For the past few months and for the next 18 it will be very difficult to ignore politicians and campaigns. If you live in a battleground state like Florida or Ohio you get the joy of automated calls and direct mail. Candidates are already being accused of accommodating their stances to their specific audiences, often contradicting their earlier statements.
Politics is of course not limited to Washington D.C. and 24 hour news networks, it also permeates the local church.
Pastors who say they don’t play politics are lying, it is a reality. Leading people is political by nature. Convincing people to follow you and get on board is exactly what politicians do when trying to garner your vote. Hopefully church politics is without the controversy and ugliness, but they do exist.
Leadership (spiritual or otherwise) is political by nature.
However this doesn’t mean that you have to appease the people who have been there the longest or run every decision by the big givers.
A few months into ministry I recognized we had a scheduling problem. We needed to consolidate for the sake of my volunteer team and to keep momentum with the students. In order to do so I had to barbecue a sacred cow.
It was a Bible study in the home of a legendary leader who had led the study in his home longer than I had been alive. Parents were dropping kids off at the same program they went to. He knew everybody and everybody knew him. It wasn’t a church event but our church never scheduled a conflict.
By the time I got there however the program was a shell of what it had once been. Students didn’t want to go and parents felt awkward telling the respected leader the truth. It was no longer a viable activity and it was occurring in a prime time.
So I did something bold. I called him and told him that in a few months we were moving our program for the age to the same night he was (and always had) met. I asked him to change nights, but made it clear that even he choose not to I was making the change.
To the best of my knowledge he never undermined me behind my back, but there were supporters of his that did. Some of the critics carried some political power in the church and I got my fair share of sharp questions. Even though I had several hard conversations I was supported by the rest of the leadership and the scheduling change really did work.
I really knew it was a success when parents and students thanked me in private. I took some heat, but at least it was for a good decision.
In church playing politics is a necessity, but thankfully not one that is inherently about self-promotion.