Calling pastors to help change the nation through prayer, preaching and partnership
As a teenager, I remember President Ronald Reagan’s vivid image of America as a “shining city on a hill,” echoing Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. President Reagan meant that we are a beacon of light and hope for the rest of the world. Today, that beacon is growing dim.
Human life has become disposable. Abortion remains a tragic and open wound on our society. When miscarriages are not counted, fully 22 percent of all pregnancies end in abortion. The rate for African-Americans’ abortion in New York City is an astonishing 60 percent. More pre-born children die daily in America’s abortion centers than the casualty from the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Since abortion was legalized in 1973, there have been more than 50 million abortions.
Our families are in disarray. More than 40 percent of children do not have married parents. Not surprisingly, only 45 percent of teenagers have spent their childhood with biological parents who were married.
The move for same-sex marriage continues to advance in the courts and legislative bodies. States that have legalized same-sex marriage are indoctrinating public school children as young as age 5 about homosexuality. Yet the Obama administration offers no help. In fact, the Department of Justice refuses to uphold the Defense of Marriage Act—a federal law passed by an overwhelming majority of Democrats and Republicans and signed by President Clinton, which defines marriage as between one man and one woman.
Our religious liberty is also under attack. Liberal judges declare that local legislative bodies that allow pastors to say opening prayers in Jesus’ name and roadside crosses that memorialize fallen police officers of the law are somehow an endorsement of a religion and unconstitutional.
A Moral and Spiritual Freefall
America is in moral and spiritual freefall, and its difficulties transcend the material and external—going to the very heart and soul of who we are as a people. Yet not only is American culture hurtling downward to new depths of moral decadence, but the church itself stands in desperate need of a return to biblical righteousness and justice. Churches are no longer influencing our culture as Christ intended (Matt. 5:13-16). Instead, the culture is influencing the church.
The only hope is a true revival in our churches, which could lead to a spiritual awakening in our nation—resulting in a moral renewal in our culture as well as righteousness and justice in our government. But it must begin with pastors and the churches they lead. Scripture calls us to humble ourselves before God, seek His face and pray, and turn from our sinful ways so that God can restore our land (2 Chron. 7:14).
Consequently, pastors must serve as spiritual catalysts for a radical return to God in their churches, and they must lead the charge on the front lines in the struggle for the soul of the nation. Now most ministers would nod in agreement with the first part, but some might question the second part based on some notion of the separation of church and state.
Engaging Culture and Government
Yet the Scriptures are replete with examples of spiritual leaders who prophetically engaged culture and government. Moses petitioned Pharaoh for the liberty of God’s people. Nathan confronted King David for his sinful actions as a leader. Elijah faced off against King Ahab, who promoted idolatry and immorality. Isaiah condemned moral decay in the culture. Amos weighed in against injustice in society. John the Baptist pointed out the adultery of King Herod. Peter stood up to Jewish leadership who tried to restrict his freedom to preach. Paul used his Roman citizenship to make his appeal to Caesar, even winning some of Caesar’s household while imprisoned in Rome.
What about Jesus? He expects that our influence and impact will be like salt and light in every facet of life, which would include culture and government (Matt. 5:13-16). Jesus even spoke of our obligation to “give Caesar what is Caesar’s,” which has application in informed and involved citizenship (Matt. 22:21). He also had a prophetic critique for a political leader,
disparaging Herod as a “fox” (Luke 13:31-32). Additionally, he addressed religious leaders (the Sanhedrin), some of whom had a dual role as political authorities who administered the law—blistering them as hypocrites and a brood of vipers (Matt. 23).
Jesus also taught us that the second part of the Greatest Commandment is to “love our neighbors as ourselves,” which has profound implications for the shaping of culture and government in a direction that is wholesome for all (Matt. 22:37-40). In the Great Commission, Jesus commanded us to “make disciples ... teaching them to obey all the things I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20), which includes His affirmation of human life (Matt. 10:29-31; John 11), His endorsement of marriage as the union of one man and one woman (Matt. 19:1-9) and His directive to profess our faith in Him publicly regardless of the consequences (Matt. 10:32-33).
All of this is a biblical witness to the rich heritage as well as the high calling of pastors who not only point people to Christ, but then teach them how to “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness” (Matt. 6:33).
That is why the Family Research Council (FRC), an advocate for biblical principles as the basis for sound public policy in Washington, D.C., is working side by side with tens of thousands of pastors across America to defend both the unborn and their mothers, strengthen marriages and families and ensure that religious liberty remains our “first freedom.” We call our movement of ministers “Watchmen on the Wall,” based on Isaiah 62:6. Our call to pastors is threefold:
We urge them to pray and lead their churches in becoming houses of prayer (Mark 11:17)—crying out to God for revival in the church, a great awakening in our nation, moral renewal in our culture, and a » government that is marked by righteousness and justice (1 Tim. 2:1-4).
We urge them to preach the awakening of the moral issues of our day, and focus on citizenship at least one Sunday a year (2 Tim. 4:2).
We urge them to partner with three or more pastors for prayer and united action, leading efforts to make a positive impact in their communities, states and our nation (2 Tim. 2:2).
FRC provides pastors with vital information on urgent issues and legislation. We also offer practical tools, created by pastors, to help them communicate action steps to their congregation. We encourage ministers to get involved in standing for “faith, family and freedom.”
To be clear, we are not asking pastors to endorse a particular party, an ideological agenda or some sort of hidden game plan for dominance. Instead, we are urging pastors to stand for biblical principles in the public arena—not only in word, but in deed.
Yet what we are asking of pastors is nothing new in America. Pastors and churches have been at the forefront of every major advance in American history, providing the biblical foundation for resisting unjust laws and unrighteous authorities during the American Revolution, advocating for the abolition of the evils of slavery and promoting civil rights for all Americans.
We need pastors to step forward in our day. And many are doing just that. Indeed, there are thousands of examples of how churches are doing this all across the country. Whether supporting pregnancy support centers and urban missions to the homeless or teaching from the pulpit what the Bible says about God’s authorship of human life and His creation of traditional marriage, pastors nationwide are seeking to mirror our Savior, Who was filled with both “grace and truth” (John 1:18).
In the book I wrote with Bishop Harry R. Jackson Jr., Personal Faith, Public Policy, we argue that “in addition to seeing souls saved, Christians must aim to reform the culture ... when revival becomes reformation, the personal becomes public. Inner faith becomes outward policy. Righteousness is incorporated into the entire culture.”
It’s to that end that we serve pastors. By equipping and encouraging them, they can better serve their congregations and communities with the truth and love of Christ. Our goal is nothing less than to champion pastors to transform America, and our prayer is that America could indeed become that “shining city on a hill.”
Tony Perkins is the president of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council. He is a former member of the Louisiana Legislature, in which he served for eight years. Tony is recognized as a legislative pioneer for authoring measures such as the nation’s first Covenant Marriage law. His book, Personal Faith, Public Policy, was co-authored by Bishop Harry R. Jackson Jr. Tony and and his wife, Lawana, have five children.