by Pastor Chris Clark
My name is Chris Clark. I serve as the senior pastor of the East Clairemont Baptist Church in San Diego. I worked alongside Pastor Jim Garlow in the battle to preserve marriage in California (Prop 8), as well as helping assist pastors in other states to preserve the definition of marriage in their respective states over the past 4 years.
I would like to offer some of the biblical facts that the Lord used to put me in a place where I am now unafraid to stand before my people and declare the whole counsel of God, even if in so doing I find myself in arenas that many consider to be “political”.
I have seen numerous examples in the Old Testament where the Lord’s prophets obediently confronted the civic leaders of their respective day with their sin and with their godless decisions: Samuel with Saul; Gad and Nathan with David; Elijah, Elisha, and Micaiah with Ahab; Isaiah with Ahaz; Daniel with Belshazzar; Jeremiah with Jehoiakim and Zedekiah; as well as others.
I have seen John the Baptist in the New Testament confront Herod about his immorality–to his own demise.
I’m sure you are very familiar with those examples.
Pastors are to be commended for following proper hermeneutical protocol: looking for any references in the epistles as to a doctrine to teach or a value to embrace.
However, there is a caveat when it comes to rigidly following such protocol: that occurs when one fails to take into account the historical context in which the text was written.
It was neglect of this nature that found many American pastors defending slavery in the 1850s–using the absence of any condemnation from Paul towards Philemon concerning his slave Onesimus. Of course, we know that the Bible does not condone slavery; however, one has to consider the historical context of this letter in order to understand the core of what Paul was saying.
This is an important principle to consider when studying the biblical imperatives concerning moral and ethical issues that come before a society. When it comes to a direct imperative along the lines of “you as a pastor must involve yourself with issues that society considers to be political,” you won’t find anything like that.
Does that mean that the New Testament discourages pastors from speaking on these issues to the Church? Does it mean that the New Testament draws a distinction between the sacred and the secular with regard to sermon content?
I have concluded that the answer is no.
Jesus tells us to pay our taxes (Mt 22:21). Paul tells us to submit ourselves to the governing authorities (Ro 13:1ff). Peter tells us to honor the emperor (1 Pe 2:17). And it is this same Peter, when told by the authorities to stop preaching, declared that he must obey God rather than men (Ac 5:29). So there is a standard set by God that, when civil governments run afoul of it, must be publicly declared and re-established.
And who is it that must make that declaration? I believe it is God’s messengers–His pastors.
The New Testament church understood it to be that way. They were persecuted by the Roman emperor Domitian (81-96) because it was Christians who refused to worship the emperor. How was the church equipped to withstand such persecution? I believe that the Lord equipped and empowered His pastors to declare the full counsel of the word of God to the church, and then equipped those same pastors with the power and authority to exhort the people to stand against such moral wrongdoing.
Today, such action by pastors would be seen as being “political.” But this was literally a life-and-death issue that the people in the churches then were facing. For the pastors then to refuse to address emperor worship, choosing instead to just tell people how to be saved, would be doing a grave disservice to the people, not only for their own survival but for the quality of disciple they needed to be in that hour.
So when you consider the historical context out of which the Lord commissioned the New Testament to be written, you do in fact find that there is an imperative to pastors to so equip the saints to be witnesses, to be salt, light, and leaven.
Now when you consider the uniqueness of our own historical context–the fact that we live in a country where we, the people, are the ones governing–the need for pastors to make disciples of such a quality has never been greater.
We still need to render to Caesar that which is Caesar’s. But now we are the ones who put Caesar in office. So when Caesar starts demanding from us that which is God’s, the people need to rise up and deal with Caesar.
We still need to honor Caesar. But now we are the ones who put Caesar in office. So when Caesar begins to behave in a manner that can only be described as dishonorable, the people need to rise up and deal with Caesar.
We still need to submit to the governing authorities. But when the governing authorities wander out of their lane and begin to violate the highest laws in the land, then it falls to the people to rise up and remedy the transgression.
And that is where we find ourselves. We find ourselves in a country where Caesar has shown no regard for human life; no regard for the family; no regard for God or the things of God; no regard for God’s laws or the rule of law.
Really, there is nothing new there; there have been plenty of civilizations that have found themselves in such a predicament over the past 2000 years.
But, unlike any other period in all of human history, we face something incredibly unique–something divinely provided, I believe: we find ourselves in a country engaged in self-government, with its moral foundations set squarely on the word of God.
Our nation has strayed off of those biblical foundations long enough. It is time to come home.
And the ones that I believe are commissioned to be the leaders of that movement: America’s pastors.
That’s where I am. All in. Where are you?
If you are a pastor, go to www.pulpitfreedom.org and sign up to participate in Pulpit Freedom Sunday on October 7.