Apr 04

Godly Politics

Recently I had a long vacation abroad, two and a half months to be exact. In that time I’ve attended numerous churches mainly in Perth and Malaysia. I don’t know if this comes with age but I start to notice and pay attention on the inner workings of the churches I attend. Involuntarily.

For once in church I was aware of the air of politics. I only found out about this when I was abroad and it got me thinking about all the churches I’ve attended. I was taught that anywhere that has human relations and people having individual opinions that there will be politics present. What I didn’t know was that it exists in God-dwelling churches too. I found that hard to swallow at first.

Outside, we sometimes get tangled into situations where we need to side a particular party and go against the other in confrontation. Other times we need to woo the right people, grease the wheels and hope for the best. But in church, there are ‘routes’ to get certain things done and there are key people to get things approved. This, is called church politics.

Church politics refers to the decision making process in the church, to all the ministers and leaders involved and the role they each play in this process. First of all, there is nothing wrong about church politics in itself. We need church politics. We need routes that lead to a decision and the people involved in this. That’s where church politics come in. But like all other things, church politics can be done right or wrong.

When done right, church politics will benefit the church and glorify God’s name. When done wrong, the exact opposite will happen. And quite often we hear examples of church politics gone wrong, with unfortunate outcomes. In church, every individual thinks that they are doing something for God. They decide on things ‘in the name of God’ which other parties might not consider best. That’s when argument arises. And that’s where it turns sour.

But that doesn’t mean that we as youths or church leaders should disengage and not participate in church politics. If we want to accomplish our goals, we need to be involved. We just have to learn to do church politics the right way.

Rachel Blom gives us 5 golden rules in dealing with church politics:

  1. Stay honest. When dealing with church politics, always stick to the truth. And remember that those little white lies are just as much lies as the big fat ones. Even not saying anything can become a lie. That doesn’t mean you should always share everything you know with everyone, but if you know your information can make a difference and there’s no moral reason to be silent (like a promise of confidentiality), you have to speak up. If someone asks for your opinion, give it, even if it’s negative. Speak with love, speak with compassion and empathy, but speak the truth.
  2. Stay fair. Once you’ve discovered people’s weak spots, it becomes easy to manipulate them. That doesn’t mean it’s right. Never lose your integrity in church politics, for not only will you hurt others, in the end, you will hurt yourself. And once lost, integrity is very, very hard to get back. Remember that if you have to force or manipulate people to get things done, there’s probably something very wrong with either your goals or yourself.
  3. Stay open. Be very careful of going behind people’s backs. Things that have to be done secretly are often not right in some way. Everyone involved in the process should be heard. A very easy check is this: at every conversation you’re having, ask yourself how you would feel if Jesus were present. Would He feel comfortable with what you’re saying and with how you’re handling things?
  4. Stay accountable. Other people should be able and allowed to question you with regard to how you handle yourself in church politics. That means you should be able to be open about your role. If you feel you can’t be, that might mean something is wrong. Do you get angry when people ask why you didn’t support a decision or why you approved of a measure? Search your heart to find the reason. When your conscience is clear before God, you should have no trouble explaining yourself and your actions to others.
  5. Stay humble. Don’t ever claim to be right based on knowledge or position. The church isn’t about that. Look at how the church in Jerusalem handled a big conflict: they asked the opinion of other leaders. And Paul, Barnabas, and Peter gave theirs. Either of them could have claimed himself to be to go-to man, the final authority, but they didn’t. They trusted in the process, and ultimately in God, to lead them to the right conclusion.

Oh Lord, as we grow as leaders of our church, we pray that we will continue to learn how to be more like Jesus in our daily dealings with people and decision makings in the church. We also pray that You will give us strength to act as how a Christian should and help us pay no attention to the temptations of the evil one but grow in love and kindness. Amen.

(Quotes from Rachel B. 1999)

-Joshua Wong