Donald Trump, Evangelical Politics, and the Co-Vocational Future of the Church

Feb 24, 2022
Donald Trump evangelical politics and co-vocational pastors
 

In my last post, "It's the End of the Church as We Know it (And I Feel Fine)," we kicked off a new series on why I believe the church of the future in America will be led by co-vocational pastors. 

 And today we'll explore what I think is one of the biggest reasons why: Donald Trump and evangelical politics.

But before we dive in, I want to be clear that I'm not looking to get into a political argument.

What I want to do is share my observations about the cultural and political divides that exist and are deepening in America and within the church. And how I believe these divides will give rise to major shifts in the future of the church in America.

Shifts that many don't see coming. Shifts that, I believe, will disrupt the traditional, institutional church in America, and lead to a co-vocational future for pastors in the church.

The Church is No Longer Seen as a Relevant or Positive

Did you know that a recent survey showed that a large percentage of millennials believe the church is irrelevant to their lives? And that it is actually NOT a positive force in American society?

It's really not hard to see why, is it? One of the biggest reasons is the way they see Christians speaking and acting with regard to political candidates and social issues.

Christians Don't Look or Sound Very Christian Like at Times

If we're honest, we have to admit that Christians can look and sound pretty ugly when we talk about politics - especially online.

Know anyone like that, in your church or among your friends in real life or on social media? Or have you been there yourself at times? Man, I know I have...

It saddens me to think about some of the online political debates I've allowed myself to get into in the past.

I j-u-s-t wanted to try to make a point or share a truth...

But then I ended up feeling like I had to "Stand up for God" on a particular political or social issue, "defend" the gospel, and of course, win the argument.

In reality, I became more like that resounding gong or a clanging cymbal Paul warned the Corinthians about.

I didn't sound very loving to the people I was debating. I ended up embarrassing myself, losing trust with others, fracturing relationships, and, I’m sure, grieving the heart of Christ.

The Culture War Pits Us vs. Them

Now, I agree, as you probably do too, that Christians need to be engaged politically, and in the culture and in our communities.

But I think the problem comes in when pastors, leaders, and regular Christians embrace the illusion that we can change the world for Christ by grasping political power.

"If we just had more Christians and people from our party in power controlling the institutions in our society...the right person elected as president...the right people appointed as Supreme Court justices, then our nation will turn toward Christ, we believe.

Of course, this type of thinking is nothing new. It has been perpetuated in the "Take America Back" culture war narrative we've endured in America for at least 50 years now.

Too Many Christians Have Placed Their Allegiance in Politics Before Kingdom

You've probably known people in your church who filter the sermons they hear on Sunday through their partisan political framework.

And if your sermon doesn't line up with their political beliefs they will be quick to pass judgment...

  • Preach on the biblical concept of justice, and you’re labeled one of those "social justice" types
  • Explain how the Bible describes ethnic diversity as a beautiful reflection of the kingdom of God and you're branded as being "politically correct"
  • Express concern for refugees on our southern border...or dare to point out that 85% are actually our fellow Christian brothers and sisters, and you obviously don't care about our laws and our nation's border security
  • Imply that there may be other vitally important issues that should inform our voting decisions besides a candidate's position on abortion and, well, you definitely have gone completely liberal
  • Require or encourage people in your building to wear masks out of respect for those who are most vulnerable to COVID-19, and you've sold out your Christian witness to the government and are living in fear, not faith.

I could go on an on. And I imagine you are adding to my list in your mind.

Chances are good that you've received a few angry emails in the last year or two. Or maybe have had families, or groups of families, leave your church.

And they say, "It's not personal, pastor." But it's hard not to take it that way, isn't it?

My point is that as long as Christians interpret the Bible and their faith through their political beliefs, these issues are not going away any time soon.

Christians Put Party Before Character in Electing Donald Trump

In the late 1990's, many evangelical Christian leaders publicly declared that President Bill Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky, and his lying about it, had disgraced the presidency, stained the nation, and rendered him morally unfit to be president.

Two decades later, when Hilary Clinton - a lifelong Methodist - ran for President, many evangelical Christians said they could never vote for her because of her husband's moral failures.

Yet many of these same people endorsed and supported Donald Trump, a man who exhibited few Christian values, had been married 3 times, has been accused by dozens of women of sexual misconduct or assault, and is well-known for making disparaging comments toward women.

When these evangelical Trump supporters were called out for their double standard, they explained that they supported Trump because "We're electing a president, not a pastor"

Please hear me...I'm not saying there aren't valid reasons for voting for Donald Trump.

I'm just pointing out the hypocrisy that our younger generations see, when Christians choose to make character and morality the most important thing when it suits us, and then choose to not care about character and morality when it doesn't.

Hundreds of Prophets Falsely Predicted Trump Would Win and Usher in a New Era

During the 2020 presidential campaign, hundreds of charismatic/pentecostal prophets, and other pastors, made bold proclamations that President Trump would win reelection.

And they heard it directly from God that Trump's second term would usher in a new age of Christian influence in America and the world.

Umm...there was only one problem...

President Trump did not win the election on Tuesday, November 3, 2020.

Oh I know, there are all those conspiracy theories promoted by many Christians and leaders...but let's not delve into that right now.

Now back to those prophets...

So...when President Trump did not win the election, the prophets quickly pivoted and said, "OK, President Trump will surely win the electoral college."

But when Congress counted those votes on January 6, 2021, and President Biden was declared the winner, the Prophets then pivoted and said something would happen to make Trump president before or on inauguration day on Jan 20, 2021.

So what should we make of all these prophets who got it all so wrong about the coming Golden Age of Trump? I'll let you make your own conclusions.

For me, I like to recall the words of former Nixon "hatchet man" Charles "Chuck" Colson:

The kingdom of God will not arrive on Air Force One.

Now, I firmly believe the church does have a prophetic role in our society. But maybe it's to...

  • Speak against tribalism and political divisions
  • Remind us that our allegiance is not to a temporal nation but an everlasting kingdom
  • Call us to believe more what the creator of the universe says than what our president says
  • Invite us to truly live out Christ’s love in our community and world

Every Church and Pastor Will be Disrupted

So what will all of this mean for you and your church in the next few years?

I think our culture will become increasingly disillusioned with the church. Not necessarily disillusioned with Jesus...but more disillusioned with his followers.

  • There is growing suspicion of pastors and churches in our society. Not just about politics, but other issues too, which we'll discuss later in this series
  • The political and social divides will deepen within the church, and we'll see more people leave their church because it has become too political, not political enough, too conservative, or too liberal
  • Millennials and younger generations who have grown up watching all the bickering and division among Christians are rejecting this kind of Christianity and walking away from the churches that have supported it
  • The stress on pastors, from division and personal attacks inside and outside the church, and financial struggles from declining attendance and giving, will lead many to retire or resign early

As I have said before, I do not believe this is the end of the church. Because God is not surprised by these divisions or disruptions.

But I do believe he desires to use these things to renew the church. To de-institutionalize it. Maybe even de-professionalize it.

And that's why I believe now is the time for pastors to discover the best ways to leverage your ministry skills into other income streams outside of the church, so you can serve God and provide for your family, no matter what.

During this series I’m offering a free resource to help: “How to Know if Starting Your Own Business is Right for You?” In it I share the top 12 signs that you might be ready to start your own business, and the three most important things every pastor needs in order to launch and grow a successful, profitable business. Download your free copy today at morethanapastor.com/biz.

In Our Next Episode:

Next time, join me for a discussion on Toxic Church Culture, Beth Moore, #CHURCHTOO, and the Co-vocational Future of the Church.