A Healthy Approach to Politics in Your Church : Curtis Chang

A Healthy Approach to Politics in Your Church - Curtis Chang - 111 - FrontStage BackStage with Jason Daye

How can we practically and sincerely help people address some of the confusion and divisiveness around politics in our local churches and communities? In this week’s conversation on FrontStage BackStage, host Jason Daye is joined by Curtis Chang. Curtis is a public theologian and former pastor. He currently serves as a senior fellow at Fuller Theological Seminary and as a consulting faculty member at Duke Divinity. Curtis, along with two of his colleagues, are the founders of The After Party Project. Curtis’s most recent book is entitled The After Party. Together, Curtis and Jason explore how pastors who might be hesitant to address politics because of potential blowback or fallout can help their people reframe politics in a healthy way as they focus on Jesus. Curtis also shares some insights and some examples of how people from different political views have been able to find common ground through spiritual formation as they grow as disciples and grow in Christ-likeness.

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Additional Resource Links

www.after-party.org – Visit Curtis’s website to delve deeply into his book, courses, and articles, plus uncover additional resources to enhance your faith journey.

The After Party: Toward Better Christian Politics – For the exhausted, the hurting, and the faithful, The After Party helps reframe our political identity away from the “what” of political positions and toward the “how” being centered on Jesus. This paradigm-shifting book complements The After Party Project–a six-part, video-based, highly interactive curriculum that provides churches, small groups, and individuals with an on-the-ground, biblically based approach to a very complex topic.

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Key Insights and Concepts

  • Many church leaders choose to avoid discussing politics, especially during elections, to avoid the risk of offending others, causing polarization, creating distractions, or a number of other potential outcomes. In so doing, ministry leaders neglect their responsibility by acquiescing their role in this area of spiritual formation, allowing secular views to fill that vacuum and shape political identities instead.
  • Small groups in churches foster genuine connections, making them ideal for discussing politics away from the divisiveness of larger gatherings.
  • It is wise and helpful to shift the focus from the content of politics to the conduct, promoting non-confrontational dialogue centered around Jesus’s teachings rather than partisan bias. This leads to healthier conversations, better understanding, and reconciliation.
  • The work conducted by the After Party project identified four different profiles for political engagement: combatants, the exhausted, cynics, and disciples. Understanding these profiles can help avoid polarization and improve personal and community political interactions.
  • Combatants, the exhausted, and cynics represent common political attitudes needing transformation toward the hopeful, humble approach of a disciple.
  • Addressing politics in church through small groups allows for interactive, relational engagement, overcoming the limitations of one-way communication from a pulpit.
  • To create a healthier, inclusive, and God-honoring environment for exploring political views, a distinction should be made between the substance of political beliefs, the ‘what’, and engagement methods, the ‘how’.
  • Hope and humility must guide political engagement principles, urging those in the church to adopt a more Christ-like approach in political dialogues.
  • The Church should seek to equip individuals with gospel-driven approaches for political discussions, transforming often divisive debates into opportunities for spiritual growth.
  • Jesus intentionally chose disciples with diverse political views, like Matthew the tax collector and Simon the Zealot, to teach the importance of focusing on ‘how’ we engage politically, emphasizing faithfulness in interactions over political alignment.
  • In politically challenging times, true, biblical hope serves as both encouragement and a theological assertion for Christians that restoration through Jesus will ultimately transcend temporary political conflicts.
  • Younger generations are observing how those in the Church react and respond to politics. Ineffective handling of political issues can be a driving force for them leaving the Church altogether.
  • Identifying Jesus’ return as the ultimate resolution to political strife reframes current tensions into a temporary perspective, fostering hope and anticipation for the divine reconciliation when God restores all things.

Questions for Reflection

  • How have I addressed politics in the past? Have I been too silent? In what ways might my silence on political issues be shaping my congregation’s political identities? Do I sense that people within our church community are being more ‘discipled’ by the media influences in their lives than by the ministries of our church? Am I comfortable with this impact?
  • How have I navigated the tension between addressing political topics and maintaining unity within my congregation? Have I been careful to avoid being swept up in partisan politics? In what ways have I avoided this tendency?
  • What strategies can I implement to encourage political discussions that are guided by Jesus’s teachings rather than partisan bias?
  • How effectively am I using small groups to foster genuine dialogue on political matters? In what ways could these settings be better utilized?
  • How would I describe the difference between the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ of politics? How does this relate to the life and teachings of Jesus?
  • Am I more focused on the ‘what’ of politics or the ‘how’? How does this impact the way I disciple others? Are there any changes I need to address in this area? If so, how will I address them?
  • If I were to ask others about the way I approach politics, would they describe my approach as hopeful and humble? If not, what words might they use?
  • Which of the political engagement styles—combatant, exhausted, cynic, disciple—do I see most in myself? What steps can I take to foster a more disciple-like approach?
  • How can I facilitate discussions in my community that transform divisive political attitudes into hopeful, humble engagements?
  • What role does narrative play in my approach to integrating faith and politics? How can I better use stories to convey complex ideas?
  • How can the principles of hope and humility be more fully integrated into our church’s approach to political discourse? What would this look like, practically, in our ministries?
  • Reflecting on the effectiveness of one-way communication from the pulpit, how might interactive dialogue change the political climate in our church? How do I discern if a topic is appropriate to address from the pulpit for our specific local church?
  • How does the concept of the ultimate reconciliation of all things through Jesus shape my understanding of history and politics? How can this vision inspire hope in my community?
  • Considering the diverse political backgrounds of Jesus’s disciples, how am I fostering a similar environment of inclusivity and learning among the people of our church? What specific steps must we take to make space for differing political views while focusing on the core of Jesus’ message?
  • How are we addressing the spiritual formation of the people of our church in politically charged times? Are there areas where we need to take greater responsibility? What might that look like for our church?
  • What specific actions can I take to ensure that political discussions within my church are rooted in Christ’s teachings on the ‘how’ and not the ‘what’ of politics?

Full-Text Transcript

How can we practically and sincerely help people address some of the confusion and divisiveness around politics in our local churches and communities?

Jason Daye
In this episode, I’m joined by Curtis Chang. Curtis is a public theologian and former pastor. He currently serves as a senior fellow at Fuller Theological Seminary and as a consulting faculty member at Duke Divinity. Curtis, along with two of his colleagues, are the founders of The After Party Project. Curtis’s most recent book is entitled The After Party. Together, Curtis and I explore how pastors who might be hesitant to address politics because of potential blowback or fallout can help their people reframe politics in a healthy way as they focus on Jesus. Curtis also shares some insights and some examples of how people from different political views have been able to find common ground through spiritual formation as they grow as disciples and grow in Christ-likeness. Are you ready? Let’s go.

Jason Daye 
Hello, friends, and welcome to another insightful episode of FrontStage BackStage. I am your host, Jason Daye. Every single week, I have the honor of sitting down with a trusted ministry leader, and we dive into a conversation all in an effort to help you and pastors and ministry leaders just like you embrace a healthy, sustainable rhythm in both your life and ministry. We’re proud to be a part of the Pastor Serve Network. Not only do we have a conversation and release an episode every single week, but we also create an entire toolkit that’s available to you for download that helps you and your local ministry team at your church dive more deeply into the topic that is discussed. You can find that toolkit at PastorServe.org/network. We encourage you to take advantage of this resource. There are lots of resources in there, including a Ministry Leaders Growth Guide, and that has some questions that’ll help you dig more deeply, so be sure to avail yourself of that. Then, at Pastor Serve, we love walking alongside pastors and ministry leaders, and our team does this day in and day out. If you’d like to learn more about how you can get a complimentary coaching session with one of our trusted ministry coaches, you can find information at PastorServe.org/freesession. So be sure to check that out as well. If you’re joining us on YouTube, give us a thumbs up and take a moment to drop your name and the name of your church in the comments below. We love getting to know our audience better and our team will be praying for you and for your ministry. Whether you’re joining us on YouTube or your favorite podcast platform, please be sure to subscribe and to follow so you do not miss out on any of these great conversations. As I said, I’ve got an exciting conversation for us today. At this time, I’d like to welcome Curtis Chang to the show. Curtis, welcome.

Curtis Chang 
It’s great to be here. Thanks so much for having me, Jason.

Jason Daye 
Yes, brother, super excited about this conversation. Very timely and very important. Just so everyone knows, we’re gonna talk a bit about politics and, specifically, how we can approach politics in a way that honors God from the perspective of a pastor or ministry leader. We know, Curtis, that there are lots of challenges, and the divisiveness has only continued to grow, it seems. The challenges around these conversations, political conversations, are huge. And oftentimes, we don’t step back to really consider how we are engaging ourselves as ministry leaders, how we’re engaging with people who may not necessarily hold the same views that we have, and how we disciple our people. All these things are big questions for us and very important. So, Curtis, to begin, I would love for you to help us with this idea of our story of politics. Now, you write about this in your book, The After Party, which really focuses in on these conversations and how we can approach politics in a way that honors God. So, Curtis, talk to us a little bit about our story of politics and why that is so very important.

Curtis Chang 
Yeah, I would say, first of all, that the problem that we’re trying to address with this project, called The After Party, which I’m co-leading with David French and Russell Moore, and the book version of it is co-written with Nancy French, is that I think our story in many churches is one of utter silence. The reason for that is because ever since 2016, I think many pastors have experienced the sense that if I say anything, I am going to alienate somebody in my congregation or somebodies. If I preach about something to do with politics on Sunday morning, my Monday morning inbox is going to be very, very ugly. I know this experience firsthand because I’m a former pastor of what is now an Evangelical Covenant Church in California. So, I’ve lived that experience of being a senior pastor and having to weigh all the stakes that are in play as I think about what to preach on Sunday morning. Because it feels like it’s a lose-lose proposition for many pastors in congregations where you’re going to have a mix of political views staring back at you on Sunday morning, I believe that the overwhelming strategic choice pastors have been choosing, understandably so, when it comes to the story of politics is let’s not tell any story, let’s just try to avoid the topic. Then, especially as a national election year rolls around, you’re just trying to white knuckle your way in silence, hoping to avoid saying anything, maybe saying a few things here and there, but mainly just trying to get past November. That’s certainly what happened in 2016, and that’s what happened in 2020, and I understand that impulse to do so. But we have to recognize that when spiritual formation abhors a vacuum, if we as the shepherds and pastors and teachers of the gospel are not forming our people in terms of their political identity, in such that it is formed by Jesus, if we’re not doing that work, then we’re just abdicating our responsibility and we are ceding the spiritual formation of our people to secular voices and to secular forces. We’re letting Fox News, MSNBC, or whatever people get on their social media feed, whatever their algorithm feeds them on their social media that just reinforces what I believe are really toxic influences that are actually quite the opposite of spiritual formation, they’re spiritual deformation. So I think that first and foremost, we have to call out the reality that we have to have a story to tell. That having nothing to say simply means that their stories of politics are getting formed by the secular forces that are getting ever-more filled with combativeness and outright hatred, and that’s what’s deforming our people.

Jason Daye 
Yeah, that’s so good, Curtis. What a good place to start because as you’re saying that, I know I’m listening in. I’m sure everyone who’s watching and listening is resonating with everything you’re saying. We all feel this. This is real. Thank you for naming it. Thank you for calling it out. The reality that so many of our people are being discipled by secular influences is so prevalent, and we know this. So, Curtis, as we look at this idea of leaning into this, rather than leaving that empty space to be filled with everything else, as we’re looking into that, where do we start when it comes to thinking about our story of politics, right?

Curtis Chang 
Well, I want to get to the substance of that story in a moment. But first I want to get to where we tell that story, the storytelling location of it. As a senior pastor, I would say I spent about 75% of my time thinking and preparing for the Sunday morning experience. For the sermon, for all the worship, the facilities, and the logistics surrounding that big Sunday morning experience. So that’s how I think, that’s how I’m trained to think as a senior pastor. Here’s the message I want to share with your audience. For politics, that’s probably, for most, I’m not saying for all, but probably for many congregations and pastors that’s the wrong place to start because it’s a one-way communication, especially if you haven’t preached about it before. You’re going to say something, or you’re going to make some reference in this tense and anxious moment where somebody, the people on the left or people on the right, is going to mishear what you’re saying. Because everybody’s tense, everybody’s on edge, and they’re all wondering, is this church still a place I can belong? Is this a church that I can still have if I hear something from the pastor on Sunday morning that says he’s on the other side of the tribal divide, then it triggers all of these fears and anxieties that this is no longer a safe place. So Sunday morning, I think in general, especially if you haven’t preached about this before, and you suddenly think, okay, now I’ve got to screw up my courage and preach the sermon of my life. That’s a very dangerous, risky proposition, right? Instead, I believe the storytelling location that is the secret weapon of the church is actually the small group. This is what I hope pastors realize is that so much of what’s driving polarization and political divides is actually the desire and the need to belong. They’re finding this faux-belonging in these big, tribal political divisions. When in reality real genuine belonging happens in face-to-face small group communities. It’s where you know each other, you’re talking to each other, it’s interactive conversations where the people across from you may think something different politically, but they were the ones who baked a casserole for you when you were going through surgery, right? They’re the ones who picked up your kid after school when you couldn’t. That’s where deep trust is formed, and that’s the secret weapon of the church in this day of political polarization. I mean, when I tell associate secular sociologists about the church, the Bible study, the weekly small group, the men’s prayer breakfast, the weekly Sunday school, when I describe the density of trust and social connection that’s there, their jaws hit the floor because there’s nothing like that, really, in the broader secular world. I mean, the closest you can come to it would be book clubs and 12-step programs. Really, that’s it in terms of that kind of small group community. We have a secret treasure here, and it’s perfect. It’s the perfect storytelling location for the story of politics because it’s not one-way communication. It’s interactive. There’s already trust, there’s understanding, and there’s a sense of belonging there such that people don’t have to feel this immediate threat. You know, am I in the wrong place? Am I gonna get canceled or kicked out or something like that? So this is why we designed The After Party to be located in the small group context. My pitch, my elevator pitch for The After Party, is what Alpha did for evangelism. I mean, I hope listeners are familiar with the Alpha course, right? So what Alpha did for evangelism, The After Party does for politics, right? What Alpha does is it creates a safe space, with safe context and safe, trusted content, so that people can have meaningful conversations back and forth about Jesus in an evangelistic sense. We want to do that in the small group context for politics, to center these conversations on Jesus where people can be curious, can ask questions, and can have a safe conversation. We think that’s the best place to start for most churches. So The After Party is six sessions of a video-based curriculum, just like Alpha, really. David French, Russell Moore, and myself present short teachings and then very strongly guided interactive exercises and reflection exercises. That’s the way under the radar and under the kind of high-profile setting of the Sunday morning service where things can be so easily misunderstood. We think get the conversation started in a small group context, and The After Party is a tool for you to do that either in the video course format or the book format that we have.

Jason Daye 
Excellent. Curtis, now, as you’re saying all this, I know because of the world in which we live. I know there are people who are watching or listening right now, Curtis, and they’re literally going, Okay, Curtis, which side of the aisle are you on? You know what I mean? Honestly, this is, unfortunately, how we work as humans at this point in society everyone is going okay, wait a second. So here’s a resource. Great, that’s nice. But what’s your angle, Curtis?  So help us because I know there are so many of us who feel like we don’t necessarily fit anywhere because we don’t really fit on the right or the left. There are a lot of us who feel that way. But then there are others who definitely feel they fit on one side or the other and we all have to talk, right? They’re all in our church. So, Curtis, I was just thinking this as you’re talking, I think this will be valuable for you to help us understand the perspective, where you’re coming from, where The After Party is coming from, and where this resource, this tool is coming from, so that people aren’t sitting there saying, oh, Curtis is trying to swing us.

Curtis Chang 
Yes, totally. So let’s just be really clear when we talk about where you’re coming from on politics. Let’s make a distinction between the what of politics and the how of politics. So the ‘what’ is your substantive views on policy, ideology, what party is the better party, and so forth. The ‘how’ is how you go about talking about these things, believing these things, and treating your opponents. The ‘how’. The ‘what’ versus the ‘how’. Now just to disarm people. I’ll show my cards on the ‘what’, which is I am politically homeless myself, personally. There are some views that I would say yeah, probably closer to what you might call the Democratic or the blue team. Other views? I would say no, no, they’re more like the red team. I’m all over the place, right? So I don’t I don’t find myself at home in any political party. I would say the same is true of my co-creators, Russle and David. So all three of us, you can’t pin us down on your partisan identity. But the whole point of The After Party is to make this big shift from this overwhelming preoccupation with the ‘what’ of politics. Such that we almost now define politics as a set of ‘whats’ and that we’ve forgotten that politics is as much and probably more so about the ‘how’. How do we handle our differences? How do we talk to each other across our differences? How confident or sure we are about our views and so forth. This is the big message of The After Party. It’s really that we need to recenter politics back on the ‘how’ of Jesus. In the after party, we do not make any claims about the ‘whats’. We’re not telling people to vote one way or another. We don’t mention any political candidate. I think they only mentioned in all the successions we say, in the Trump era, that’s the only time we’ve ever mentioned and that was just a reference a time, right? So we’re not trying to tell people how to vote on the ‘what’, we’re trying to recenter people on a fidelity to Jesus, on the ‘how’, and, Jason, that’s really where the emphasis should be. Because think about the Sermon on the Mount, right? Let’s just take the Sermon on the Mount. I challenge anybody to draw a straight uncontested clear line from the Sermon on the Mount to what should our policy be on the border. What should be our policy towards Israel, Gaza, immigration status, tax policy, or anything else? I mean, you can try and it’s fine to try. But you should just know to draw a line from Jesus teaching the Sermon on the Mount to a specific party, partisan identity, or policy position, it’s going to be a very fuzzy line with a lot of moves you have to make. Here’s the other thing, another Christian can draw a different line and with probably about as much validity so it’s going to be fuzzy and contested to draw a line from the Sermon on the Mount to the ‘what’ of politics. But the Sermon on the Mount is very, very clear on a set of ‘hows’. Do not cast aspersions, do not call each other ‘raca’, right? Do not call each other fool, moron, or idiot. How often have we heard that in politics? Seek reconciliation above all things. Prioritize reconciliation before winning a dispute. They’re just saying that in the court context. But in all things, right? Reconciliation over winning. Do not lie, do not get caught in sexual scandals, or support people who are getting caught in sexual sandals. Regardless of which side you started on, these are a clear set of ‘hows’ that Jesus is very clear on and he meant them to apply to politics, right? He’s talking in a very politically polarized situation himself in first-century Israel. His own set of disciples are politically polarized. People don’t realize that he deliberately created a set of disciples that were politically polarized more so than we are today because he had Matthew the tax collector and Simon the Zealot, right? These are the two opposite political views. They were part of his inner party, his 12, right? So he’s teaching his own people to focus on the ‘how’, be faithful to God on the ‘how’, and that’ll enable you finally, actually deal with the ‘whats’. But get your priorities in order.

Jason Daye 
That’s so helpful, Curtis. As we look at that ‘how’, one of the things that comes up a lot in the book is the idea of hope and humility, and how these how these relate kind of foundationally to our understanding of politics. I’d love for you, Curtis, to kind of touch on that because that kind of underpins so much of how we respond and how we live, right?

Curtis Chang 
Right. So if we’re supposed to follow this big shift from the ‘what’ of politics to the Jesus ‘how’ of politics, in the course and in the book, we are saying two absolute core virtues that Jesus defines the ‘how’ of Jesus under politics are hope and humility. And we make out the biblical case for that. I won’t go through it here. But I think most people would say, yeah, hope and humility, those are Christian virtues, right? So what’s interesting, Jason, is that we do this in the course, if you plot hope and humility on a two by two axis where hope is on one axis and humilities on the other, you end up with four quadrants that end up with four ways of a ‘how’ posture in politics that I find very interesting. So for instance, I’m just gonna walk through it really quickly here. If you’re talking about somebody who is high in hope, but low in humility, okay? That’s what we call the combatant because you’re hopeful as a combatant that you can win. But you’re low in humility, you’re right and that’s why you’re trying to crush the other side, right? So that’s the combatant, high in hope and low in humility. The mirror opposite of that is somebody who is high in humility but low in hope. That profile we call the exhausted, right?  Because you’re like, I don’t think I’ve got all the answers. I’m high in humility. But one thing I do believe is it’s completely hopeless. And so that’s why I’m checking out and withdrawing. I’m exhausted. A lot of Christians I would say there’s a small percentage of people who are combatants. Actually, though they’re the smallest number, they’re the loudest. They dominate the conversation because they’re combatants. Then the exhausted are actually the highest in numbers both in the broader populace and within the church but they have the least influence because they’re exhausted and they’ve checked out, right? That’s the combatant and the exhausted. Then we need to look at low humility and low hope. That’s the person we call the cynic, right? Because the cynic is standing apart with his arms crossed and his eyebrows raised. They think they know better than everybody else. They’re cynical, right? So they’re low in humility and what they’re absolutely sure they know better than anybody else is that it’s all hopeless, right? So that’s the cynic. So when we develop this, we’re like, Okay, that’s interesting. And then of course, what we’re called to is to be high in hope and humility and that’s what we call the disciple. That would be the upper right-hand quadrant, right? The disciple is somebody who is humble. That’s by definition, a disciple is somebody who says I’m a learner, I need to learn. So I’m humble. But they’re hopeful because the disciple says, I found my rabbi, I found the person who can teach me these things. So I’m hopeful. That’s when we’re called to be with Jesus, to be the learner, the disciple of Jesus. So all of these profiles, the combatant, the exhausted, the cynic, are all called in their own ways to be on a growth path towards the disciple, the upper right-hand quadrant. High in hope and low in humility. I’ll say this one final thing, Jason, is that we realized, wow, this actually captures a lot of the different postures that people are currently caught in, in terms of the ‘how’ of politics on any side, right? So we actually have a quiz at the beginning of the course and the book that gives you a quiz that you can sort of locate yourself in one of these four profiles. And what’s so wonderful, Jason, about this way of beginning the course or the book, is that it gives people across different ‘what’ positions on politics a way to find common ground because you can be a Democrat, exhausted, and also a Republican, exhausted. A Democrat combatant and a Republican combatant. And you realize, Wow, maybe our ‘what’ is different, but our ‘how’ pasture is the same. And you can have this really interesting definition of well, how did I come to adopt that posture? What about my own family background that maybe led me to that pasture? Now most especially, how do I grow towards the Jesus disciple? Regardless of what we believe in differently on the ‘what’, we can share a common growth path toward the Jesus quadrant of being a Jesus disciple. That just begins the small group experience or the experience with a book club, if you’re going to do it through the book, in a totally different way. You’re not taking a survey that says, I’m liberal, you’re conservative, and it immediately sets people off against each other. You meet this way and people can find common ground and a reason to talk with each other. One last thing, Jason, that we found as we worked with this hope and humility two-by-two is it turned out that it actually properly categorized the main voices, the main leaders of The After Party voice, David French, Russell Moore, and myself because David tests out temperamentally as a combatant, Russell Moore tests outcome temperamentally as the exhausted, and Well, me, I’m the cynic. Really, that’s who I am. So we realize, oh, wait, this is us. So in our course and in our book, we basically inhabit these profiles and talk about how each one of us has a particular discipleship path towards that discipleship quadrant.

Jason Daye 
Yeah, that’s awesome, Curtis. What I love about it is this, you started this conversation and this is all about spiritual formation. What comes out of this and the course is spiritual formation. The conversation is around politics because that is something that we have identified as being particularly divisive and as you said, a vacuum when it comes to spiritual formation, and it’s being filled by a bunch of other stuff. But at the heart, this is spiritual formation, just like we look at all the different strings of spiritual formation. I love the way you explain this, Curtis because that helps, I think, a lot of pastors and ministry leaders to overcome, as you said, maybe a bit of the trepidation, a bit of the fear, like, Oh, my goodness, I’m opening up a can of worms and I’m gonna get destroyed on this, right? To frame it in the idea of, yes, the conversation is around politics, but it’s a spiritual formation. This is what we’re doing, right? So, Curtis, talk to us a bit more about this idea of spiritual formation revolving around politics. What have you already seen in some churches that have engaged in this or maybe what are you hoping to see more of? Yeah, just kind of give us a snapshot of how this is being applied right now, Curtis.

Curtis Chang 
It’s such a great question, Jason. And I would just ask a pastor to think, how would you spiritually form your people in sexuality if you never talked about sex, right? If you just never mentioned it. Of course, we realized, yeah, I would be ceding the spiritual formation to secular voices. So this is no different than in politics, right? I would say, in many ways, we are more divided around politics than any other topic. We are more bombarded with messages on politics, maybe not more than sexuality because that’s never-ending, but it’s a close rival to it. So we’re simply saying, you can’t be silent on it. Here’s the other thing, actually when you can name it and name the reality of that in the room, just like when you’ve kind of broached the subject of sexuality. There’s actually a kind of a little bit of nervousness like, Oh, are we going there? But then there’s also a little bit of relief, like, Oh, we’re finally going to have the conversation. That’s the same thing in politics. Those issues, just like people are struggling with issues on sex. Really, it’s happening, right? It’s reality, right? So when you name it, it’s like, Oh, okay, finally. Similarly, it’s there in your congregation. If you’ve had political difference and you’ve been managing it just by trying to ignore it or try to be silent on it, it actually increases the tension and increases the anxiety. If you can find a way to finally just name it, and name it healthily, you actually can reduce the tension and the anxiety and just say, hey, we got differences here. And you know what? That can actually be a strength. The fact that we don’t all think politically, can actually be a strength in forming ourselves in the name of Jesus. Because guess what? Jesus, in His own original disciples, had profound political differences as well. So let’s learn from Jesus on how we get formed in politics in a context of deep differences on the ‘what’ of politics. So I think if you can frame the conversation that way, again, especially in the small group context, right? Where you can have these safe relationships more in place, then people actually breathe a sigh of relief. And that’s what we have found, overwhelmingly. It’s been released now for a few months, it’s in all 50 states, and we estimate we probably have around 50 to 60,000 people who are going through it at some pace. The overwhelming response has been like a thank you, finally, this is a way we could talk. I mean, literally, we’ve gotten messages from couples, like husband and wife, who, in their own marriage, have been practicing the white knuckle your way through silence, but in their own marriage, and it hasn’t been working, it’s just created more tension. So I just got an email the other day from a woman who said, Oh, this is finally giving my husband and I a way to talk with each other around these divisions and realize we’ve been misunderstanding each other. So it’s great to hear those kinds of stories.

Jason Daye 
Yeah. That’s fantastic. That’s fantastic. Curtis, as we’re looking at this, I’m curious in the work that you guys did, one of the things that came to mind was different generations and how they kind of fall into these profiles, right? Because we have older generations that, they’ve had their experiences and so they cling to certain things. But then younger generations, the emerging generations, a lot of them have looked at politics, and said, This is a mess. I see the division it’s caused within families, friends, and everything else. It’s just kind of this idea of, what do we even do with this? Almost like, I don’t even want to be involved. So, Curtis, what have you and your team kind of learned? I’m just curious about how different generations are responding or are there any learnings around that that might be helpful?

Curtis Chang 
I think it’s a great question and one of the things you should encourage people to read is the book, The Great Dechurching because that has some excellent statistics on why people are leaving churches and especially across generational divides. One of the most telling things about that poll is the reasons why the younger generation is leaving the church. There’s a lot of reasons, but one of the reasons is what they see in the older generation. In those polls, some of the leading things that they see is the inability of the older generation to tolerate differences. The ways in which the older generation has conflated politics with religion, and also on issues of race, that there’s a sense of racial sort of narrowness. Those are some of the leading factors for why the younger generation is leaving the church. So this is why and all those things have political dimensions to them, right? So this is why dealing with politics, in a healthy way, is not just about spiritual formation for us, like say, as adults, but we have to realize our children, the younger generation, they’re watching. They’re watching and they’re watching much more what we do than what we say. If there’s a discrepancy between what we say and what we do, that’s a huge force to driving them out of the church. And poll after poll shows that the younger generation thinks and looks at the older generation and says, This doesn’t match up, you’re saying one thing, and doing another. You’re saying things about, mouthing things about Christian unity, but you’re behaving in ways that are actually deeply divisive. So for the very spiritual health of the next generation as well, we’ve got to tackle this because this is really a primary source of the younger generation’s sense that we’re living hypocritically.

Jason Daye 
Yeah, that’s good. That’s super helpful. Curtis, talk to us a little bit about, you’ve mentioned the resources, but I’d like you to kind of… because, as you said, this is a huge tool, a huge resource for what we are facing and the climate that we’re in right now. So talk to us a little bit about The After Party, about the different resources, the tools, again. Then how can people find them, connect to them, and all that fun stuff?

Curtis Chang 
Yeah, go to after-party.org. So after-party.org and you can find all the information you need about getting The After Party into your small group or church. It’s free. It is completely free. There’s no cost to it. You just need to sign up and just think about it like Alpha, it’s a plug-and-play course. There’s no prep and there’s no training that’s needed. Although we do provide a little bit of quick and proper training, but it’s plug-and-play. You just need to gather a group of people that are ready, ideally already know each other, and already gathered together. It’s all there for you to do. If your group is not used to using a video-based curriculum, you can go to the book, it’s available on Amazon. I co-wrote it with Nancy French. You can read the book to check out whether or not the course would be a good fit, right? It’s a faster way to get the essence of it. Or you can read the book after you’ve gone through the course as a way to go deeper into the concepts. There’s a lot of material in the book that’s not in the course. Or you can do it side-by-side and do the course and the book at the same time. They’re meant to be complimentary. So, the course, the book, and then the thing that I’m really excited about is that in the upcoming months, Jason, we are going to release a worship album Songs for the After Party. The reason I did that is because I remember as a senior pastor, if you gave me a choice between and my goal was to get a message embedded and formative in the minds and hearts of my congregation and you give me a choice to preach the sermon of my life, write an amazing book, or even create an amazing course, or have a song that conveyed those truths and made it into the regular worship set, and was so good that it would be hummable by my people from Monday to Saturday. And you said, Well, which one is gonna be most effective? I would pause for a nanosecond and say, it’s not the sermon. It’s not the book. It’s not even the course. It’s the song, right? We are people of the song. Songs are spiritually formative for us. Here’s the problem, Jason, is that we don’t actually have good worship songs on healthy Jesus-centered politics. Like if you were to create a worship set on that, what would you pick, right? We don’t have that. As my publisher said, he’s like, I don’t think Onward Christian Soldiers would be the one, right? So we really don’t. So there’s a big gap. So we partnered with The Porter’s Gate, which is a collective of Christian songwriters to create a set of six original songs that are worship songs that are centered on Jesus, on hope and humility, and the hope of Jesus that is the long-term hope. That really is what all of this is about, which is his kingdom coming on Earth as it is in Heaven. We want to get it out there for people to use, to start dropping it into their worship set. That’s another under-the-radar way. Not just preaching the big sermon, just drop a song that conveys that message in a really non-threatening, non-partisan way. These songs don’t take aside. They’re not about the ‘what’ of politics, they’re all about the ‘how’. So we’re going to be releasing that and making that available for worship leaders and pastors to actually use. So The After Party is going to be a video-based course, a book, and a worship album.

Jason Daye 
That’s awesome. That’s so cool. That’s super exciting, Curtis. For those of you who are watching, or you’re listening along if you’re driving in your car and you can’t jot everything down or you’re on the job right now. All of those links to The After Party, to the video course, to the book, and to everything will be available in the toolkit for this episode, which you can always find at PastorServe.org/network. So be sure to check that out. We’ll have all those links to that. Curtis, as we’re winding down, I would love to give you an opportunity. You have the ears and eyes of brothers and sisters who are serving on the frontlines of ministry. What words would you like to leave with them?

Curtis Chang 
I have four words for them. Be of great hope. Be of great hope. I know things look dark, perhaps in your own congregation, in your community, or as you survey the national landscape. It is easy for us on that hope and humility call to get hopeless in this moment. So I want to call people to be of great hope. Be of great hope because of the after party. By that, I don’t mean that our curriculum, our book, or worship album, although I do think they are a point of hope. I’m not talking about our after-party. I am talking about the after-party of Jesus because we know how the story ends. We know how the story of human history ends. It does not end with political division and divide, conspiracies, hostility, and oppression. The story of history ends with Jesus returning as the king, as the true political ruler, the Lord of lords, to come and restore all things. To make all things right. To make all things new. It’s always been the fallacy, the lie of politics, of partisan politics, of secular politics on all sides to say that our political agenda, our ‘what’ of politics is what is going to restore all things and fix all the problems. Politics has never been able to do that. Politics, at best, is a mere shadow, a pointer to that final day when our King returns to this earth to usher in fully, to implement fully, the kingdom of God on Earth as it is in Heaven, right? That’s how the story ends. We know that’s going to happen. We don’t know when but we know that’s going to happen. And do you know, Jason, how the Bible describes that event? The most consistent way that Jesus’ event is described is a party. It’s the party that comes after all the human political parties have been exposed for what they are. Again, as shadows and pointers. Isaiah, Revelation, the wedding feast of the Lamb in Revelation. The feast on the mountain. That’s in Isaiah 50 to 66. All of this is going to be a party. It’s going to be a party when Jesus comes and restores all things. That’s the party. That’s the after-party of Jesus. The true party that comes after all human political parties. That’s the hope we have and that’s a sure and certain hope. That if we hang on to that, that enables us not to withdraw into hopelessness, into being exhausted, into withdrawing, or into silence, right? So that’s my words to your people. Be of great hope because the after party is coming.

Jason Daye 
Absolutely love it, Curtis. This has been so insightful. It’s such a joy to have you hanging out with us on FrontStage BackStage. Thank you so much for making the time, Curtis. God bless you.

Curtis Chang 
Great to be here. Thanks.

Jason Daye
Now, before you go, I want to remind you of an incredible free resource that our team puts together every single week to help you and your team dig more deeply and maximize the conversation that we just had. This is the weekly toolkit that we provide. And we understand that it’s one thing to listen or watch an episode, but it’s something entirely different to actually take what you’ve heard, what you’ve watched, what you’ve seen, and apply it to your life and to your ministry. You see, FrontStage BackStage is more than just a podcast or YouTube show about ministry leadership, we are a complete resource to help train you and your entire ministry team as you seek to grow and develop in life in ministry. Every single week, we provide a weekly toolkit which has all types of tools in it to help you do just that. Now you can find this at PastorServe.org/network. That’s PastorServe.org/network. And there you will find all of our shows, all of our episodes and all of our weekly toolkits. Now inside the toolkit are several tools including video links and audio links for you to share with your team. There are resource links to different resources and tools that were mentioned in the conversation, and several other tools, but the greatest thing is the ministry leaders growth guide. Our team pulls key insights and concepts from every conversation with our amazing guests. And then we also create engaging questions for you and your team to consider and process, providing space for you to reflect on how that episode’s topic relates to your unique context, at your local church, in your ministry and in your life. Now you can use these questions in your regular staff meetings to guide your conversation as you invest in the growth of your ministry leaders. You can find the weekly toolkit at PastorServe.org/network We encourage you to check out that free resource. Until next time, I’m Jason Daye encouraging you to love well, live well, and lead well. God bless.

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