What I Miss Most (and Least) About Working in Political & Nonprofit Communications

Today For the Church published a post from Jared Wilson on what he misses about pastoral ministry. It is a good look into some of the realities of being a pastor if you are looking for insights into that… which so few people are unless of course you desire to be a pastor.

But the post also had me thinking about about my previous work and what I miss about it. I am always fascinated that so few pastors have had paid work outside of Christendom and am so grateful that I had the opportunity to earn a paycheck outside of the spiritual industrial complex! I think it gives me healthy perspective as I now pastor people working in all sorts of fields.

It has been nine years since I left DC and the career I was building in communications. These are the things I miss most (and least) about working in political and nonprofit communications.

What I miss about working communications

1. Non-believing Colleagues

My big reason for sending my children to public school is that I don’t want the only sinners they know to be the people in our church. This is also something I miss about working professionally outside of the church. Often times I would be the only or one of a few Christians in the office and in my personal following of Jesus it was helpful to challenge the way I was choosing to live as distinguishable or not.

It was also the helpful to share my faith giving me increased perspective on where people were coming from or how they had formed their thoughts of faith and God. My Jewish boss asking what the big deal was about Jesus (oh how I wish I could go back to this conversation today!) The deputy that asked me to be his “life coach” or the other coworker who accepted my challenge over beers after work to stop running from God and reengage with the church (he is training to be a pastor now).

The church can be a bubble, and even with actively working to invest in “non spiritual” spaces there is something different to daily interaction that vocation provides.

2. Earning My Keep

Now I don’t mean to say that I don’t earn my wages as pastor but that I just am not given the same freedom to talk about how good I am at what I do!

In communications you not only promoted or built brands, you were capable of being your own. Your resume mattered, the work you did was valued and you could get paid really well if you excelled. If you did the work you were rewarded. I never once was asked what I did all day (like I do as a pastor). And only other communications professions thought or expressed they could do my job better than me, not everyone and their uncle…

As a pastor though any whiff of confidence is met with accusations of pride and the types of thing most people do to “get ahead” are oddly viewed with disdain in the church.

I know personally how bad actors have tainted pastoral ministry, and I am not advocating for a lack of accountability or ego-driven pastors. There is just a strange difference that I wonder if we make worse than it needs to be.

3. Being in the Know

This one probably only applies to a small subset of people but there was something about having a security clearance and as one friend put it “knowing what was going on behind the headlines and having an impact on those events.” I remember having a conversation with a good friend and he remarked that I was just repeating my parties’ “talking points” on an issue and I reminded him that I wrote the talking points.

This is probably what makes me nostalgic as I watch shows like Madame Secretary or presidential debates. While a pastor can certainly make a difference in the lives of those he shepherds, there was something about having influence in places to effect change on a different scale.

4. Winging It

I used to think I was quick on my feet and enjoyed the opportunity to wing it in a pinch. I remember a key conversation with a new boss who was prone to make slip ups where I told him to say what he felt like he needed to say and I would clean it up.

Now as a pastor I am careful and prefer precision. People needle me about preaching from a manuscript but if what I say is shaping the way people think of Jesus and Scripture I want to be precise. With a reporter from the Times or a schedule-crunched event I preferred to wing it and it usually worked to my advantage.

What I don’t miss about working in communications

1. Crisis Mode

Maybe this was a D.C. thing but often it was the default mentality in most teams I was a part of. Everything was the biggest deal. Even the smallest concern warranted defcon 1. It was silly.

Personally I threw off the shackle of the crisis mode after a detail to Iraq. It gave me keen perspective on the importance of getting a story out or catching up on the latest press clippings.

Pastoral ministry has its share of crisis but it is not the normal posture and I am okay with that.

2. The Temporary Reality of It

Even the greatest of success was momentary. While working with agencies that actively save lives there was a sense that there had to be something deeper, more meaningful, eternal in nature. This is what I get to wage into every day. Tackling life, impending death, and how to thrive as people that follow Jesus through it all.

Pastoral ministry plays in the eternally significant and we can make an eternal impact and I think that is good.


I am sure I could come up with more, but this I know for sure, I love being a pastor. It is an honor and weighty responsibility to open Scripture and care for people through all of life.

Worthwhile – December 14, 2018

Tomorrow my oldest child turns nine. Next week I turn forty-one. Clearly I have much to learn of both being a parent and being an adult. So take everything I say with a grain of salt, or sugar, whichever is your preference. Or maybe you should kill your preferences… 

This week’s worthwhile is short because I found myself scheduling appointments for vehicle maintenance, replacing a windshield, and shopping at thrift stores for new soccer cleats for Junior. 


All abuzz in the Twittersphere was Andrew Sullivan’s column on America’s New Religions. He takes swipes at yoga, progress, and Trump. Still, it is important to think through the ways idolatry has become religion. Even those that claim faith in Christ but means really just right-leaning politics etc. Sullivan uses more words than necessary but brings up some important points for all sides to consider. And we can all pray for a resurgence of vital Christianity in our day. 


Speaking of vital Christianity, Sunday in China the government began to persecute and crack down on members of Early Rain Covenant Church, an unregulated “house church.” One of the pastors of the church encouraged members to keep meeting no matter how many staff or elders were imprisoned. Of his own situation Wang Yi said:

“Those who lock me up will one day be locked up by angels. Those who interrogate me will finally be questioned and judged by Christ.  When I think of this, the Lord fills me with a natural compassion and grief toward those who are attempting to and actively imprisoning me. Pray that the Lord would use me, that he would grant me patience and wisdom, that I might take the gospel to them. 

“Separate me from my wife and children, ruin my reputation, destroy my life and my family – the authorities are capable of doing all of these things. However, no one in this world can force me to renounce my faith; no one can make me change my life; and no one can raise me from the dead.”

https://christiandailyreporter.com/faithful-disobedience.html

Read Yi’s letter here and please be praying for the church in China. 

Honor God in the Voting Booth(?) (Psalm 51:17)

My friend “Matt Pilgrim” is at it again with a poignant poem for today.

 

The sacrifice of praise seems small

Though nothing else is needed.

Another simple call of God’s

Our hearts have not yet heeded.

 

One of the old hymnals declares

“Nothing in my hand I bring”

But some mix of pride and fear in us

Insists on adding something.

 

In many forms throughout the years

We’ve brought our sacrifices.

Sometimes blood, sometimes good works,

All just thinly veiled vices.

 

These days we leave our votes at the altar

“Look, God, I’ve stood for truth!”

How quaint to think we’ll build Christ’s kingdom

From the voting booth.

 

The sacrifices of God, my friend,

Aren’t elephants or mules

It’s broken and contrite hearts we bring

Carrying crosses carved for fools.

 

Or maybe we’ve been blinded by pride

Unaware of the contrast

Between the earthly kingdoms we build

And the one in which first shall be last.

 

Oddly, our King thought better of us

Than to insist we win elections.

He left us with the much harder task

Of making disciples of all nations.

Life Defining & Life Demanding Faith

To own and expose the fullness of Christ in all of life. This is what I desire to be about. Seeing how the gospel of Jesus impacts every corner of our existence and embracing it, following it to the source for his glory and our good.

Of course, that wasn’t always my purpose. There was a time I wanted to change the world with my politics, by convincing people of policy and programs as the resolution to all that ails us. I even have one political party’s logo tattooed on my body which has become a memorial to my idolatry, my god of politics.

Thankfully in his providence, God had a different purpose for me. His kindness and the good news of forgiveness and adoption in Christ far outweigh any inkling of engaging again in that realm beyond having opinions and being a participating citizen.

It is with keen interest that I pay attention then when political leaders choose their faith over the defined success of leading and winning. One such character in Britain has done just that today. Tim Farron has been the leader of the Liberal Democrats and is stepping down in what beautifully seems to be an act of life defining and demanding faith in Christ. May we all, that claim Christ, be found as faithful.

Be encouraged by Farron’s statement:

This last two years have seen the Liberal Democrats recover since the devastation of the 2015 election.

That recovery was never inevitable but we have seen the doubling of our party membership, growth in council elections, our first parliamentary by-election win for more than a decade, and most recently our growth at the 2017 general election.

Most importantly the Liberal Democrats have established ourselves with a significant and distinctive role – passionate about Europe, free trade, strong well-funded public services underpinned by a growing market economy.

No one else occupies that space. Against all the odds, the Liberal Democrats matter again.

We can be proud of the progress we have made together, although there is much more we need to do.

From the very first day of my leadership, I have faced questions about my Christian faith. I’ve tried to answer with grace and patience. Sometimes my answers could have been wiser.

At the start of this election, I found myself under scrutiny again – asked about matters to do with my faith. I felt guilty that this focus was distracting attention from our campaign, obscuring our message.

Journalists have every right to ask what they see fit. The consequences of the focus on my faith is that I have found myself torn between living as a faithful Christian and serving as a political leader.

A better, wiser person than me may have been able to deal with this more successfully, to have remained faithful to Christ while leading a political party in the current environment.

To be a political leader – especially of a progressive, liberal party in 2017 – and to live as a committed Christian, to hold faithfully to the Bible’s teaching, has felt impossible for me.

I’m a liberal to my fingertips, and that liberalism means that I am passionate about defending the rights and liberties of people who believe different things to me.

There are Christians in politics who take the view that they should impose the tenets of faith on society, but I have not taken that approach because I disagree with it – it’s not liberal and it is counterproductive when it comes to advancing the gospel.

Even so, I seem to be the subject of suspicion because of what I believe and who my faith is in.

In which case we are kidding ourselves if we think we yet live in a tolerant, liberal society.

That’s why I have chosen to step down as leader of the Liberal Democrats.

I intend to serve until the parliamentary recess begins next month, at which point there will be a leadership election according to the party’s rules.

This is a historic time in British politics. What happens in the next months and years will shape our country for generations.

My successor will inherit a party that is needed now more than ever before. Our future as an open, tolerant and united country is at stake.

The cause of British liberalism has never been needed more. People who will fight for a Britain that is confident, generous and compassionate are needed more than ever before.

That is the challenge our party and my successor faces and the opportunity I am certain that they will rise to.

I want to say one more thing: I joined our party when I was 16, it is in my blood, I love our history, our people, I thoroughly love my party.

Imagine how proud I am to lead this party. And then imagine what would lead me to voluntarily relinquish that honour.

In the words of Isaac Watts it would have to be something “so amazing, so divine, (it) demands my heart, my life, my all”.

HT: Andrew Wilson