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Church Leaders Need To Publicly Support Local Elected Officials

The church body, as a whole, is missing out on the powerful influence they could have on their schools, city and state when they avoid the “P” word within congregational communications: politics.

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The church body, as a whole, is missing out on the powerful influence they could have on their schools, city and state when they avoid the “P” word within congregational communications: politics. In the First Amendment, the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses were intended to keep government principalities from interfering with or coercing citizens to forgo their religious rights. It does not, however, work in reverse which has been the current narrative that has kept pastors and churches in fear of losing their tax-exempt status, or worse, being shut down.

Yes, churches should be major influencers on the government! Under the umbrella of religion, our Christian faith provides freedom to express larger than life ideas for a better future and strongly come against adversarial forces which influence our lives. This can and should include the actions of our nation’s government and local leaders. While grandiose prayers for the salvation of the country’s top leaders is an important act, don’t overlook the local players in the game. These are the folks who can activate positive change for the community more immediately than those at the national level. Depending on their ambitions, local officials can often end up in a higher position, such as governor or the United States Congress, where it can be more difficult to make a meaningful or impactful connection. This is why church leaders need to be investing in a relationship with them now.

Church leaders, especially pastors, are generally respected by the public and government leaders. By not connecting, or by remaining silent on critical issues, church leaders demonstrate an implied consent and this public latency can have unintended consequences. When elected officials don’t hear from their constituents, they assume we are happy with what they are doing and the policies they are implementing. This is especially true when they do not hear from the Christian community. This should frighten church leaders as both local influencers and wise council to their membership.

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Because all scripture is inspired by God and made useful for “teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,” church leaders can apply Biblical wisdom to support and inform their local elected officials on all matters of business and policy making (2nd Timothy 3:16, NIV). By reaching out to local elected officials, and those who are running for office, church members can positively influence the work they will be performing through encouraging communications, meaningful relationships and prayer.

Connect to Encourage

It may sound overly simple, but what we’d love to hear is a “thank you, good job, keep it up, and we’re standing in agreement with/in support of you.” As an elected official, I was surprised and disappointed to see that the majority of communications received from members of the community were negative in nature: complaints, fears, and even threats! When constituents come to us in a cooperative manner, we are much more receptive to their ideas. I was also perplexed in how much we were approached, rated and forced by left leaning groups to welcome their radical agendas while the church was basically silent and uninformed. This has also been my son’s experience over the years as a state legislator. The church cannot continue to remain so silent and distant.

Don’t know what to say? Reach out via social media, e-mail, or by phone and introduce yourself and your involvement in the community. The simple act of introducing yourself and encouraging your elected officials to learn more about what you do can open a line of communication and helps establish a positive working relationship. You can easily do this by attending one of their official meetings or public event. Conservative Christians have remain disempowered because too many of us do not take advantage of the opportunities to connect with those in local government.

This is where the church can help with teaching how to do this. Local officials are more accessible to meet, take to coffee or lunch, which the public rarely does. Set up an appointment just to hear their story, find out who they are, their background and why they ran for office so you can get to know them better. Without knowing a person’s background, it can be hard to understand them or connect. They will appreciate your genuine interest which will help to develop a meaningful relationship, which is key. It is appalling how people treat politicians on social media and how much information that is spread is false. Be an instrument that God uses for love and unity as this is how change happens.

Depending on the term of a position, send introductions when someone is newly elected — consider it a standard practice and keep in touch regularly, not just when there is an issue you are concerned about that comes up. Each communication should always be with genuine love and humility as the scriptures instruct.

Make it Meaningful

When communicating with your elected officials, encourage the person behind the position, not the political party they associate with. Per the definition of a public servant, elected officials are obliged to serve the needs of the community before and without regard to any personal agendas or bias they may hold or be associated with. In a similar way, don’t let party affiliations or systems limit your outreach.

One thing people don’t realize is that public servants are rightfully wary of “expert” influencers or movements who appear to rally against or strongarm an issue. In light of this, don’t let your job or service in Christian ministry inhibit the relationship. Lead communications with your heart first, not your job title. Find a common ground that doesn’t hinge on any religious affiliation until a deeper relationship has been established. The fact that your church and members live in their district gives you enough credibility and importance to be taken seriously. Then when you have established a deeper relationship the door to being heard and heeded is more easily opened.

In spite of what many media outlets tell the world, the majority of elected officials are normal people who are passionate about making the world a better place to live in and are willing to navigate the system on our behalf. Now, more than ever, they could use the extra support from the community they serve, and as leaders, it is important to set the example for your own congregation.

Pray to Protect and Uplift

Prayer is one of the easiest ways to support your local elected officials due to the indirect nature and convenience factor. With this in mind, pastoral staff and prayer ministry leaders should not discount the effect of personalized and direct prayer via phone, in writing, or in person.

Prayers in this area should be intentional and specific, considering they are openly warring over our human and civil rights in a too often corrupted field. Take a moment to research the individuals and where they stand on various issues and how they have performed in the past.

Are there proposed policy changes in review that need to be pushed through or halted by this individual? Is there an election coming up with a specific person who will need an extra measure of grace, or one who needs a broad hedge of protection? Pray for those people and proposed changes by name, if possible. A suggested prayer** for an elected official who is operating in accordance with Biblical principles:

“Father, thank you for setting into place (named individual), a person who stands and works to govern in accordance with your ways. May your wisdom be continuously revealed to them; strengthening and guiding them with truths which are unaltered or filtered by bias, emotion, or money. Help (named individual) to use discretion in all manners of their operation. In the name of Jesus, I speak against and bind any spirits of deception, selfishness, and fear. Let no weapon or scheme formed against them prevail. Convict them daily to increase their faith by seeking more of you. Show me how I can personally and specifically encourage and support them through my experience and connections. In Jesus name, amen.” *Based on Proverbs 2:6-11, Isaiah 11:12 and 54:17.

What about the individuals who are not operating in accordance with Biblical principles? First, we should not underestimate God’s ability to work with and through difficult people. He can work through imperfect people and use tension to jumpstart an entire movement!

A suggested prayer** for this elected official: “Father, thank you for (named individual). If they do not know you, draw them towards salvation in your Son, Christ Jesus. Cause them to seek answers beyond themselves, not finding themselves wise in their own eyes, but eager to learn more on (named issue) and be receptive to Biblically sound laws. Let all wicked motivations be forsaken and unrighteous thoughts be held captive. Show me how I can personally and specifically encourage and support them through my experience and connections. In Jesus name, amen.” **Based on Psalm 26:3, Proverbs 3:7, Isaiah 5:21 and 55:6-7.

In addition to the individuals signing documents, pray for the support staff that will be researching, processing, and advising on the issues. They can sometimes have more influence than the actual politician they work for. It is essential those hired are well-educated, anointed, and excellent in moral character.

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NORA ELLEN is the former Vice Mayor of Chandler, Arizona, a major City in the Phoenix Metro Valley. She is currently the host of Women Starting Over, a popular podcast with testimonies and strategies for empowering women around the world, who have experienced financial hardships. Nora is also authoring a book with the same title due out this year. Nora has enjoyed being a successful businesswoman and women’s leadership and empowerment trainer and coach. www.WomenMovingUp.com.



 
 
 

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Faith

A Nation of Unsung Heroes

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The movie, Unsung Hero, is not only a great movie. It’s a movie that captures the struggle and hard-earned survival and eventual success of millions of Americans who have had to overcome struggles to earn their own American Dream. For two centuries, Americans have been known for their resourcefulness and resilience, and we are not done yet!

We are again living in difficult and challenging times. Surveys suggest that nearly 60% of American families are living paycheck to paycheck. Their solutions to their plight won’t be coming from politicians in Washington. Their success, as always, depends on their will and resourcefulness in overcoming daily obstacles, their ability to survive on limited resources, their scrounging for work that allows them to survive another day, and help from those who care.

That common but heart-rending struggle is conveyed in an inspiring way in Unsung Hero. The film focuses on the early struggles of the Smallbone family in the early 90’s. We watch as David Smallbone’s once-thriving music business as a concert promoter in Australia falls apart. They lose their home, their car, and their life’s savings. With no opportunities in Australia, David moves the family halfway around the world to Nashville to secure the only job he could secure. After missed flights and a long and tiring journey to Tennessee, David learns that his promised job had been given to someone else.

As their dreams fall apart, you watch as the steady faith and creativity of Helen Smallbone, played by Australian actress and mother Daisy Betts, pulls the family through one setback and challenge after another to find a way through. With six children and another on the way, every member of the family is challenged to do their part to keep them afloat. They do yard work, any work that would fill their jar of savings. They couldn’t let it be empty, and they didn’t. They kept finding a way.

They were Australians with no friends, no family, no car, sleeping on beds made out of clothes. To nurture their faith, they began attending a local church. Aware of their needs, church members found ways to help in any way they could. In a foreign country living in a city with over half-a million people, it took finding a loving faith community who cared enough to help. Watch the movie, to find out the rest of the story. Bring plenty of tissue and be ready for a few tears along the way.

America needs this movie right now. Why? Too many people are feeling hopeless in the face of growing inflation and lost jobs. They face frustrating obstacles and enormous challenges, and the answer is summed up by a quotation of Mother Teresa shared in the movie, “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.” Luke Smallbone, the producer of the film, acknowledged the importance of that truth, “That is really the heartbeat behind the film.” It is also the local solution that has always helped Americans find their way through-the power of family and the presence and support of their local “family of God.”

Washington may send you money, but they can’t provide the flexible and persistent support needed. It’s one’s local family, friends, and faith communities who can encourage resilience and help shape a needed recovery. Solutions come from a local community’s caring and support. It used to always be that way, and it needs to be that way again.

Our nation is full of unsung heroes who are helping their family and friends, and they are more needed than ever. If you don’t have anyone helping you, stop looking to Washinton for the help that will never come no matter who is elected President. Get involved again in your family and your community. Call your family and let them know you need help. Get back involved in your church or synagogue and let God work through them to help you get back on your feet. Investing in community is an adventure that allows you to help and be helped to the glory of God and country.

When you get involved, you most likely will not make any headlines. That is left for terrorists, violent demonstrators, and other disasters and threats out of your control. But America is strong because of millions of unsung heroes who make it all work and seldom get acknowledged. This column is dedicated to you. You deserve to be honored and applauded for all you have done and will do to keep America the country it has been and must remain. May it continue to be so in your adventure!
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Elections

Let’s Reclaim America’s Optimism Advantage

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On this New Year’s Day, America needs more than a parade and great football games; our people need renewed optimism in living our American Dream. Instead of looking for government fixes or some magical new president who will make things right, we need a kick in the pants to get busy making America work no matter what obstacles we face.

At the 1992 Republican Convention, Ronald Reagan shared what he considered the secret of his success as our President: “I appealed to your best hopes, not your worst fears, to your confidence, rather than your doubts.”

Oh, how we need leadership like that in America today. As we start this year, too many people feel powerless. Inflation may be coming down, but high fuel and food prices have taken their toll on far too many Americans. Watching the invasion on our Southern border means too many of our cities are being overwhelmed with no end in sight. We wonder if there is anything we can do but watch. The sense of despair and helplessness is contagious, but so is optimism. What attitude do you spread?

There is more than you think within your control. Every day, you make choices to make your situation better or worse. Studies of optimism find that optimism comes from a track record of overcoming obstacles. If you have had obstacles the last few years and are still making it work, pat yourself on the back. Be a proud survivor, not a victim so many seem to take pride in claiming to be.

Make each day count by starting your day doing one thing to make your situation better. Find one way to cut expenses. Find a way to increase your resources. Make a call or visit to nurture your network of colleagues and friends. Learn from your mistakes and celebrate your successes, both big and small. Nurture your faith realizing that God gave you gifts and give thanks every day for the blessings you have. Lest you forget, you’re blessed to live in America. People risk everything to come here, and few want to leave.

Yes, this is an election year, and it would sure be a gift to have a leader who would nurture the hope and optimism of all our citizens. So as the campaigns progresses and you listen to potential leaders vying for your support, ask yourself a few key questions:

Do they want to control your choices or ensure your freedoms?

Do they want to make you more or less dependent on government?

Do they want to increase the size of government and entitlements and the taxes needed to fund them or decrease them?

Do they want to force your children to go to public schools that don’t’ get the results your children deserve, or are they willing to give you the freedom to pick the schools your children need?

Do they disagree with their opponents and state why, or do they demean them and call them names?

Do they want to grow the size of government and its debt, or do they want to decrease both?

Do they believe in the citizens they represent, or do they convey that they are the answer to America’s future?

Do they take responsibility for their mistakes and actions or quickly deny responsibility and blame others?

No President is perfect. It’s easy to promise and a lot harder to deliver. Reagan focused on three things: an optimism based on free-enterprise innovation, smaller government, and lower taxes. He delivered on all but smaller government. As Reagan advisor Arnold Laffer confessed, “When it came to cutting welfare payments and school lunch,…it was very hard. Someone would come over and say, ‘How can you cut school lunches?’ Reagan would reply, ‘I guess you’re right; I’ll tell them not to cut that one.’”

The pressure to keep growing government is tempting and easy to understand, but it is not what America was created for. America’s form of government was designed to protect citizens from an over-controlling, over-taxing government. We need to reclaim that passion for freedom and self-reliance. Our founding citizens wanted the opportunity to pursue happiness, not happiness given to them at the expense of other taxpayers.

The election is months away. So I’m going to borrow on the optimism of Ronald Reagan to inspire us all on this first day of 2024: “I’m not taking your time…to ask you to trust me. Instead, I ask you to trust yourself. That is what America is all about… It’s the power of millions of people like you who will determine what will make America great again.”

Reagan wouldn’t want us to wait for the next election. We’ve had enough of eloquent politicians who think they have all the answers. We need to believe in ourselves and get busy living our own dreams. Then, in November, let’s elect a leader who will stay out of our way and give “We the People” freedom again—freedom to fail, succeed, and thrive in our own American Dream!
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