This is a coming out, of sorts. As a conservative Evangelical and a minister in a denomination known for traditional values, I have felt a bit closeted as a supporter of Bernie Sanders for President.

bernie-sanders-portrait-03

It isn’t that anyone directly said, “You’ll go to hell if you vote for that pro-choice, gay-loving, socialist.”

They didn’t have to. That message is communicated by our Evangelical tribe every day through countless social media posts on the evils of socialism, sotto voce comments about gays and “baby killers,” and the unquestioned assumption that we are, every one of us, dyed-in-the-wool Republicans.

Most of my friends are. Nearly all of my family members are too. Most of the people I know seem to think Barack Obama is a Muslim, Bill Clinton is the Antichrist, and Rockefeller Republican is another term for communist.

So believe me when I say that I’ve thought long and hard about declaring my support for Bernie Sanders. Yet there are times when the cost of keeping quiet is greater than the burden of being misunderstood or derided. This, for me, is one of this times.

Our society faces a moment that will define its character, perhaps for generations. This is no time for preachers of the gospel to be silent.

Though I have never publicly endorsed a political candidate before, I choose to do so now because silence is a form of consent, and I do not consent to the moral direction of our culture. I speak also because I believe my voice can make a difference. We have an opportunity to effect real change for the common good, and I’d like to contribute to that. And I speak because it isn’t enough for religious leaders to say what we’re against, something Evangelicals are well known for. At some point we must say what we are for.

I’m for Bernie Sanders, and I think you should be too.

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Over my nearly 20 years in pastoral ministry, I fielded many questions about other religions. Generally, I preferred to point people to Jesus rather than discuss what others believe.

Yet the growth of Islam in North America combined with rise of radical Islam in many parts of the world has all of us asking questions about Islam.

The silver dome of Our Lady of the Spasm Armenian Catholic Church and the golden Dome of the Rock rise over the Old City of Jerusalem.

As a consultant for Rose Publishing, I have the opportunity to speak about Christianity and Islam in radio interviews all over the country. I encounter some questions so frequently that it seems nearly all Christians wrestle with them.

Here’s how I respond.

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The standard advice to pastors these days is that they should under no circumstances do pastoral care. That’s been de rigueur in leadership circles since the late ’80s when John Maxwell began telling church growth conferees, “I don’t do hospital calls.”

The theory is that anybody can do pastoral care, so the pastor’s time is better spent energizing the leaders within the congregation. The sooner the pastor hands off hospital calling to small group leaders, the sooner the church will break attendance barriers.

Pastor visiting the hospital

Pastoral ministry doesn’t scale, which is why it’s taboo among pastors who style themselves as (or already are) leaders of a large organization. There’s no way for one person to do all the pastoral care for a congregation of 20,000 people. It’s a black hole that sucks time and energy without adding to attendance, so successful pastors avoid it.

I couldn’t care less.

Ministry of Word and sacrament is the primary task of a pastor. Here’s why every single one of them should be a pastoral care giver.

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Over the 30 years I’ve been writing and editing professionally in the Christian market, I’ve seen a huge increase in the quality of our work. Craftsmanship is improving, and that’s encouraging. Writers and publishers are willing to take on weightier topics and engage them honestly. All of that is good.

Good writing is about the reader, not the writer

However, returning to full-time editorial work last year (after six years in pastoral ministry) was a Rip Van Winkle experience. There have been distinct changes for the better, but familiar problems remain.

Attack these five symptoms, and you will eradicate from your prose the deadliest of all diseases, blogitis.

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Authenticity has been watchword among Christians for a couple of decades, so much so that it’s virtually been added to the catalog of Christian virtues alongside love, joy, peace, and patience.

Man hand writing I Love Me on visual screen. Love, family, internet concept.

But it is not a virtue. I do not seek to be authentic, not in the sense that we usually think of it. I’m interested in a deeper, more powerful experience. I hunger for holiness.

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Christian leaders often lament the rate at which young people are leaving the church, but few seem to have noticed that many of those who do stay have accepted a non-orthodox version of the Christian message.

Man Holding Sign That Says BlessedIn other words, many Christian teens aren’t really Christians. It’s time to face that, and do something about it.

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Yesterday a gunman entered a community college classroom in Oregon, shot and killed the teacher, then told students to stand up, one by one, and state their religion.

To those who said Christian, he replied “Good, because you’re a Christian, you’re going to see God in just about one second.” He killed 10 people.1

Killer With GunAs a minister, as a Christian, as a citizen of the United States, I’m appalled by this senseless act of violence, by the Charleston shooting, by the 262 other mass shootings in our country this year, and by the culture that supports it.

It’s time for change.

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