Politics in Exile

Today I am giving a little talk on politics in exile, how Christians engage in such a way that our witness is unhindered. It is not a complete survey of our posture and it won’t make anyone too uncomfortable or gleeful! You can read it here.

Otherwise I thought I would share a few things that have been helpful in forming my thinking that you might find helpful as well.


I point to it a lot but This Cultural Moment is a podcast with valuable, rich content on the underlying realities in our Western culture. Mark Sayers, and Australian pastor and author, has brilliant insights. John Mark Comer interviews him in most of the episodes and each will help you think through how our worldviews are being formed and lived from. Check it out here.


A book that I found extremely helpful recently in shaping the way we engage is from Scott Sauls. Jesus Outside the Line: a way forward for those tired of taking sides. This is centering for Christians and guides us rightly. Check it out.


Justin Taylor highlighted the work of Georgetown professor Paul D. Miller, specifically his white paper for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Council. Faith and Healthy Democracy gives some great clues for civility in public discourse and political engagement. Where I gave three steps in my talk Miller gives individuals a number and churches six key ways to participate without losing our ability to share the gospel. Read it here.


Lastly, I have to go way back to a time I read The Courage of a Conservative by James Watt and The Conscience of a Liberal by Paul Wellstone one after the other and thought through them asking what Jesus would have to say.

I choose Watt’s book over the famous Conscience of a Conservative by Goldwater because Watt represented values voters.

The books are very old now and my reading of them was close to 20 years ago. But I think they give some great insight to safer times to be part of the American political landscape and might draw us toward something similar today.


Go forth and be Christian in how you engage!

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.