I am among a rather large group of pastors who dread presidential election years. I have pastored a couple of church with a pretty diverse membership, so I worry a little bit about whether election year politics will create disunity in the church, whether small group Bible studies will turn into campaign rhetoric for one candidate or another. This is my ninth presidential rodeo since I've been a lead pastor—three in the first church I served, six in the church I serve right now. Somehow we have always survived election years with minimal damage. On occasion a handful of folks get angry about this or that and a couple of others get their noses out of joint for a few weeks, but all in all, no harm, no foul.
Every cycle there are a few who think I need to be more vocal about these things, educate the church on the issues and the candidates. I've had a hard time finding that in any pastor's job description in the New Testament, so I resist. I speak in general terms at some point in the process: Christians should study the candidates, discern how the candidates' views conflict or agree with basic Christian morality, pray diligently, and vote their conscience as they sense the Spirit leads them. I encourage the folks not to sell their souls, their conscience, or their vote to any political party, but to assess candidates for their own merits. In 35 years of pastoring, I've never done anything more than that. I have talked with people privately about these matters, but I don't use the pulpit to endorse political parties or candidates. Usually, that is the alpha and omega of it.
But this is the first time in all these election cycles when I have had a number of people ask me what I think of the presidential election and how I am going to vote. Many believe we have no good choices this year. Many don’t like either of the presumptive candidates. I couldn’t agree more. So let me tell you what I’ve told them for a while now: It’s a long way to November. Pray. Watch. See what happens. See if or how things change in the next few months. And in the end, vote your conscience as you sense God’s Spirit leading you. Oh, and in light of America’s ongoing rebellion against God, His love, and His ways, here’s how I’m praying about the election at this point: "Lord, please don’t give us the president we deserve; give us the president we need." Our country has always stood in the need of prayer—maybe now more than ever. America's answers, America's healing, won't be found at a ballot box but in a prayer closet. Please join me in praying for revival and awakening in our country. If solutions and answers and unity are to be found, they'll be found there.