discipleship and politics

The conventions of the two primary political parties are now behind us and the race to the general election in November is heating up. As I pondered the nation’s political climate, I began to reflect on it through the lens of discipleship. It may seem that discipleship and politics are completely unrelated, however, I believe they often affect one another greatly.

First, a disclaimer. This is not going to be a “political” blog post condemning one party and exalting another. My goal is to show that discipleship can affect politics and politics can affect discipleship.

It doesn’t take a rock scientist to come to the conclusion that something is broken in the American Church. Mega-churches dot the landscape and regular church attendance in the U.S. is still higher than most other Western industrialized nations. Yet, the Church in America has a lessening influence on our culture. And by “influence on our culture” I don’t necessarily mean legislated morality or the election of more evangelical Christian politicians. What I do mean is that the American Church has focused more on attracting crowds than discipling people to become like Christ in character and competency.

I believe the Church’s lack of discipleship has caused a breakdown in producing people with the character and values of Jesus. Regardless of which political party one considers himself, both are seriously lacking. There are the more obvious issues of abortion and definition of marriage, but there are also more subjective issues like economics and welfare that need to be aligned with the character and values of Jesus.

Let’s take economics. America’s free enterprise and capitalistic nature has been undermined by greed where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. The answer? It is NOT socialism that taxes from the “haves” and gives it to the “have nots”. The answer is discipling people to have the character and values of Jesus that teach us to have compassion on and share with those who are in need. If this kind of discipleship were occurring in the Church today, welfare and government assistance could be greatly reduced. Socialism is a poor substitute for biblical generosity. Forcing someone with plenty to give to someone in need (tax/welfare programs) creates resentment in the one with plenty and entitlement in the one in need. Biblical generosity brings a spirit of gratitude and thankfulness to both those in plenty and those in need.

I do not believe that all the talk of hope and change can be found with either political party. The party platform of the Democrats has some serious discrepancies with the values of Jesus when it comes to abortion and defining (or redefining) marriage. In a well-publicized gaffe on national TV at the DNC in Charlotte, there was much protest among its constituents when the spiritual issues of God and recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel were added to the Democratic party platform. But, they are often the party that people run to if their hot button issue is caring for the poor. Albeit, the only solution government can offer to provide for the poor is varying degrees of socialism. While it may be more conservative on moral issues, the Republican party has too often promoted a capitalistic system that has been corrupted by greed, because devoid of the values of Jesus, capitalism breeds greed and a lack of compassion among individuals to help the poor.

Obviously, if one has the character and competency of Jesus, it should impact who one votes for. However, our lack of discipleship and the corrupt political climate of both parties today is a direct result of the lack of character and competency of Jesus among Americans–more specifically, those who call themselves Christians.

Ultimately, a political party or candidate is not the hope of our country. Our hope can only be found in people discovering new life in Jesus Christ and becoming more like Him in character and competence. Earthly governments will always be flawed because they have been devised by flawed humans. Only when Jesus physically rules this world will there be true hope and real change you can believe in!

generosity’s cheap imitation

I was thinking about Acts 2 and how the early church sold possessions and shared things in common with those who had need. That model has been celebrated and admired by many aspiring churches. And, like most of God’s jewels, Satan has attempted to manufacture a synthetic that is almost like the original, but not quite.

In this election cycle, we heard quite a bit about socialism and its partner, communism. I’m not an expert on the matter, but from what I can piece together, communism seems to be a cheap imitation of an original masterpiece. We’ve heard much about “redistributing wealth” for the benefit of all. In communistic countries, the wealth all belongs to the government and wealth is distributed at its will. With the early church, the “redistribution of wealth” was done by the willful generosity of the owners.

These past two weekends, browns mill church was the recipient of some incredible generosity. Dogwood Church, our sending church, collected a special offering each of the past two weekends and the total amount came to just under $15,000! We are stunned by the generosity and humbled by the confidence the people exhibited in our vision and leadership abilities for this new church. For some reason, seeing it come directly from the givers and not simply extracted from the general operating fund of the church brings extra meaning.

It is an incredible thing to witness generosity in action! God truly does love a cheerful giver. At this Thanksgiving season, we are incredibly grateful for the generosity of our family at Dogwood Church.