by John Ellis
Unless you live in the DC area, it’s hard to fully comprehend how much politics dominate everyday life around here. Politics aren’t relegated to water-cooler talk, social media discussions, or the occasional argument over a meal; in the DC area, politics encompasses almost all of life. As I’m thinking through the people whom I consider friends, the majority have jobs that are directly connected to politics. If I were to extend that to my acquaintances, that percentage rises. When people in the DC area engage in small talk, it inevitably involves politics.
Church is no different. Chances are, when I ask a brother in sister in Christ how their week was, I’ll be told about a tough fight on the Hill they were involved in as their boss sought to pass a bill or keep a bill from being passed. Chances are, during that small-talk, another brother or sister in Christ who has a different opinion, a difference of opinion that may hold real world consequences, will be within earshot. Frequently, when the news is on TV, my kids will shout out something like, “That’s Mr. So-and-so from church!” Over the last three and half years, I’ve been privileged to listen to the political discussions of people for whom politics isn’t an abstract concept but is their job.
Make no mistake, although a conservative Baptist church in the Reformed tradition, my church is far from reflecting a political homogeneity that prevents political disagreements. My church includes a variety of political opinions. Further, as referenced above, the political differences aren’t abstract. Often, those differences have real-world/job consequences. Brothers and sisters in Christ who worship God on Sunday find themselves at odds during the work week, and at odds over politics in ways that affect them beyond simply winning an argument on Facebook.
Thankfully, by God’s grace, the political differences that exist in my church have not negatively affected the unity of the church. The Elders of our church, which include men that you’ve probably seen on TV and who have the ears of some of the most powerful people in the world, are very intentional about protecting the unity that is a product of repenting of our sins and placing our faith in Jesus. As Galatians 5:9 warns, “A little leaven leavens the whole lump.” Without a faithful commitment to embracing the ordinary means of grace and a resolve to focus on the gospel of Jesus Christ, the gospel unity present at my church could quickly be replaced by pride, anger, and resentment as we allow our political opinions a higher seat of priority than politics deserve.
A pastor at Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Jonathan Leeman wrote an article for The Gospel Coalition that gives sixteen edifying ways that churches can implement that protect their unity in the face of political differences. Everything that I wrote about my church above applies in exponentially greater ways to Dr. Leeman’s church. With a membership of around 1,000 and a building that is almost directly in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol, Capitol Hill Baptist Church models gospel unity in the face of deep political divides that are present in the congregation and among the Elders. I highly encourage you to read Dr. Leeman’s article, pray over it, and ask yourself if you are more committed to defending gospel unity or defending political opinions. Email The Gospel Coalition article to the Elders of your church and ask them in what ways are they seeking to glorify God by protecting the unity of the church in the face of growing and increasingly acrimonious political divides in this country and, undoubtedly, within your church.
Please click the link below to read Jonathan Leeman’s article “16 Ways to Promote Unity Amid Political Disagreement.”