Tony Perkins: Christians can influence the world without being influenced

Recently there was an effort to rescind the invitation for Vice President Mike Pence to speak at this year’s gathering of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) held in Dallas. About two-thirds of those present and voting overwhelmingly defeated the effort, according to reports from the parliamentarian. The vice president came and gave a well-received message that underscored the unique and essential role of pastors in America.

“The truth is no podium that President Trump and I will ever stand behind will be of greater consequence than the pulpits you stand behind every Sunday morning,” Pence said. “No policy we enact will ever be more meaningful than the ministries you lead. And no action we take will ever be more powerful than your prayers.”

The vice president's words were a subtle but profound recognition of the temporal influence of government versus the enduring power of the church. I applaud the leadership of outgoing SBC President Dr. Steve Gaines for inviting Vice President Pence and not giving in to those who would like to see the SBC, and Christians in general, take a monastic view of political and cultural engagement. The Bible provides a clear outline of Christian citizenship.

As Jesus made clear in John 17, as his followers we are to be in this world, but not of this world. We are not called to be political or cultural isolationists, nor are we called to be amalgamated into the world in which we live.

Our mission is to influence without being influenced. Such an assignment is not easy. The key to the success of this mission of affecting the world around us without being controlled or manipulated by the influences of this world, is being spiritually – but not physically – set apart through our allegiance and submission to the Word of God.

Those who advocate for political disengagement for fear of the “church” being influenced have no reason to fear being manipulated by the political powers or cultural influences of the day if they are anchored to the truth of God’s Word.

We have an unprecedented opportunity to not only take the Gospel to almost every corner of the world –  under the policies of the current administration – but we also have the chance to live out the Gospel in every realm of our society without fear of government reprisal.

I did not say without opposition. The cultural elite in the media and Hollywood are working overtime to shame Christians who dare to stand with, support or commend this administration for its work on behalf of religious freedom, the sanctity of human life and the promotion through public policy of traditional or biblical values.

The political left would desire nothing more than Christians to voluntarily remove themselves from positions of influence in this world and go into spiritual ghettos where they can easily be isolated, ignored and robbed of their influence.

As Christians, we can’t influence from a place of isolation. Our influence comes from our engagement. Our separation or distinction comes from the presence of unyielding devotion to the unchanging truth of God’s Word.

Tony Perkins is president of the Family Research Council and is an ordained Southern Baptist pastor.