local pastor
Local pastors and community workers gather for a meeting recently in OKC. (Doug Serven)

Like many of you (though strangely not all of all of you), I’m baffled by this election. How did we get here?

Our church tries not to enter into the political fray. So many have been involved in churches where they’re handed voter cards, with each issue and candidate marked for you, so you will know the official “correct” position and vote accordingly. The church has gotten cozy with politics, and that has often been to her harm.

We’d like to stay away from that. My hope is that we’d have a church where there are different people voting for different candidates all across the board. I’d like for us to be able to talk about it and disagree over a beer together. We’d have important conversations and love each other at the end because we admit our own biases and frameworks, we see others as important friends, and we all work together for the good/shalom of the city.

However, perhaps I have the luxury to think this way!

Voting guides appear at meeting

Two weeks ago, I sat in a Monday lunch meeting with about 15 to 20 black pastors, all of them from northeast OKC. We opened in prayer and an incredible short sermon. We heard from several ministry leaders (including our own Restore OKC‘s Caylee Dodson) about what God is doing in the city. John Whetsel, a man running for sheriff, briefly spoke.

And then they spent a long time talking about voting and voter registration. A long time. They went through issues. They passed out the very same voting guide that makes me cringe. The leader kept on pressing the point that this is the only way things can change in the government — voting for the “right” people and the “right” issues.

I was thinking about how it hadn’t even occurred to me to press into voter registration at my church. I assume everyone is registered. I don’t think that we all need to vote the same way, because the way a ballot initiative goes doesn’t affect me very much. Who the sheriff is? No idea where I live.

So I’m not sure. Perhaps I’ve separated this out too far, merely because I’m able to. I’ve promoted the spirituality of the church because that might be all I need in my own worldview. For others, the story is entirely different. For them, the church has to mobilize, promote, admonish, disciple and lead out in civic duties.

‘We’re in. We’re for. We serve.’

I’m unhappy with our presidential choices. I still haven’t decided what I’m going to do.

However, I’m also unhappy with our state government and how it spends its money. I’m unhappy with being at the very bottom in our nation in categories I care about and at the dubious distinction of being at the very top in incarceration rates for women, to name just one example. I’m unhappy with many indicators of our city’s spiritual, moral, financial and educational health. I think our priorities are misplaced. I think our politics have been co-opted. I think we say we care, but we don’t seem to enter into things that care. I think we keep up our work to make some things better, but we ignore what is truly horrible and those who need our help the most.

I think pastoring my church might mean I don’t have a suitable answer for who is our next president. I can trust God no matter what. He can take care of us, however drastic and awful — or wonderful and amazing — our leader is. We can rest in him in all things. That doesn’t mean we throw up our hands and put our head in the sand. It doesn’t mean we condemn it all to hell. It means we grieve, lament, rejoice and work together for the good of this place we care deeply about. We’re in. We’re for. We serve.

local pastor
(Doug Serven)

Pastoring might mean that we would give up our own privileges for the good of those who aren’t doing nearly as well. That will mean we’ll have to be friends together in this city. We can advocate for each other. We can walk together in troubles. We can cry out together. Our church can help schools instead of pass laws and read evaluations. We can serve single moms in their dignity and worth instead of imprison them. They’ll serve us with their gifts, talents, beauty and wisdom. We can foster children who need homes. We can befriend and learn from widows who trust Jesus even though their roofs are crumbing over their heads and rain pours into the tarps they’ve put up for a decade. We can mentor kids at the library who need friends in their lives and a place to go when school is out. We can be the church. We can rejoice that the Kingdom of God is more realized as we walk with Jesus together in God’s story of rescue for ALL of us.

‘What could we dream together about?’

In Ephesians 3:20-21, the Apostle Paul writes:

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

I think I’ve not asked nearly enough. Asking for my favorite party to get political power? That’s pathetic.

God is able to give far more abundantly than we ask or think. So what am I asking for and thinking about? What could we dream together about in our city, state, nation and world? What if those things might happen? What if there is a power at work within us, for God’s glory in the church and in Christ Jesus?

That is something that might look different than whatever happens Nov. 8.