One definition of “politics” is the following: “political activities characterized by artful and often dishonest means.” Specifically this means “competition between competing interest groups or individuals for power and leadership in a government or other group.” (Webster’s Dictionary).
Since the preachers under consideration (in this article) would call themselves Christians, anyone who would by artful and dishonest means strive for power and influence among the group (church) is far from what God expects of His servants. Such a preacher would be a “political” preacher.
Having been a preacher for almost 61 years, this writer is fully aware of the “artful and dishonest” efforts of many “political” preachers to establish themselves at the expense of proper Christian demeanor. This is not to say that a Gospel preacher should never strive to advance his work. But this advancement should be done always to God’s glory and honor, rather than for personal advancement. It has been my honor to work among some of the greatest Christians on earth. I am still privileged to do this. But in the process of my life’s work there have been times when men, who should have been supporting the work being done, rather sought to detract from it by devious means. Members of several congregations have asked me why I had not preached for them in a Gospel meeting. My answer is always, “If the elders extend an invitation, Lord willing, I’ll go.” But the invitation did not always come. Why? Sometimes this happened because the local preacher (with his own “political” agenda) influenced action otherwise. What is my attitude toward this? While I’m sorry these things happened, I know God will take care of it on Judgment Day.
I’ve seen men (political preachers), who thought themselves to be something, avoid those whom they considered less prepared, better prepared, less educated, more educated, etc., and then practically “bow down before” men whom they thought could enhance their own agenda. They were “playing politics.” What will the Lord do with such men on Judgment Day?
The apostle Paul, considered by many the “Prince of Preachers,” certainly did not have this attitude. He was a “non-political” preacher. He wrote in Galatians 1:10-12:
For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please man? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ. But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.
It is not imaginable that Paul “played politics” with his brethren. He was concerned with the success of the Gospel, regardless of who preached. Remember his rebuke of the Corinthians for choosing their favorite preacher (see I Corinthians 1). Indeed, Paul might have avoided some very difficult times if he had “politicked” with his acquaintances! But this would have violated the very principles of life for which Paul was willing to die!
While everyone should have the right of preference, in matters of personal judgment, this should never go so far as to thwart efforts of faithful men to take the Gospel to the sin-cursed world!
If a preacher “plays politics” to get his way in things, regardless of the circumstances, he not only cannot be trusted by faithful men, but also he is a hireling. He has a price. He can be bought! The price may be money, or just his desired “image” among others. Some are willing to do almost anything to get to “write for a particular paper,” get to “speak on a particular lectureship,” or get to “preach a meeting” with a particular congregation. Are members of the body of Christ blind to this kind of thing? I think not. But I do have a question to such members who see this happening: “Why do you put up with it?” If one turns a blind eye to that which is wrong, does that not make him a partaker in it?
When a preacher cares more about how he is perceived by people than he does about how God perceives him, his soul is in eternal jeopardy! May God bless men who preach the Gospel to be selfless and faithful in their efforts to hold up the light of God’s truth to our lost and dying world. Let the world play “politics.” But let the men of God stand strong and true to the Word He has given us.
-Glenn Ramsey, Professor of Religious Education