Photo credit: Joshua Morley via Flickr, CC BY 2.0

What Sparks Revival? Not Politics from the Pulpit.


As a former pastor and student of church history, I took issue with a few aspects of Dr. Carolyn McLarty’s article on Tuesday about President Trump’s executive order promoting religious liberty.

First, as I wrote at Caffeinated Thoughts, the executive order does not accomplish anything except set a positive tone throughout the administration. I acknowledge and welcome that. But let’s be clear here: it does nothing else.

Second, nothing that comes out of Washington, D.C., will spark a revival.

Dr. McLarty wrote that Trump’s executive order “could very well be the spark that will light a fire of revival across this country!”

Look, I want the Johnson Amendment repealed. I don’t think it is the business of government to restrict the speech of our churches. But I also don’t believe that political speech will suddenly awaken the church.

Jonathan Edwards, a prominent theologian and pastor during the First Great Awakening in the early 18th century said this, “There is no spiritual awakening without the Holy Spirit.” Considering he saw what real revival looks like first hand, I would consider Edwards to be an expert on the subject.

The Holy Spirit moves, evangelists and pastors proclaim the Gospel, and people respond in faith toward repentance and belief. Are we to believe Trump’s executive order will spark this?

Third, if pastors need Trump’s executive order to preach the whole counsel of God, then we are in trouble.

Dr. McLarty wrote Trump’s executive order is “a strong invitation for pastors to take back the lost ground and start feeding the flocks meat again, instead of milk.”

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The Johnson Amendment has not bound pastors from the proclamation of God’s word. If there is not faithful preaching from the pulpit, there is something else going on, and it has nothing to do with politics.

The only real way the Johnson Amendment restricted pastors is that it kept them from making political endorsements from the pulpit. While I believe pastors should have the freedom to do this, I don’t think pastors should exercise that freedom. The preacher’s role in the pulpit is to proclaim the Law and Gospel.

Pastors should never shy away from preaching the whole counsel of God which includes what it has to say regarding marriage, sexuality, abortion, euthanasia, poverty, etc. When I think of what “meat” looks like from the pulpit, I don’t think of political endorsements.

Fourth, I believe Christians should exercise their right to vote and should vote their values, but our political involvement will not spark a revival.

Jesus said in His Sermon on the Mount that His followers are to be “the salt of the earth,” (Matthew 5:13). Salt in Jesus’ day was precious. Not only was it used to flavor food, but it was necessary as a preservative.

Christian involvement in politics serves as a preservative to stem the tide of cultural decay. The broader context of what Jesus said about a Christian’s role as “salt” is involvement is in everyday life, not solely politics.

Even if Christians can see all of the legislation we desire passed, it will still do nothing to change a human heart. That’s something only God can do.

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So what can we do that will spark a revival? Nothing. God initiates revival; we only participate.

Photo credit: Joshua Morley via Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Shane Vander Hart

Shane Vander Hart, an Iowa native, is the online communications manager for the American Principles Project and a frequent contributor to Shane is also the Editor-in-Chief for, a popular Christian conservative blog.

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