicate a reviving spirit.

Rather than just quit politics, the church needs to offer something.

Thankfully we have just the thing—the gospel. The very heart of our message is love, forgiveness and mercy. That’s what anxious people are yearning for right now.

In the past few weeks I’ve been seeing the same idea come up again and again. Phil Bowdle touched on when he talked about announcements, and we went a step further to talk about preaching those announcements.

Mark MacDonald challenged churches to stop Facebook posts that are just ads, and we took it step further and encouraged churches to offer inspiration and not just information. It’s not a new idea, but it’s one we really need right now.

The most important thing our churches can share right now is not the time and details of our next event, but a message of hope, love and grace in a climate of fear and turmoil.

God has given us a message for such a time as this (Esther 4:14).

So instead of mundane details, let your church communicate a reviving spirit. People will figure out the details, but what they really want is the inspiring message that connects in their soul.

That’s why we show up on Sunday. That’s why people ‘like’ your church on Facebook. Give them that story.

Remind your congregation…

  • This world is not our home (Hebrews 13:14).
  • God did not give us a spirit of fear (1 Timothy 1:7) and love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18).
  • God offers rest for our weary souls (Matthew 11:28-30).
  • To bring their anxieties to God and he will trade them for peace (Philippians 4:6-7).
  • God will rescue the discouraged (Isaiah 35:4).
  • Our words should build one another up (Ephesians 4:29).
  • Justice will roll like a river, but true justice will come by the hand of God and not the vote of people (Amos 5:24).

May our words refresh the hearts of God’s people (Philemon 1:7).

For our churches, we pray:

In an atmosphere of anxiety, may the church offer the presence of your peace.

When a spirit of schism pervades, may we measure out your mercy.

In a day of division, let us give your grace.

When fear flows freely, may God’s church lead with love.

Keep us strong in the faith as we hold out your hope to a hungry world.


Post By:

Kevin D. Hendricks

When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998, runs the hyperlocal site West St. Paul Reader, and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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