AUSTIN - Christian engagement in politics and culture should be directed by a love of God and practice of discipleship, attendees learned at the recent Texas Baptists Christian Life Commission Advocacy Day.
The event, held at Hyde Park Baptist Church in Austin on Feb. 28, featured keynote speakers Gabe Lyons, founder of Q and co-author of Good Faith, and Vincent Bacote, associate professor of theology and director of the Center for Applied Christian Ethics at Wheaton College.
“The purpose of Advocacy Day is to help Christians and particularly Texas Baptists engage in public policy and politics from a biblical worldview,” said Kathryn Freeman, the CLC’s director of public policy. “I think this is critical because politics affects our lives and the lives of our neighbors, which means our lives as disciples should reflect this reality. We ought to be equipped to speak faithfully to the challenges of our age and that includes politics.”
Conference attendees attended various workshops on a variety of pivotal policy issues including religious liberty, immigration, education, payday lending, foster care and more. Through the workshops, attendees learned of important legislation and how to engage with legislators on those issues.
On Wednesday, March 1, Texas Baptists met at the State Capitol for a breakfast honoring State Rep. Trent Ashby, of Lufkin, with the 2017 Micah 6:8 Justice Award. The group was recognized in the Senate by Sen. Royce West, of Dallas, and many attendees spent time meeting with their legislators and staff members.
Anyra Cano-Valencia, a youth minister from Iglesia Bautista Victoria En Cristo in Fort Worth, met with Representative Ramon Romero from her district. Cano-Valencia felt Advocacy Day prepared her, “to grow stronger relationships with legislators in the communities we live in, so we can be a point of reference for them. Whether we agree on issues or not, these relationships can foster an opportunity for a place at the table, where we can have a Christian witness.”
Lance Mayes, associate pastor of community engagement from Woodland Baptist Church in San Antonio, felt the event encouraged him regarding influencing public policy. “A message that I heard clearly was to remember that we are all image-bearers – we are created in the image of God,” Mayes said. “We need to keep that in mind as we share our views. We must respect the other person and share in humility.”
Two hundred people attended the bi-annual event, held in conjunction with the Texas Legislative session.
“Love alone without belief isn’t enough,” Lyons said. Sharing research from his recent book, Lyons painted a picture of the political and cultural landscape of present-day America and reflected on the need to apply Christ-like love to the way each person lives their lives.
“You can’t love somebody well if you don’t want what is true and what God’s design is for their life,” he said. “The posture of love is critical.”
Admitting that politics does not always solve the issues and challenges faced in many communities, Lyons said the good news changes and transforms lives. He outlined five lenses by which Christians should think about political engagement and how they relate to the world: theology, ministry, relationships, politics and the public square.
During Bacote’s afternoon session, he highlighted the importance of what he called a “first Great Commission,” found in the first few chapters of Genesis, whereby God created the earth and gave humans dominion over it. Then, as Jesus took on flesh and came to earth, He took on the role of being the Crown of Creation, Bacote said.
“People’s lives, as disciples, ought to matter every hour of the week,” he said. “This is one of the ways we ask, ‘how do we live faithfully for God in His world?’ We look at the problems in His world, and we think about the various ways we can address those problems.”
Politics is the way by which people use government to manage their lives together, not an enemy but a tool by which to address societal problems, Bacote said.
The next CLC Advocacy Day will be held in 2019. Based in Austin, the CLC remains engaged in the 85th legislative session. Click here to read about the current public policy issues.