(This blog is part 3 of a series of blogs on “the Gospel and power”).
The first blog in this series addressed the “upside-down” nature of the Gospel—namely, that the kingdom of God comes through faithful, sacrificial, and loving witness. I, also, addressed matters of church discipline. And thirdly, I referred to a documentary that focused on a movement among some Christians to influence the world by placing godly men in positions of power around the world.
The third point—putting godly men in positions of power—seems like a good idea to many. I, however, am deeply troubled by this idea. In addition to what I wrote earlier, I am troubled because I believe that it is in direct conflict with the Gospel and the mission of God’s people.
God’s people are to advance the kingdom of God through their faithful, loving, and sacrificial witness. To say it again: the gospel advances when God’s people faithfully, lovingly, and sacrificially witness for the kingdom. That is, we do so the same way Jesus did—by dying!
Now, it may seem incredulous to suppose that the kingdom of God advances through the death of God’s people. And that is the point! The kingdom of God doesn’t advance its empire the way the world’s empires advance! This may be hard to swallow but it is the absolute message of Scripture and it is supported by church history.
The thinking behind those who aim to place godly men in power, then, falsely assumes that it is God’s desire to place Christians in power so that they can affect Christian laws upon a secular society. Now, this might be a noble endeavor. But I would vigorously contend that it is an inherently non-Christian endeavor.
For one, the endeavor to impose Christian laws and ethics upon a culture does not make Christians, nor a Christian empire. It may make for a society with good laws. But it doesn’t necessarily make a society of good people.
Now, do not misunderstand. I am not saying that Christian men (and women) cannot or should not be in positions of power. Nor, am I saying that making good laws is not a noble endeavor.
What I am saying is that God’s desire for His people is to work for His kingdom. There will indeed be a day when Jesus will rule all the nations. But it will not be by placing Christians in power in this age. Instead, the ruler of this age (the devil) must be permanently cast aside; and, death and sin must be eradicated. Until that happens, which I would affirm takes place at the second coming of Christ (but if you want to push it to the end of the millenium it doesn’t matter to me), the people of God are called to lives of faithful, loving, and sacrificial witness.
Until then, the people of God may attempt to influence the nations of the world. We may seek positions of power. But we must understand that it is not through power, force, or military might that the kingdom of God comes. It is through a faithful, loving, and sacrificial witness. As a result, our deeds are just as important as a words.
Thus, when Christian leaders in power fall from grace and commit blatant sins, they should model repentance and contrition, and they should step down. After all, if a pastor or other leader did such, we have already agreed that they should step down.
For some reason, there is a fear among Christians that we cannot have Christian political leaders step down because someone who is not a Christian—someone who doesn’t share Christian values—might step in and fill the office.
This line of thinking is seriously in error. Our Christian witness is of greater importance that having Christians in seats of power. “They will know you are my disciples” not because you made Christians laws, but because of your conduct and character. When Christians hide their sins, or confess them, and, yet, do not step down, they are testifying to the world that their power is more important than their character.
When they don’t do what we would expect any other Christian in leadership to do, then we have placed too great an emphasis on the position and the power. And we have failed to understand that this is not the way the kingdom of God comes.
Hence, the documentary; which was produced to warn people about the Christian agenda to rule the world and influence the nations for their cause.
In the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5-7) Jesus explains that in the Old Testament law one was not permitted to murder, commit adultery, or lie. But, in His kingdom, Jesus explains, doing any of these in one’s heart was equal to doing them in one’s actions.
The point is that having good laws does not make one Christian. The nature of the Gospel is to have one’s heart transformed.
When we endeavor to force Christian values on others through power, it often repels people from the Gospel. When Christians are respected for being Christians and for living according to their ideals—which are predicated on a faithful, loving, and sacrificial witness—then the Gospel flourishes.
 In my upcoming book I spend much time defending this statement.
(This blog is part 2 of a series of blogs on “the Gospel and power”).
The first blog in this series addressed the “upside-down” nature of the Gospel—namely, that the kingdom of God comes through faithful, sacrificial, and loving witness; and matters of church discipline; and a documentary that focused on a movement among some Christians to influence the world by placing godly men in positions of power around the world.
The third point—putting godly men in positions of power—seems like a good idea to many.
I, however, am troubled by this idea. I am troubled because I believe that it is in direct conflict with the Gospel. In this blog, I will contend that putting Christian people in positions of power may well lead situations that conflict with the Gospel.
The aforementioned documentary went on to show that those values sometimes went ignored if/when they were transgressed. For example, when men committed acts of adultery, instead of doing the very things we should expect men of God to do, they were protected by the Christian establishment.
From the vantage point of those producing the documentary this was the height of hypocrisy. From their perspective, these Christian organizations were trying to obtain power in order to impose their social, economic, political, and moral standards on others (which to some in the secular world, appears cultic). Yet, these men of Christian ideals were not willing to live up to those very same standards when they violated them. They wanted to impose Christian values on the world, in other words, but they were not willing to follow them themselves.
Many of you may be reading this and conclude that there is nothing wrong here. These men, at least some of them, were contrite and repentant. They probably sought reconciliation. They likely tried to do the right thing.
Let’s assume for a minute that this were true in all cases. We have already established that Christian leaders need to be held to a higher ethical standard than others. Furthermore, for their own sake, and for the sake of others who have been injured by the leader’s fall from grace, and for the sake of the church’s witness to the world, these men need more help. To allow them to remain in their positions of power after a significant sin conveys the message to all that these men are to be treated differently from the rest because of their positions of power. This is precisely the opposite of what I set forth in the first blog. When leaders sin, the consequences need to be more severe.
What, in effect, is happening in these cases is that keeping men in positions of power is deemed more important than the Gospel. This might sound outrageous. But the Gospel, which includes our witness to the world, is adversely affected when Christians, especially Christians in places of power, sin.
Not only that, but allowing them to remain in positions of power sends a message to the leaders themselves that they are special and need to be treated as such. Consequently, they do not receive all of the consequences for their sins that others might. The result is that they fail to get the necessary counseling and help that they need. Instead, they retain their positions of power, and begin to live with a sense that they are above the law. Because they do not face the necessary consequences of their sin, they often continue living unscrupulously. The end result is that the very law that they are put in positions of power to impose on others does not, in effect, apply to them.
Another effect of this special treatment for those in power is that sin itself is often minimized. This is used to justify the softer punishment for the leader who has sinned. In order to minimize the sin, however, the victim is often pushed aside. After all, giving the victim the necessary care they deserved, would only validate the severity of the sin.
Why do good Christian leaders in positions of power compromise their own core Christian values? More importantly, how can the Church not stand up and object when this happens?
The answer is, of course, complex, but a key catalyst is the conviction that it is deemed more important to have such men in positions of power, than it is to impose Christian discipline. In other words, the desire to have men who espouse Christian ideals in power is deemed more important than having men who actually live them out on a consistent basis.
There is another, and more significant, flaw with this approach to power. Namely, that it is in direct conflict with the Gospel of Christ.
The Gospel is that Jesus is Lord and that through His life, death, resurrection, and ascension, He has become the world’s true Lord. Jesus presently reigns as king through His people, who are called to proclaim His kingdom to the world. We proclaim the kingdom by imitating Jesus. The overriding ethic of Jesus’ kingdom is love! Thus, just as Jesus overcame power through faithful, loving, and sacrificial witness, so shall we. (In the book I am currently writing I spend 60-100 pages laying this out and defending this thesis. But I suspect that you expect a blog to be a bit shorter). At some point in the future, Scripture indicates that Jesus will return, vindicate His people, and establish His kingdom in full. At that time, death, sin, and corruption will vanish.
The Gospel has often been referred to as the "upside-down Gospel." Jesus’ way of doing things doesn’t fit with the world’s way. The world uses power. Jesus uses love. The world demands that we look out for number one. Jesus demands that we look out for the other—especially the one that others won’t look out for.
I suspect that most of you who are reading this will have no trouble with this notion. Well, we at least have no problem with this in theory. We all recognize the difficulty in living it out.
. . . .
If a pastor or church leader were involved in some form of moral failure, I suspect that most everyone reading this would recommend some form of pastoral care for the afflicted and church discipline for the offender. Such discipline should, in the least, include confronting the offender so that he/she repent, demanding that they obtain counseling and other help, and then aiming for eventual reconciliation.
Most would agree—depending on the nature and severity of the sin—that the pastor or leader should step away from ministry for at least some specified period of time, if not forever—depending of the seriousness and length of the sin, as well as how well the pastor or leader has received help.
In such instances, church discipline is intended to address issues of sin on at least three levels.
First, there is the care for those injured by the pastor or leader’s sins.
Secondly, it is designed to help the pastor or leader who committed such acts.
Finally, there is the witness of the church to the world. Certainly, this third level is only secondary to helping those who have suffered recover, and those who have sinned get well. Nonetheless, when the church deals with sin in a congregation, especially when that sin is committed by a leader, it must be cognizant that the world is watching.
I suspect that most of you who are reading this will have no trouble with what I have just set forth—other than the fact that such situations are difficult and grieving and because of this we often fail to do it out well.
. . . .
I recently watched a troubling documentary. Apparently there are Christians who perceive that God desires to place Christian men in leadership positions around the world in order that they may influence the world for the gospel. Their motive is certainly fine. And, I suspect, their hearts are in the right place.
I suspect that most of you who are reading this will have no trouble with this notion. In fact, I suspect that most of you think that this is a good thing.
 This is what is supposed to happen. We all, likely, know of instances in which this process wasn’t followed. In effect, once you have finished this book you might see why.
 The documentary was presented from a secular perspective and aimed to expose the movement and its agenda. I am not addressing whether or not it was good. My point is in regard to the concept that Christians should aim to advance the kingdom by putting people in positions of power.