Here are three important reasons why pastors shouldn’t preach politics in the pulpit:
1) Our Text Must Be the Word of God
This sounds like a cliche, but it bears saying: faithful Bible preachers use the text of the Word of God as their source of preaching. Anything less is simply a speech, which may be inspirational, moral, or even Christian-themed. But if our basis is not the text, we’re not preaching.
Sometimes a given text will make political or moral statements. For instance, if you’re preaching through Psalm 139, you cannot escape the references to the sanctity of life. Or if you are preaching through Proverbs you will encounter many economic truths that shape capitalism. Or if you are preaching through parts of James or Timothy, you will find it inescapable to avoid the harsh condemnations of greed.
But as a rule pastors, especially those who preach in an expository (taking a book at a time, chapter at a time, verse at a time) approach, will be guided by the text. To parachute political talking points into the text is spiritual malpractice.
One caveat is this: perhaps a pastor will do a topical series on key issues of the day and how Christians should think through them biblically. I’ve done this as a Sunday Night series. This can be helpful, however, a pastor must be faithful to let the text speak to the issue and not wedge your particular political opinion into the text.
2) The Bible Cuts Both Ways
Should pastors speak about in the pulpit about contemporary issues? Yes, but only when the texts of Scripture clearly articulate it. They shouldn’t bow to any party’s talking points. They shouldn’t slant their sermons to fit a political profile. They shouldn’t become wannabee pundits in the pulpit. They should preach the Word and let it do it’s work in the hearts of the people, who will then go influence their communities.
3) We Must Never Dilute the Message of the Gospel.
To be clear, pastors are citizens, too. And so in other venues, such as op-eds, blogs, books and other places of influence the pastor may speak his mind. Even so, he must jealously guard that influence and always speak winsomely. Again, as a minister of the gospel, he must not make politics more important than his pastoral duties.
Pastors should also coach their members to winsomely engage the culture. We need gospel preachers at all levels of society and in all spheres, politics included. Pastors should equip, encourage, and support those who enter public service.
Summary: In conversations I’ve had and in my own experience, it is mission that keeps pastors from overtly preaching politics in the pulpit and not the IRS.