21 Lessons in Politics from a Baptist Preacher


21 Lessons in Politics from a Baptist Preacher | Gary Furr, Diplomacy, Leadership, Ministry

A Baptist preacher learns to hone the skills of diplomacy, bridge-building and persuasion, Furr writes.
I don't know many people who aren't generally disgusted with the political process right now. Left to right, top to bottom, it's a mess. I thought I'd put a little advice together for would-be leaders.

Further, Baptist preachers are about the most able politicians around. They are more like small-town sheriffs, who have to lock you up and get your vote.

Since Baptist churches are about the purest form of democracy around, where even the least of these can topple the most of those with enough work, a Baptist preacher learns to hone the skills of diplomacy, bridge-building and persuasion.

We have to run for election every year. It's called "the church budget." A lot of high-handed Baptist preachers take over churches, of course, with dictatorial ways, but it doesn't last long.

Turns out that once you deceive people they decide, for some unknown reason, to stop funding your foolishness.

So here are some lessons from a 33-year veteran who has survived some titanic battles over camellia bushes, building programs, and even got a church to vote for a letter of apology to an offended church member once who got mad when his name wasn't read at the centennial celebration 30 years before.

He wobbled back into church on his walker a few months before he died, looked up and said, "Preacher, you reckon the building will fall down if I come in?"

And a good old deacon said, "Well, if it does, we'll build it back."

A little unsolicited advice:

1.  You have to learn how to build consensus. Winning 51-49 is not winning. You don't need unanimity, but until you accomplish good for all, you haven't won.

2.  You will learn humility willingly or eventually. Willingly is much less painful.

3.  Since politicians seem to evidence almost no persuasive ability in the current moment – I add this one: "Learn to tell a story. Keep it simple. Tell the truth. Truth doesn't need help."

4.  The same people you defeat will have to help pay for it in the end. They are not enemies, so unless you can regain their support, you lose in the long run.

5.  It's dangerous to claim God is on your side and never leave room for disagreement. Even if you and your mother think so. God is not too keen on preachers as court jesters and is intolerant of people misusing the divine name, so you've been warned.

6.  Preaching that doesn't turn into good deeds doesn't amount to anything.

7.  You have to trust others to make real changes. Nobody does it by themselves.

8.  Those who live by demonization die by demonization.

9.  Forgive and move on. It's just that simple. Holding grudges is a waste of valuable energy.

10.  Sometimes you just do what is right and let the chips fall. There are worse things than losing your job.

11.  Believe in Someone or Something larger than you. Without a real vision, not only do the people perish, but nothing really happens.

12.  It's not your church. It's not their church. It's God's church. Seems to me this applies to countries, property, power and prosperity.

13.  If there isn't any money, you can't spend it. It's not rocket science.

14.  Doesn't hurt to let someone else take credit now and then, even if it's your idea.

15.  A good staff makes a poor preacher look great.

16.  Principles matter the most when they are most inconvenient and unpopular. Lose 'em and you might as well quit anyway.

17.  No matter how high and mighty you get, the Almighty gets the last word.

18.  Don't do the devil's work for him.

19.  Know when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em. Even a great idea ahead of its time will lose to anxiety and fear and misinformation.

20.  As a friend of mine put it, "Everything happens for a reason. Sometimes the reason is you're stupid and you make bad decisions."

21.  Love really is the great truth of life. Politics, even with the noble concept of "justice," will degenerate into darkness without the temper of love.

Gary Furr is pastor of Vestavia Hills Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala. This column appeared previously on his blog.

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