We don’t yet know if the allegations of fraud against Kirbyjon Caldwell, pastor of megachurch Windsor Village United Methodist Church in Houston and dabbler in presidential politics, are true, but several things are clear to me, one of which reflects a lesson God has personally taught me since 2004:
First, pastors have no business getting entangled in other people’s money. I’ve made a point since I was ordained in 1984, of never knowing what parishioners give to the churches I’ve served. Nor have I, except for a brief time when we were launching a new church and the only offerings came from my wife and me, have I ever had anything to do with church bookkeeping. None of that is part of a pastor’s call! Pastors who get entangled by interest in money do the cause of Christ, their parishioners, and themselves great harm, spiritually and potentially, in other ways.
Second, after I ran for the state House of Representatives in 2004, God impressed on me the importance of staying out of politics. The Word of God that I’m called to preach is never wrong; my political judgments can be, maybe often are, wrong. There may be certain exceptional circumstances under which pastors may feel called to speak out on political or public issues, like racism. authoritarianism, and such, topics on which the Word of God offers unambiguous counsels or commands.
But when pastors flirt with mixing the powerful Word of God with the earthly powers of money or politics, giving those latter two things more prominence than they deserve, wrong impressions are created of God and the Gospel and the first to be tempted by the false gospels that are thus created are the pastors themselves.
Neither politics nor money are intrinsically evil. Scripture says that God established government authority to keep evil at bay in a world that is in rebellion against God. The Bible tells us that money in itself isn’t our problem, but the love of money. The Christian and the Christian pastor are in trouble when money and politics, or anything else, begin to occupy our attention as much as or more than God Himself.
I hope that Caldwell is innocent. But these two lessons remain important for me.
[I'm the pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]