By Pastor Kevin Baird
I have been a pastor for over 28 years, and for many of those years of ministry I preached under a misconception that many (if not most) pastors live under, as well. It’s the misconception the IRS perpetuates through the Johnson Amendment to the 501 (c)(3) code that restricts our rights as pastors to apply the Bible to what might be deemed “political.” For year, I avoided many topics from the pulpit because I mistakenly thought that if I broached that topic I could jeopardize the church’s tax-exempt status. There was always this subtle “fear” that the IRS would sweep in and impose some kind of monstrous repercussion.
As my ministry matured through the years and I became more convinced that the Bible is to be applied to every arena of life (including public policy discussions and “politics”), I came to this crossroads again. Would I stand, declare, and apply the whole Word of God to my congregation with regards to these subjects, or would I tacitly allow the IRS to be a content manager of my sermons? It was during this season that I was introduced to the great people of Alliance Defending Freedom. This amazing team of attorneys took the time to help educate and inspire me to press forward in not only my First Amendment right of free speech, but in all reality, my mandate from God to speak into the culture.
So, when I heard about the Pulpit Initiative and the scheduling of Pulpit Freedom Sunday, I immediately wanted to participate. This coming year will be my third official year of being a participating pastor. On that Sunday, I intentionally prepare a message that addresses a current public policy or “political” issue and use the Scripture to either endorse it or critique it. For example, this year I am considering using the topic: “A Biblical Referendum on the Policies of our Current Administration.” At the end of the message I will make what I consider to be a biblical conclusion concerning the election. I will then do what I have done in previous years. I will make the message public through all our media venues and also send the IRS a copy. I have to admit in my first year of participation I did have a slight residue of the fear that I previously lived under. After all, how many of us have lived under that self-imposed censorship for years?
What was the outcome of doing that?
I have never been contacted by the IRS and, to be candid, I do not expect to be. My congregation has been incredibly supportive and grateful for my leadership in this regard. I suspect many congregations are waiting to cheer their pastors forward if only their pastor would take the step and participate.
One of the good feelings is knowing that behind my ministry is the incredibly capable Alliance Defending Freedom team who will bring the resources and legal expertise should my sermon ever be challenged by the government. I could not encourage pastors more emphatically to get involved with Pulpit Freedom Sunday. Shake off the fear, embrace your call, and become a part of a powerful movement of pastors on Pulpit Freedom Sunday, October 7, 2012.