D.L. Moody Center president tackles tough questions: With elections nearing, what does the Bible have to say about church and state?

‘We are to make disciples. Along the way, our discipleship might require that we seek justice and love mercy in the political realm, but such actions need to arise from and be nested within strong discipleship’

September 12, 2022

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — In a country built on the idea of separation of Church and State, many Americans wonder about the role of Christians in the political sphere. Nearly three-quarters of American adults (73%) say religion should be kept separate from government policies. Should Christians be involved in politics? Are politics only creating a deep divide within the body of Christ?

D. L. Moody Center (moodycenter.org) is a leader in Christian evangelical ministry. D. L. Moody Center is dedicated to challenging and convening God’s people to proclaim the Gospel together in word and deed — even in politics. D. L. Moody Center President James Spencer recently released a groundbreaking guide, titled “20 Questions: Christians, Abortion, and the United States,” to help Christians navigate the tricky questions surrounding abortion, politics, social media, and other pressing topics in America.

Regarding Christians in politics, Spencer writes, “Oliver O’Donovan describes the political realm as a ‘secondary theater of witness’ to God’s glory. God establishes our political leaders and our governments. The nations all belong to God. While most rulers would not recognize God’s sovereignty, the rulers’ role is to reflect the order God has established by enacting justice and restraining evil.

“The political realm is not trivial. It is not something Christians should ignore or disrespect. As Peter says, ‘Honor everyone, Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor’ (1 Pet 2:17). Christians honor the emperor within the broader hierarchy in which the emperor is situated. Our ultimate allegiance is to God, so we don’t honor the emperor to such an extent that we deny God; however, as God’s representative charged with restraining evil and maintaining order, Christians participate as ‘good citizens’ who seek to follow the nation’s laws, work within the nation’s systems, and respect the nation’s political leaders unless or until doing so hinders us from accomplishing our Christian mission.”

Spencer concludes, “Perhaps the primary challenge we face as Christians today in the political realm is the loss of a Christian first mentality. My concern is that we’ve opted to ‘follow Apollos’ or to divide ourselves as the body of Christ according to certain political views and candidates. While we may not see church splits, political conversations and positions tend to be divisive. It seems to me that we are making bets on the political realm that should be placed on discipleship. Our advocacy in the political realm is not unnecessary; however, such advocacy is only a small component of what Christians can and should be doing. I don’t find it to be overstating the case in pointing to the Great Commission. We are to make disciples. Along the way, our discipleship might require that we seek justice and love mercy in the political realm, but such actions need to arise from and be nested within strong discipleship. If not, my concern is that we will run the risk of drifting away from an identity rooted in Christ and toward an identity rooted in something else (1 Cor 1:10-17; 3:1-9; Gal 2:20).”

The D. L. Moody Center is also pleased to announce the launch of its new eight-day Bible plan, Useful to God, on the YouVersion app. Drawing on Spencer’s book titled “Useful to God: Eight Lessons from the Life of D. L. Moody,” this Bible plan examines eight characteristics evident in the Scriptures and in the life of D. L. Moody (e.g., surrendered, prayerful, humbled, undistracted, and studious). Thousands have already completed the plan, with hundreds more subscribing daily.

The D.L. Moody Center is an independent non-profit organization located in Northfield, Massachusetts. Dedicated to preserving and advancing the legacy of Dwight Moody, the D. L. Moody Center is a catalyst for spiritual formation in New England and beyond through evangelism and discipleship.   

The D. L. Moody Center is not a school. Nevertheless, there is much to learn by studying D. L. Moody and what God accomplished through his life which began in New England, at the Northfield, Massachusetts campus, the heart of Moody’s ministry as well as his childhood home.   

Learn more about D. L. Moody Center by visiting moodycenter.org or follow the ministry on Facebook or Twitter