Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your keeping, and gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if that had been too little, I also would have given you much more! Why have you despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in His sight? – II Samuel 12:7-9a NKJV
It seems as if I have been to an innumerable amount of conferences, briefings, and meetings that attempt to interface the servants of the Lord with our civil servants. Assuming all hearts are genuine and sincere, this can be a useful dynamic. Politicians want to meet pastors in order to access and win their influence with people. Pastors want to meet politicians to express their concerns and thoughts with regards to public policy. It is a quid pro quo that has been happening for literally centuries.
Whether it is a President, Governor, Senator, Representative, Mayor, or the County Council, there is a needed and appropriate relationship that should exist between the clergy and our civic leadership. I recognize the fact that our political leaders are not monarchs, just as I recognize that not all clergy can be labeled “prophets.” My point is simply that there is a relationship which should exist between these two jurisdictions. My ancillary point is that relationship has deteriorated which has become one of the reasons we find our culture in the predicaments it finds itself in.
God’s dealings with the nation of Israel and its leaders is a template of how accountability can actually be applied in the civil arena. The Scriptural excerpt above is the familiar story of King David (a civil leader) being confronted by the Prophet Nathan (the servant of the Lord) over the sin of adultery, as well as the subsequent murder. David had betrayed his commitments before God and the nation. This was a day of reckoning, a day of true accountability, which David had to face with the servant of the Lord. The scene seems foreign to our western democratic mentality. What pastor would have the temerity to do such a thing to a current political leader? Would it even be possible? Would it do any good?
I want to suggest FIVE keys in this relationship that if implemented could help turn our nation, state, and communities around and point them in a righteous direction. Like most precepts, these keys cannot be implemented overnight, but with steady determination and righteous pressure I do believe they can be implemented swiftly on many levels.
1. The King needs a REAL relationship with a prophet.
Let me put this in contemporary terms. A political leader needs a real relationship with his pastor. David had a real relationship with Nathan. Perhaps this is best illustrated in a conversation I had with a state senator in my office a few years ago. I asked what church he attended and he quickly responded with the name, location, and years of membership at that local church. He was ready for that question and a big smile crossed his face as he was able to answer quickly. I then asked the senator who his pastor was. All of a sudden the face changed and he began stammering, “Let’s see…who is the pastor now? I know we just got a new pastor about a year ago and the name escapes me…” (I let him fumble around awkwardly for a couple of minutes)
My point? Church attendance is wonderful (if he is consistently attending), but a relationship to a pastor is better. I want to know who is speaking into a politician’s life with regards to his integrity, his family, his character, his walk with God, and his leadership. I want to know that there is a pastoral influencer in his life and that the politician is under spiritual authority just like every member of the flock. The political leader is not exempted from the Biblical expectations of connection, submission, faithfulness, and discipleship. One of the goals of the Indiana pastors Alliance is to interview political leaders and explore these relationships so a report can be released to the greater body of Christ in the state. This will enable Christians statewide to accurately assess whether or not this political candidate or leader is positioned for correction, counsel, or instruction.
2. Prophets must have unfettered and unlimited access to Kings.
Most constituents can appreciate the busy schedules of a civic leader. We are living in an incredibly fast-paced environment and connecting with each other is a challenge at every level. That being said, pastors should have priority access to political leaders. The Scripture is clear that pastors are likened to “watchmen on the wall” and “elders at the gates” of the communities. The politician has a job to do, but it can’t be done without the input of the spiritual leaders.
I recently returned from India and was reminded that the spiritual condition of a country (or a community) is ultimately reflected in the standard of living a people enjoy. India’s hardships are a direct result of a worldview which hinders its progress and blessing. People go hungry, yet cattle roam the streets. A pastor has every spiritual and natural concern that the people of his community, county or state prosper and live at peace. These aspirations are tied to the spiritual precepts that are embraced and codified as public policy. The voice of the pastors should not be marginalized, but actually accentuated in any administration that is truly interested in the needs of the people they represent. Nathan was able to walk into the throne room unfettered because he understood that David’s sin would have national implications and repercussions with their enemies. As awkward as that moment probably was, it was critical to the health of the nation.
3. A King makes room for the prophetic voice.
David made a huge mistake. He sinned before God and man. However, he had made room for the prophetic voice to speak to him and it ended up bringing him redemption. Again, one of my requests to any political candidate is, “Will you schedule consistently a time to meet with the pastors of your region?” Will a civil servant make room for the prophetic voice in their administration? Beware of the politician who seeks to avoid meeting with pastors and spiritual leaders. If a politician is too busy to hear from the Watchmen, then he is too busy to hold office.
4. Prophets disciple (counsel) Kings (not visa versa).
I am going to say something delicately lest it be misunderstood. I appreciate family, faith and freedom groups providing forums to gather pastors and have them sit down to listen to a parade of politicians stop by and pontificate on what they are doing as well as what they think the church and pastors should be doing. I have sat through untold hours of political lectures to pastors about the state of our country and their “take” on what the church should be doing.
I want to make a suggestion…
It’s time for our political leaders to sit down, be quiet, and listen to the shepherds of this nation. Honestly, I appreciate hearing what they have to say, but I don’t need to hear from them as much as they need to start hearing from God. Before this nation was formally formed and a constitution ratified, these founders sat down together in a church service, stopped their talking, and listened for the voice of God through the sermon they heard. It is time that our political leaders aspired to be spiritual men and women and started listening to the voices of their spiritual leaders. That doesn’t mean that pastors have the final say on public policy issues. It doesn’t mean that every public policy debate cuts easily into compartments of “good” or “evil”. I “get” that Christians can differ on the role of government in certain instances. Our problem, however, is that our current cadre of politicians are undiscipled and biblically illiterate to the role of government and their responsibility in it. They need HELP and pastors should be there to disciple them.
5. Prophets hold Kings accountable.
Nathan was unafraid to hold David accountable. He did it graciously, even cleverly, but nonetheless effectively…”thou art the man”. Pastors access to their congregations and the community make it imperative that when the moment demands it they say to our current political leadership, “Thou art the man (or woman)”. Accountability certainly occurs at the ballot box, but not all accountability can be held off for 2, 4, or 6 years. There are moments where a “sound” needs to be declared. I have often told my representatives that when they rule well, I will be there loudest cheerleader. However, if they rule unrighteously or fail egregiously, then I will sound the alarm. That is my job as a Watchman.
I recognize that there are probably three groups of people reading this blog: Politicians, Pastors, and Parishioners. May I leave each of you a closing thought…
Politician…will you seek to be more accountable and make room for spiritual input in your civil service? Will you seek after righteousness and rule accordingly? Embrace pastoral influence in your life and find a pastor today who will disciple you and help form you into the leader God called you to be?
Pastor...will you recapture your prophetic voice? Will you make the time to cultivate a relationship with a civic leader and seek to disciple them in their walk and calling? Will you arise and be a voice that leads your community back to the good and right ways which are blessed by our God?
Parishioner...will you encourage your pastor to get involved? Will you let them know about the Indiana Pastors Alliance or the Alliance in the state in which you live? Will you find a church that is led by a courageous pastor and support with all your might?