An International Perspective on U.S. Christians & Politics

An International Perspective on U.S. Christians & Politics

By Brian Winslade, Senior Pastor of Hamilton Central Baptist Church
This article originally appeared in Evangelicals magazine and has been reposted here with the author’s permission.

I write from outside of the United States, but looking in with great interest. I pastor a church in my home country of New Zealand, but having also pastored in Northern California and obtained a doctoral degree from Bethel University in Minnesota, I am not unfamiliar with American life.

From an outsider’s perspective, the heightened partisan divide in America is disturbing. Some will dismiss this as an American issue and not the business of those beyond its borders. However, we live in a global village; when Americans sneeze, the rest of the world catches a cold!

Media reporting on U.S. evangelicalism has an impact on the perception of evangelical movements and ministries around the world. Undiscerning commentators assume we’re part of the same monolithic whole.

The word “evangelical” stands for belief in the authority and relevance of the Bible, unabashed proclamation of the gospel, the centrality and efficacy of the cross, and a clarion call to radical conversion. Lazy journalism may be to blame for ill-defining evangelicals as a political bloc, but it’s not hard to grasp how they’ve formed such a view with the partisan alignment of some high-profile leaders of evangelical ministries. In my home country, an invitation to a well-known evangelist is now questioned due to his reported political endorsements. Bible-believing Christians are increasingly regarded with suspicion in local media as having an assumed political bias.

As fellow evangelicals, we applaud the engagement of American Christians in the public square. For too long, evangelicals misunderstood separation of church and state to mean non-involvement in national governance. We have a valid voice, and a divine mandate to speak prophetically.

However, many of us around the world struggle to understand the lack of civility and Christian grace that currently manifests in the cauldron of American politics, especially toward those of different shades on the political spectrum. The culture of vilification, name-calling and conspiratorial presumptions of those with different political views is disconcerting. That many who profess to love Jesus, and hold a high view of the Bible, also engage in such banter is incongruous with the values we evangelicals hold dear.

Isaiah warned of misguided accreditation of current affairs: “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness ….” (Isaiah 5:20).

Evangelicals refer to the Bible as the “word of God.” It shapes our worldview and how we live. It also encourages us to speak up when we see a brother or sister caught in inappropriate behaviour; for to say or do nothing is tantamount to complicity. What advice, therefore, might a fellow evangelical offer his U.S. brothers and sisters amidst a divisive election cycle? Here are 10 ideas:

  1. Speak to, and about, those of different political perspectives with grace and respect — as befitting of Christ-followers. It is possible to believe passionately and to disagree with others in a manner that is honouring. Name-calling and vilification of those who don’t share our view weaken our distinctiveness as ambassadors of God’s kingdom (Philippians 2:3–4).
  2. Love and uphold the truth. Be wary of those who bend or distort the truth. Fact check what politicians and media commentators tell us — including those we support. Maintain an open mind until all facts are laid bare (John 8:32).
  3. Get your news and political commentary from a variety of sources, rather than just one. Evangelicals think biblically and are cautious of deception. Filter all we hear through the lens of Scripture and think for ourselves (Colossians 2:8).
  4. Be cautious of believing and retelling unsubstantiated conspiracy theories. Christians have suffered much over the centuries from false conspiracies; we ought not to perpetuate disinformation. Truth sets us free, Jesus said, not speculation and innuendo (Isaiah 8:12–13).
  5. Work for reconciliation wherever there is discord. Blind and belligerent party politics destroys a nation. Followers of Jesus are more committed than most to finding negotiated resolutions amid conflict (2 Corinthians 5:18).
  6. Accept that equally sincere Christ-followers may have different political ideologies, coming to different conclusions from reading the same Bible as you do. “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, and in all things charity.” The kingdom of God supersedes party politics (Romans 12:2).
  7. If you have influence in a Christian organization, encourage it to remain nonpartisan in its public policy engagement. Be cautious of those that appear to have “hitched their wagon” to one political ideology lest they damage their credibility (Acts 5:38–39).
  8. Take seriously what the Bible says about justice, care of the poor and marginalized, and those without a home and/or nation. The Bible is replete with God’s displeasure upon those who mistreat the poor and homeless (Proverbs 14:31, 17:5, 21:13, 28:27).
  9. Recognize that Christian faith flourishes even under ungodly political regimes. It was born in conflict, matured amidst waves of persecution, and does its best work in low-profile love and service — rather than on the coattails of political power (2 Corinthians 4:5).
  10. Remember, it is righteousness that exalts a nation, not the state of its economy or the security of its borders. God’s blessing falls on those who treat others well, especially those less fortunate (Proverbs 14:34).

At the end of the 19th century, Charles Sheldon penned a famous little book (“In His Steps”) based on a series of sermons delivered to his church in Topeka, Kansas. Parishioners were asked to pledge for one year to make no major decisions without first stopping to ask the question: “What would Jesus do?” Maybe in a political context, it might just be a good question for evangelicals to ask again in the year 2020!

“In a time of disorientation and seeming chaos, Brian shows us that discipleship and the radical way of Jesus is the plumb line from which all else is measured. This book is needed and the author’s ability to root it in life makes it all the more invaluable.”

GARY V. NELSON, Tyndale University, Toronto, Canada

Brian Winslade is senior pastor of Hamilton Central Baptist Church in New Zealand and a member of the International Council of the World Evangelical Alliance. He has pastored five churches over 40 years, and has been a missionary in Bangladesh, CEO of the Baptist Churches of New Zealand, national director for the Baptist Union of Australia, and lead pastor of Hillside Church of Marin in Northern California. Winslade holds a D.Min. from Bethel University and is a graduate of Carey Baptist College in New Zealand.

The teaching of Jesus of Nazareth is unparalleled and acclaimed in the history of our world. 

Born into obscurity and poverty, no one has impacted the world to the same extent as Jesus.

If a person grasped nothing else of the teaching of Jesus, apart from that contained in the Sermon on the Mount, he or she catches The Essence of his message.

This book takes a fresh look at The Essence of Jesus’ teaching and its remarkable application in our current age—a resource for individual Christ-followers, preachers, and a discussion-starter for small groups.

Amidst all he said and did, one of his close friends, Matthew (a former social outcast), captured his teaching given on a hillside just above the town where he lived, overlooking the Sea of Galilee. The fifth, sixth, and seventh chapters of Matthews’s Gospel, commonly referred to as the Sermon on the Mount, have been described as The Essence of all that Jesus taught about God and how we relate with him. It has been called the “Core of the Christian Apple,” the “Compendium of Christ’s Doctrine,” the “Magna Charta of the Kingdom.”

WEA Joins National Association of Evangelicals in Lamenting Racial Injustice, Calling for Prayer amid Recent Turmoil

WEA Joins National Association of Evangelicals in Lamenting Racial Injustice, Calling for Prayer amid Recent Turmoil

Deerfield, IL – June 2, 2020

The World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) joins the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), its national member body in the United States, in lamenting the recent killing of a black unarmed man at the hands of a white police officer – a symptom of the racial injustice that continues to exist in the country. The WEA and evangelicals worldwide join together praying for an end to the violence that is overshadowing peaceful protests.

“Recent events surrounding the wrongful deaths of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, and George Floyd in Minnesota illustrate severe racial injustices in the United States,” the NAE that represents some 42,000 churches said in a statement. “[We] lament the recurring trauma experienced by African Americans. We condemn racism and the violent abuse of power, call for justice for victims and their families, and exhort churches to combat attitudes and systems that perpetuate racism. We are grateful for law enforcement officers who honorably serve and protect our communities, and urge our members to uphold them in prayer.”

Bp Efraim Tendero, Secretary General of the WEA, said: “As a global family of Christian believers, we feel the pain of a nation in turmoil strained with broken relationships that have suffered from decades, indeed centuries of injustice between people of various ethnic backgrounds. We also wish to express our concern about the evident violence that is overshadowing those whose intent is to register a peaceful protest. This violence only adds to the pain Americans are suffering amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“Today as a world body, understanding the complexity of this social unrest, we stand in prayerful solidarity, asking the God of creation and the Lord of our salvation to restore peace, to establish His justice and to bring about a lasting healing and reconciliation within the United States,” Bp Tendero continued.

He concluded: “We pray that Christian believers will be at the forefront of reconciliation as did Jesus Christ who himself reconciled us to God and to each other. Further we pray that Christians will be at the forefront in advocating and working for justice, in the footsteps of our God of justice who shows no favoritism. And finally, it is our earnest prayer that believers will take on themselves the calling to be peace builders, living the life of Jesus who came to this world as the Prince of Peace.”

 

To read the full NAE statement, visit: nae.net/nae-addresses-racial-turmoil-calls-for-action/

 

Over two billion Christians in the world today are represented by three world church bodies. The World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) is one of those, serving more than 600 million evangelicals. Launched in 1846 to unite evangelicals worldwide, the WEA continues to be a dynamic movement with 9 regional and 134 national Evangelical Alliances, and over 150 member organizations. WEA’s mission is to establish and strengthen regional and national Evangelical Alliances, who in turn enable their national Church to advance the Good News of Jesus Christ and effect personal and community transformation for the glory of God. For more information, visit Worldea.org

NAE Addresses Racial Turmoil, Calls for Action

NAE Addresses Racial Turmoil, Calls for Action

Recent events surrounding the wrongful deaths of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, and George Floyd in Minnesota illustrate severe racial injustices in the United States. The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) laments the recurring trauma experienced by African Americans. We condemn racism and the violent abuse of power, call for justice for victims and their families, and exhort churches to combat attitudes and systems that perpetuate racism. We are grateful for law enforcement officers who honorably serve and protect our communities, and urge our members to uphold them in prayer.

Christians believe that racism is an affront to the value of individuals created in God’s image and to the divinely designed diversity of redeemed humanity. This denial of personhood and belonging runs contrary to the peace and unity that God intended in the beginning and that the Bible depicts as our destiny.

Racism appears in beliefs or practices that distinguish or elevate one race over others. When accompanied and sustained by imbalances of power, prejudice moves beyond individual relationships to institutional practices. Such racial injustice is the systemic perpetuation of racism. Its existence has unfairly benefitted some and burdened others simply due to the color of their skin and the cultural associations based upon perceptions of race.

No race or ethnicity is greater or more valuable than another. Evangelicals believe that the good news of Jesus Christ has the power to break down racial and ethnic barriers (Ephesians 2:14–18). Racism should not only be addressed after tragic events. Our communities of faith must pursue sustained efforts in this labor of love and justice.


 

This article appears here, on the NAE website
NZCN and NAE are both members of the World Evangelical Alliance

NZCN | News 1 May

NZCN | News 1 May

Dear Friend,

What are we learning (or re-learning) from this current COVID-19 crisis?

  • That our lives are not as safe or as predictable as we presume to think
  • That our only enduring anchor and hope is God
  • That crises can usefully prompt us to reflect
  • That basic human relationships of marriage, family and friendship really matter
  • That the church also matters, both for Christ’s message and the community of his people
  • That both work and rest are important (many of us rush around too much, and some time-out at home is good for us)
  • That leadership makes a difference, and that Christians remain called to pray for those in authority
  • That God is able to work for good in all circumstances
  • That many churches have rediscovered basic pastoral care
  • That the core tasks of the church do not depend on glitzy performances and outstanding facilities, but on faith, hope, love, the Gospel, the word,
  • Prayer, and the work of the Holy Spirit
  • That many in the church have been moved by this crisis to a greater prayerfulness
  • That on-line church can reach a lot of previously unreached people
  • That many people seem to have greater openness to God in this time

Pray As One NZ

The wonderful ZOOM-based nation-wide prayer gatherings which began last month, and which many hundreds of people participated in, begin again this Monday night, with a weekly 8.00 p.m. to 9.00 p.m. prayer gathering.

The New Zealand Christian Network team were heavily involved in the formation of the Pray As one NZ prayer movement, and have been very pleased to be associated with it. A wider advisory group (including representatives of other prayer networks) will continue and has accepted NZCN’s offer to take overall responsibility for Pray As One NZ.

NZCN|News – Easter

NZCN|News – Easter

Easter points us to the bigger picture

There is no denying the current significant health and economic threats to societies all around the world, especially in many less well-resourced nations. In the past, societies and churches have many times suffered catastrophes, through war, famine, natural disasters, plagues, and persecution. The season of Easter, though, is a great time to recall and celebrate Christ’s redeeming death and life-giving resurrection.

These Easter events usefully remind us of a bigger, more enduring picture than COVID-19. That God remains our everlasting Rock. That on the Cross, God in Christ has demonstrated his great love for us, and made possible our salvation. That God has granted his Spirit to all who believe. That God is always watching over us. That one day God will restore his broken creation, and make all things new.  May God inspire us afresh as we focus on him, this coming weekend – and beyond.

 

 

It has been so very encouraging for the New Zealand Christian Network to be very closely involved in the new Pray As One NZ initiative, which began last Tuesday (1 April) with a 12-hour national on-line day of prayer for New Zealand and a special one-hour national prayer and worship service live-streamed on YouTube and Facebook followed by eight consecutive prayer sessions, from 8.00 to 9.00 pm.

What has been so pleasing is the gathering of hundreds of Christian believers from every corner of New Zealand, and from many different church denominations and flavours, and the thousands of faithful, passionate prayers for Aotearoa New Zealand. On average, there have been 140 people online at any one time. The two overarching themes have been the COVID-19 crisis and the spiritual health and wellbeing of New Zealand.

This series of prayer gatherings end tonight (Thursday 9 April, 8.00 pm). It is not too late to participate. If you would like to join, visit Pray As One NZ for details. Almost certainly, Pray as One prayer gatherings will resume on some basis, sometime after Easter.
Watch this space…

Which is the deeper problem: the spiritual blindness and sins of secular New Zealand society as a whole, or the blind spots and spiritual listlessness of the New Zealand church?

I posed this question during devotions in Pray As One NZ earlier this week, before reading that magnificent prayer of repentance, Psalm 51.

Read the transcript here >