(The following statement was shared by Dean Michael Duduit with undergraduate students in the College of Christian Studies during their recent meeting to begin the Spring semester.)
In recent weeks, our nation has been torn by division and partisanship. In all too many people, passion has replaced reason and anger has pushed aside truth. Politics and religion have been intermingled, and when that happens it is rarely the church that benefits. That is not just true for one party or movement; there are extremes on both sides. As one observer put it, there are ditches on both sides of the road.
As you prepare to serve the Kingdom – in whatever way God leads you – we want you to be aware that there are those who would use you for their own purposes. While it is entirely appropriate and necessary that people of faith engage in the political process as citizens, there are those who would use the church and its leaders for their own political ends. Remember that when you mix politics and religion, you get politics.
At the root of the problem is idolatry. When we invest our complete trust and devotion in any person or movement apart from Christ, we are worshipping an idol.
Pastor Willy Rice put it this way: “Our mission is to speak of a King who said, ‘My kingdom is not of this world.’ What part of that did we miss? Our mission is to proclaim the good news of the gospel and make disciples of every nation. God’s mission is so much bigger than America and so much greater than any temporary political movement. Sadly, many of America’s evangelicals have traded our birthright for a bowl of porridge. We have forsaken the power of the Holy Spirit in our thirst for political power and influence. We need good laws, but laws alone cannot change a person’s heart. Only the gospel can do that.”
As your professors and as pastors to this body of believers, what do we wish for you? We wish you to remember that we are to be Jesus people above all else. Don’t let any earthly movement or personality become an idol that draws your reverence away from the only One who deserves your total commitment, Christ.
And we wish you to remember that as Christians, we are to be agents of reconciliation. In a day when so many are caught up in resentment and hostility toward one another, hold fast to the words Paul wrote to the Corinthian church: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.” (2 Cor. 5:17-19)
You have a unique privilege: to be the hands and feet of Christ in a broken world, bringing healing and proclaiming God’s love for all. Love one another. Treat others with respect – even those with whom you disagree. Remember that every person is made in the image of God and is loved by the Father. And never forgot that you are the recipient of God’s grace, so show grace to others as well.
Please know that your professors are praying for you and look forward to seeing how God will use you in the days ahead. May you have a wonderful semester.
Michael Duduit is founding Dean of the College of Christian Studies and the Clamp Divinity School at Anderson University. He also serves as Professor of Christian Ministry. He is the founder and still serves as Executive Editor of Preaching magazine, one of the nation’s premier publications for pastors. His email newsletter, Preaching Now, is read each week by more than 40,000 pastors and church leaders in the U.S. and around the world. He is founder and director of the National Conference on Preaching and the International Congress on Preaching. He has been a pastor and associate pastor, has served a number of churches as interim pastor, and speaks regularly for churches, colleges and conferences. He is author and editor of several books, including the Handbook of Contemporary Preaching, Joy in Ministry: Messages from Second Corinthians, Preaching with Power: Dynamic Insights from Twenty Top Communicators and Communicate With Power.