Overcoming Political Tribalism in Our Churches : Patrick Miller
How can we help lead and shepherd our local churches to overcome political tribalism? In this week’s conversation on FrontStage BackStage, host Jason Daye is joined by Patrick Miller. Patrick is a pastor at The Crossing in Columbia, Missouri. He’s also the co-host of the Truth Over Tribe podcast and the co-author of the award-winning book, Truth Over Tribe. Together, Patrick and Jason look at some of the challenges that pastors face when it comes to political divisiveness in their communities and even in their congregations. They look at the difference between the politics of Jesus and the political partisanship that we see so often in our culture. Then Patrick shares some practical steps and even some incredible stories of hope for seeing people overcome the divisiveness and embrace a kingdom-focused and Christ-centered way of living.
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Additional Resource Links
www.choosetruthovertribe.com – Check out Patrick’s website where you can find additional resources, hundreds of blog posts, podcast, newsletter, and more
Truth Over Tribe – Patrick and Keith Simon’s book highlights how Jesus lived in a culture split by tribalism, but he resisted its allure by choosing something bigger: truth.
Connect with Patrick Miller – Twitter
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Ministry Leaders Growth Guide
Key Insights and Concepts
- Political partisanship has become increasingly pervasive in our culture over recent years.
- A growing number of pastors and ministry leaders have considered leaving ministry because of the unbalanced priority people are placing on political partisanship over Kingdom values
- New frameworks for thinking about the problem of political tribalism are needed to encourage healthy discipleship and spiritual growth
- When you get to really know someone in person, it is harder to judge them for their politics and easier to relate to them as Jesus did
- Politicians are often made into our “hope”, when Jesus is the only true hope we have.
- There is no salvation in the partisan right or left, one particular person or side winning. Salvation is in Jesus alone
- Politics are just a way of doing life together, and Jesus has an alternative politic for His followers to counter the world’s politics.
- Pastors and ministry leaders need to speak and teach with grace and patience because people do not change their minds overnight.
- Pastors and ministry leaders need confidants, not just allies. Confidants care deeply for them as a person and desire what is best for them.
- In the Church, people are now identifying more with one another based upon cultural perspectives than theological distinctives. This is a major change we have witnessed in the Church in recent
- Pastors and ministry leaders should be leading the way in showing grace and patience to those who may have different cultural perspectives.
Questions for Reflection
- How have I noticed the shift toward political tribalism within the church over the past 15 years?
- If I am honest with myself and God, where am I today in terms of political partisanship versus the alternative politic of Jesus? Have I shifted or changed partisan political beliefs in the past?
- Am I embracing the politic of Jesus as best I can? What has helped me move past partisan tribalism towards the politic of Jesus? What changes do I need to make?
- Are people in our care at our local church prioritizing political partisanship over the politic of Jesus? How are we addressing this reality? What can we do moving forward as we disciple our people?
- How have I handled political tribalism in my personal relationships in the past? What would I change about it going forward?
- What are ways I have seen political figures or parties become the hope or salvation in myself and others? How have I seen myself or others be “discipled” by politicians or the news media?
- Have I felt stuck in what or how much I can say because of my community or location? What are some ways I can work to clarify the politic of Jesus and invite people to embrace it?
- Instead of judgment, how can I be more patient and gracious toward those with a different cultural perspective than me?
- What painful or hurtful situations have I dealt with in the past around political tribalism? How can I better give these situations, and others like them, to Jesus?
- What is the difference between allies and confidants? Who are some of my allies? Do I have confidants in my circle, or only allies? How can I increase the number of confidants I have?
- What are some practical things I can do or teach to help the people I lead become less partisan and more in line with the politic of Jesus? What will it take to begin implementing these? When will we start?
- Is my leadership team on the same page from a cultural perspective? Do we agree on how to deal with cultural issues that arise? If not, how can we better align ourselves?
How can we help lead and shepherd our local churches to overcome political tribalism?
In this episode, I’m joined by Patrick Miller. Patrick is a pastor at The Crossing in Columbia, Missouri. He’s also the co-host of the Truth Over Tribe podcast and the co-author of the award-winning book, Truth Over Tribe. Together, Patrick and I look at some of the challenges that pastors face when it comes to political divisiveness in their communities and even in their congregations. We look at the difference between the politics of Jesus and the political partisanship that we see so often in our culture. Then Patrick shares some practical steps, and even some incredible stories of hope for seeing people overcome the divisiveness and embrace a kingdom-focused and Christ-centered way of living. Are you ready? Let’s go.
Hello, friends, and welcome to what I believe is going to be an amazing conversation today, here on FrontStage BackStage, I am your host, Jason Daye. And I have the honor, the privilege really, of each and every week sitting down with a trusted ministry leader, where we dive into a topic all in an effort to help you and pastors and ministry leaders just like you really grow and develop and embrace a sustainable healthy rhythm for both life and ministry. And we are proud to be a part of the Pastor Serve Network. Every single week, our team does more than just produce a show and a podcast, we also create an entire digital toolkit that complements this conversation. And this can be used by you. And you can use it with your ministry team at your local church to really dig more deeply into the conversation at hand. There are a lot of different resources there, including a Ministry Leaders Growth Guide, which has key insights from the conversation, and reflection questions for you to work through as you really seek to grow and develop as ministry leaders. So be sure to check that out. You can find that at PastorServe.org/network. And then at Pastor Serve our team loves blessing pastors and ministry leaders. And we come alongside pastors and ministry leaders all across the country, throughout the week. And we really help coach and encourage, help you find new fresh perspective and progress on some of the things that you’re tackling in life and ministry. And we are offering a complimentary coaching session. And you can learn more about that at PastorServe.org/freesession. So be sure to check that out. Now if you’re joining us on YouTube, it’s good to have you with us, please give us a thumbs up. And if you will take a moment to drop your name and the name of your church in the comments below. We’d love to get 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 take a moment to subscribe, to follow, to hit that notification bell. So you do not miss out on any of these great conversations. And like I said, I’m very excited for today’s conversation. At this time, I would like to welcome Patrick Miller to FrontStage BackStage. Welcome, Patrick!
Thank you so much for having me, Jason. It’s fantastic to be here. I love what you guys are doing, serving pastors, serving ministry leaders. Because I know for a fact, right now is a time when a lot of people are considering leaving the ministry or have considered leaving the ministry. And I think a lot of that actually has to do with the kind of politicization and exhaustion that’s come from partisan tribalism. And so I think what you’re doing is so important
because pastors are often the most underserved group of people inside of the church.
Thank you, Patrick. I love that. And you’re right. Here in our country, the US there is so much revolving around politics right now. It has actually, Patrick, become just a pervasive part of our culture to such an incredible degree over the last several years, where there’s arguing over politics, pointing fingers, speaking horribly about people who don’t agree with us, right? It’s been fracturing families, destroying friendships, and sadly, this has become, Patrick, almost the norm for our culture right now. And it’s heartbreaking. The intense division, the political tribalism, as you just mentioned, unfortunately, it has made its way into the church, right? The church is not immune from that. And as pastors and ministry leaders, sometimes it feels hopeless, just as you’re saying, Patrick. There’s so much division. It almost feels like it doesn’t matter what I say, what I do, people will become more interested in politics than they are in Jesus. More interested in what separates us, what divides us, as opposed to what brings us together. And it’s exhausting, like you said, for pastors, for those of us in ministry. Many have already or many are considering tapping out of ministry altogether, just because it’s so heavy, right? So, Patrick to begin, I’d like to start with some encouragement if we could. Patrick, I’d love to just hear your thoughts. What would you say to a ministry leader who is resonating with what we’ve just shared? Who’s feeling all of this weight, who’s really asking themselves, is my ministry even making a difference?
Well, I think the first thing I would say is, you’re not alone. You’re not insane. And if you can gain some new ways of thinking about this problem, some new frameworks for thinking through the problem that you’re facing, it can help you grow in sanity. And it can also help you disciple people in your church, take them through a process of de-politicizing them, de-tribalizing them, helping them to, whether it’s they’re syncretized on the right, and Fox News is their sacred scripture, or they’re syncretized on the left, and the New York Times is their sacred scripture, I really do think there’s hope to help people move closer to Jesus. But there is a process. And again, that’s what we try to do. We want to give people a framework. And when I say you’re not alone, I mean because this is what we’ve experienced in our church. We are living inside of a blue dot in a red state. We’re in Columbia, Missouri, it’s a college town. Missouri is a red state, but being in college town, it’s a very progressive city. And so as a result, our church has always been politically diverse. You never knew who was sitting down the aisle from you, who was in the pew with you, you know, are they on the left? Are they on the right? You had to get to know them. That’s really good news. Because when you get to know someone, it’s harder to judge them for their politics, because they’re a real person in your eyes. But what we found is that since 2016, and 2020, in particular, it’s been harder to hold that coalition of people together. Back in 2020, after the murder of George Floyd, we got a message on Facebook, and this message said hey, if you don’t talk about George Floyd in the service, today, we’re gonna leave church, we’re never coming back. Now, we don’t do church by Facebook recommendation. However, we had already planned to discuss this. We’re actually one of the largest black churches in our city. And Jesus told us to mourn with those who mourn. And so we were gonna mourn, as a white leader in my case, with our black congregants who were mourning what happened. Well, after the service, we got messages from the other side saying, I can’t believe you did this. Are you saying that all police officers are racists and bigots? And we said, Well, no, no, no, we never said that police officers are racists and bigots. We have so many police officers in our congregation. We were simply mourning a death that happened that a community was mourning because Jesus told us to do this on the Sermon on the Mount, right? And so it just showed that in 2020, man, it was really hard to hold this broad political coalition together. And that’s something that we’ve kind of had to learn and grow into, is a certain level of comfort that the extremities of our churches were slowly going, overtime, going to leave our church for either a church with a rainbow flag out front, or a church with a, you know, Christian, or maybe an American flag out front. And we had to be okay with some of those people leaving so that we can try to disciple those who are willing to move not towards the center politically, but move towards Jesus and his politics and his way of doing things. So I just have to say, You are not alone. You’re not the only church that’s had these kinds of crazy things happen. We’ve had people leave loudly, we have people leave painfully man, I have been there. I’ve been in those conversations. It is hard, it keeps you up at night. And so you just, you’re not alone. And you’re not crazy.
Yeah, I love that. I mean, that’s great encouragement, because oftentimes in ministry we do feel somewhat like we’re the person who’s facing this ourselves, right? And we’re kind of alone in the midst of it. So I love that perspective. Patrick, can you share a little bit, as a minister, a little bit of your story, even personally, how you have, you know, what’s your journey been around this idea of tribalism, and you know, moving towards a, you know, Kingdom-focused, Christ-centered perspective.
Let me share two stories. My co-author of the book, Truth Over Tribe, and I’m the co-host of our podcast, Truth Over Tribe, we’re not very creative with our names, apparently, his name’s Keith Simon. He’s a pastor with me, we share an office together, we’re good friends. And we came from different sides of the political aisle. So let me take you back to my college days. This is 2008. And it’s during the election where Obama would eventually be elected. And back then Missouri was still a swing state. So it wasn’t uncommon to have presidential candidates come through. And Obama came to Columbia, Missouri, where I was at school, and I was a raging leftist. I was so excited about this, I had just become a Christian. I’ve been on the left my whole life. So I’ve now was just a Christian on the left. And I remember going to this event with my friends. And we were talking about hope. And he was going to deal with the homeless problem in Colombia. And he was going to help solve the problem with single moms who didn’t have housing, and oh my gosh, this was going to change everything. And so I went, and I was so excited. And I saw him, and I voted for Obama. And then two years later, we still had homeless people in Colombia. And we still had single moms who needed housing in Colombia. And we still had many of the social and psychological problems that I thought he was going to solve. You see, I had turned President Obama into my savior, into a hope. And it made me realize that maybe the true hope I have is really in Jesus. He is sitting on the throne of heaven, he doesn’t need a job in the Oval Office. That would actually be a downgrade. He doesn’t need to step down from the Oval, sorry, from the throne of heaven to step into the Oval Office. He’s got a higher throne, he has more power, and he has a way of organizing our life together as Christians inside of the church, that is an alternative politic, to the politics that exist outside of us. Whether that’s on a local level or a federal level, and so it made me begin to think, Okay, what’s it like to live in that politic? Now, I can tell you a story, by the way, of my co-host, Keith, who came from the right. He was in the exact same thing. He can tell you back in 1992 when the Republicans took over the house for the first time, I think was something like 30 years. He took his shirt off and spun it around his head and ran around the backyard, and he was, he did not drink too much. Didn’t drink anything at all back then, he was a teetotaller. So look, here’s the deal. My point is we’ve come from opposite sides thinking that there’s salvation in the partisan right or the partisan left. It does not exist. There’s only salvation in Jesus. Now, Jesus has called us to love our neighbors. And that does include justice. So there is a politic to following Jesus. But Jesus, while he is political, he is not partisan. And so we’ve just tried to explore what’s it like in our church to live out the politic of Jesus, as opposed to the politics of the elephant or the donkey.
Yeah, I love that. That’s very helpful for us to kind of think through. Because oftentimes, we sit and we have grown up in a particular, you know, place, we have a particular background, we have particular influences on our lives. And so that has shaped us. And oftentimes, as humans, it’s kind of human nature to believe that whatever has shaped us is right. Right? And so it’s important, I think, for us to step back, as you said, Patrick, and realize that all those influences on us should not be the primary influence. Christ should be our primary influence. And that challenges some of the things that we hold almost hold as truth. But really, as you’ve shared, it’s more tribe at that point, than necessarily the truth. And I would love for you to share with us, Patrick, if you could, a little bit of what you touched on right there in regard to the politic of Jesus versus partisanship. Because I think this is a point that oftentimes we get stuck on. And we really begin to push Jesus into a political party. So talk to us a little bit about those differences.
Yeah. So when I talk about the politic of Jesus, people start itching like, well, what are you talking about? Because they assume when I’m talking about some sort of partisan agenda. Because in the past, when, especially you know, we evangelicals have talked about political Jesus or anything involving politics, and Jesus, it’s been coded language for the politics of the right. Now, that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m not talking about partisanship. Partisanship, choosing the left or the right, or the politics of the left and the right. That’s not what Jesus is interested in. He’s interested in his own politics. So it’s probably helpful just to define what a politic is. If it’s not partisanship, it’s not choosing one side or the other in our modern setting. A politic is actually just, it’s a way of answering all the classical questions that politics were designed to ask. How do we organize our families? How do we organize our lives together for the common good? How do we deal with wrongdoers? How do we deal with our enemies? How do we organize marriage? How do we organize having children? This is a politic, it’s a way of doing life together. Aristotle, he called humans and also bees, and I think maybe monkeys, political animals. He says that this is at the core of who we are is relationality, our ability to come together to do things as a group for the common wheel, for the common good. And Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount has a way of organizing his people, and how we treat our enemies, how we love one another. How we organize your family, everything I’ve just mentioned. He has a politic that He wants His people to live out in whatever nation they are living in. And that politic exists as a counter-witness to the politics outside of the kingdom. I mean, let’s just pause. The word kingdom is a political word, the word Messiah and Christ, these are political words, it would have been words for King. There was an old inscription, and it was of a, you know, Caesar Augustus is nine BCE, so the Caesar at the time of Christ’s birth, and it describes him as the Lord, as the Savior, as the Son of God. And it says that His birth is the, quote, “beginning of the gospel”, the good news. So even “gospel” was a political word. And I say all this to say, Jesus wants us to organize our lives in a particular way. And that’s a way of love and self-sacrifice. And that… that is his politic, and it is a counter-witness to the world around us. That’s what I mean when I say we need to live out the politic of Jesus, rather than getting fixated on the horse race in Washington, DC.
Yeah, that is so helpful. Thank you for walking us through that, helping us define that a little bit. As pastors and ministry leaders, what is really our responsibility when it comes to politics? You know, where do we, because sometimes that’s a question we wrestle with. Do we say something? Do we not say something? Are we allowed to say something? You know, sometimes I’ve talked to many pastors who feel like, I’m just kind of stuck with wherever I happen to live, and what the political culture is wherever I live, that’s what I’ve inherited, and I just have to do the best I can with what I’ve got. So Patrick, talk to us a little bit about this, this idea of like, what is our responsibility? And what does that look like?
Yeah, it seems like, in my mind, you could divide this into two categories broadly. One would be, public speech and public action. So that might be what you’re doing on Sunday morning. The other would be private speech and pastoral action. So this is what you’re doing when you’re meeting one on one with people who are in your congregation. And the first thing I want to start with is actually that private part because arguably, it’s the more important of the two as a pastor. When you are shepherding people, I think we have to be really careful to show grace and patience. In other words, know where you are. Maybe you’re on the right, maybe you’re on the left, maybe your center right, maybe your center left, I don’t know where you are. And know that someone who doesn’t share your partisan politics is going to be hard, that’s gonna be a hard person for you to be patient with. You’re going to want them to move towards you politically. But what I always had to remind myself was that someone showed me grace when I was on the far left. Someone showed me mercy when I was on the far left. Someone gave me time to process when I was on the far left. They didn’t kick me out of the church, they didn’t make me feel stupid for my political beliefs. They slowly trained me and discipled me in the way of Jesus until, over time, I started letting go of some of those more progressive ideologies. Precisely because I was being discipled patiently and carefully and graciously and generously by people inside of the church, and that’s where I would start is to say, be patient. Give people time to process. They’re not going to wake up tomorrow, and suddenly realize, oh, my gosh, my nationalism is wrong. Or, Oh, my gosh, I bought into the LGBTQ agenda. And then oh, I was wrong! That just doesn’t happen. People change slowly, through relationships, over time. So that’ll be the first thing I want to say. On the public end, that’s a little bit trickier. Because it depends on your congregation, it depends on you as a person. It depends on your church and your church’s politics. There’s a lot of different things you have to wrestle with. Now, we’ve tried to speak more about these issues. But what we’ve been really careful to do, is not speak about them from a partisan perspective. So if someone listens to our podcast, which is doing cultural commentary, talking about these really hard issues, they’re not going to be able to figure out who I voted for. Because I’m not coming at it from the right or the left. I’m coming at it from a Jesus-centered politic. And that’s what I would encourage people to do. Here’s the one thing I will say, and we can dig into this if you want to. The one thing I think we can’t do is remain silent. And I want to be clear, what I mean when I say, I’m not saying remain silent so we need to be culture warriors and get out there and fight against everybody that we disagree with in the culture war. I’m saying we can’t remain silent with our people. Because if you don’t disciple them in their politic, how do you engage with these cultural issues? Someone else will. It may be the sermonizing of Tucker Carlson, or it may be the scriptural pages of the New York Times. Someone else will. And if it’s not you, there’s a good chance, it’s not going to be a Christian source that’s keeping Jesus at the center. So ignoring these topics and thinking that you’re just you know, avoiding obstructions, no, you’re just creating obstacles you will have to leap over in the future. So deal with them now talk with them now, and figure out the right place to do it. It might not be on stage on Sunday morning, it might be in a class, it might be in the podcast, there’s lots of different ways to communicate these ideas. But I do think we have to find ways to talk about it. Now what we talked about, how we talk about, that’s a matter for, you know, for you and wisdom and discernment to figure out.
Yeah, that’s really helpful, Patrick. When we look at, you know, kind of the front stage, I mean, that more public piece is kind of the front stage, and then we look at the backstage of our life as pastors and ministry leaders, part of the backstage also includes family and friends. And we have seen that tribalism has fractured relationships to a great degree. As a pastor, as a ministry leader, when you’re when you’re trying to, you know, lead a congregation, when trying to be faithful to that. But then on the backstage of your life, you also have family members, you have close friends, now those relationships are fractured. How can we better navigate some of those very personal, because those impact not just what we’re doing in ministry, those impact, you know, the very fabric of our lives, which can weigh heavily on us?
Absolutely. They don’t just impact you, they impact your wife, they impact your kids, you know, your kids are friends with their kids. This is really hard, and I’ve gone through it more times than I can count. You know, I can think of a couple, for example, that was going through a terrible, terrible time in their marriage. And I came alongside them in the messiness and helped them avoid getting a divorce and spent a lot of time counseling them. And just a year later, because the husband disagreed with me on some racial issues in particular, that was a thing for him. And I’m, again, I’m not in any sort of radical racial camp, I was just trying to teach what the New Testament says about, you know, ethnic unity, and that Jesus calls us all to worship together, that kind of thing. Well, he was really bothered. And this guy, in particular, came from the right, but I’ve had it from both sides. And it didn’t matter that I’d spent years with him and his wife trying to help them through their marriage, trying to help them through their divorce. Now I was the enemy. Now I was someone to get online and take down, I was someone behind closed doors to go and talk trash about to friends and say, Oh, can you believe what he’s saying? He’s, I mean, he called me a heretic, and he’s teaching a false gospel. That was really painful. And the repercussions of that, like you just said, it wasn’t just one person, it was one person going around and spreading things. And I’m sitting here thinking, man, could you tell them how, you know, you almost lost your marriage, because of the way you were treating your wife and how you know, I came alongside you in grace and mercy, to love you and care for you. And now you’re doing this? Now, you know, that was really, really painful for me. And I think it’s really painful for anyone who’s in pastoral ministry when it’s close friends or people you’ve cared about, and they come after you. I think the key for us, and this is not easy. But it’s to remember that Paul, you know, he talked about sharing in the sufferings of Christ, He said, I’m filling up the suffering of Christ. And so he saw his pastoral ministry as a Paschal ministry, as a way of sharing in the crucifixion of Jesus. And if we get angry in response to the people attacking us, to people harming us, to people hurting us, if we go back at them, and we attack them and try to take them back down a notch, we aren’t participating in the cross. What did Jesus do for his enemies? He died for his enemies. And so as painful as it is, I think the best response we have is to emulate the Christ or sorry, the cross-shaped love of Jesus to those people. We show them mercy, we show them kindness, we show them humility. And if they decide on their own, that they want to vacate and leave and destroy the relationship, despite 100 different offers to go the opposite direction. That’s out of our control. And of course, that’s going to be painful for us. But I think at that point, we have to give them to Jesus and say, Okay, this is for you, and hope that in the process of your cross-shaped, love, Jesus is doing something not just in your heart but in your family’s heart, your family’s life, your church’s life, that’s going to bear fruit in the future. I wish there was an easy answer, like, hey, just do this jujitsu move, and now this person is gonna stop hating you, and they’re gonna come back to your church, and they’re gonna stop causing you problems on your elder board, or whatever it is. No, that doesn’t exist. Just remember who you serve, who Your king is, and live like Him and trust that even if that’s painful, that’s the right path to go down.
Yeah, that’s great, Patrick. And I know, that’s been such a challenge for so many people in ministry, and it’s, it is painful. And it is, you know, that sacrifice piece in ministry, which is never any fun. And it seems that those types of experiences are becoming more common, rather than less common. And that kind of takes me to this next point that I’d love to hear your insights on, Patrick. And that is wrestling with a bit of the, almost the hopelessness feeling of where we are as a society, as a culture when it comes to tribalism, and everything being politicized. And the lines being drawn in the sand and just ugliness, right, happening. Like, if you don’t agree with me, then there’s not that grace that you just talked about. How do we, as ministry leaders, help not only for ourselves, personally, but help our people overcome a bit of this hopeless feeling? Like, why even bother? You know, I’ve talked with pastors and ministry leaders who said, it doesn’t matter what I do, you know, doesn’t matter what I say. I just don’t feel like my ministry is really making a difference. This isn’t what I anticipated whenever I, you know, accepted the call and stepped into ministry. And there’s just this kind of hopeless feeling. Like, what do I do? What would you say to that pastor, that ministry leader?
Well, I’m gonna sound like a broken record. But I’d say you’re not alone. You’re not crazy. I talked to so many pastors across the country who have lost countless friends over partisan political issues. And not because they were on stage, you know, doing the Christian right thing or the Christian left thing, and now people are offended and bothered. That’s not what they were doing. People were coming to church with the Christian right thing and the Christian left thing, and that ended up causing pain. Pain on elder boards, pain amongst leaders, pain amongst congregants. I think one of the most important things we can do as pastors is, you know, I think about people in my church and outside my church largely in two different categories. One of them is, are you a confidant or are you an ally? You know, an ally is someone who you can come alongside and do ministry with them. They’re on your team, you’re going in the same direction, you’re marching in the same way. But they aren’t a confidant because an ally is sharing a mission, they’re not someone who is deeply concerned about you, as a person. They agree with the mission, but they’re not with you as a person. A confidant is someone who not only shares your mission, but deeply values you, your friendship, your time with them, and they want what’s best for you, right? And so they’re going to be the rare rare kind of friends, and fellow pastors, every now and then this might be a leader in ministry who you can share, you know, kind of the depths of your heart with. These people are incredibly, incredibly rare in your life as a pastor because everybody wants you to be their ally. But when push comes to shove, they don’t necessarily want to be your confidant, because they’re in it for the mission. And I’m not trying to be mean, but they’re often in it for themselves and their church, and they’re not looking at you as a person. You are a role in their life. The confidant is the person who comes alongside you and loves you and cares for you. And I think the only way we can get through this is by having confidants in our lives. One of the best gifts God has given me is basically since 2020, it’s been very slow. I found several other pastors across the country, who I mean, I text with them pretty much every day, and they keep my sanity levels normal. Because they’re seeing the same things that I’m seeing, they’re talking to me about the same thing that I’m talking about. And I’m able to be very open and honest with them about my life, and about my struggles, and about things that are going on, and we get on the phone, and we talk. Those confidants in my life, they give me so much sanity, they’re a true gift from God. Now I know there’s a lot of pastors listening to this saying, I don’t have confidants. And what I would simply say is, look, we are a people of hope. And so we need to pray. And we need to have prevailing prayer towards God’s Spirit and Jesus. Say, I need you to provide people like this in my life, and then you have to get active about seeking them out. Because it might take years to develop an ally into a confidant. It’s very rare that someone comes along, in fact, it’d be very foolish if someone comes along, to just assume they’re a confidant. You really have to have time and experience with them. So I would say like, stick it out, pray for God to provide, and find those, you know, that one or two people inside your church or just outside your church, who can be a confidant with you. And that will give you some sanity.
Yeah, I love that, Patrick, because, like you said, we’re not alone in this, in ministry. But oftentimes, we operate alone. And when we operate alone, that’s when things can be very challenging. We kind of isolate ourselves. And so we’re not alone in this, and we need to find some community. We need to find a couple other voices, some confidants, as you said, that we can relate to, and engage with, and process through some of these things so that we don’t feel hopeless in these situations.
One thing I might add in here, too, is you have to begin to understand that the landscape of ally-ship and confidant-ship has radically shifted. You know, 10 years ago, the big questions people came to ask me about were like, you know, infant baptism, and predestination, and Calvinism and Arminianism. I kind of pine for those days, because man, that was nice, and it was just talking about theology. It was wonderful. These days, people want to talk to you about cultural issues. And by the way, this fracturing is happening inside of evangelicalism itself. You can now find Arminians and Calvinists who share the same approach to culture and politics, who are feeling more aligned with one another than fellow Calvinists who differ on cultural issues and differ on their cultural outlook. And that’s a real mind shift, especially if you’ve been around the church for a long time and saying, okay, just because we both subscribe to the Westminster Confession of Faith doesn’t mean that we’re going to make great allies and confidants for each other. In fact, you might hate the Westminster Confession of Faith, but because of your cultural orientation, you might make a better ally and confidant for me. I’m in a text chain with I mean, I’m a Presbyterian, we got Presbyterians, Baptists, Anglican like we got the whole mix of people in this thing. It’s like we’re not coming from the exact same backgrounds. But we are oriented that way. There’s a great article on a website called Mere Orthodoxy, you can Google this, Mere Orthodoxy. It’s called The Six Way Fracturing of Evangelicalism. It’s by a guy named Mike Graham, he’s one of my good friends. Go read that article. I’m not kidding. If you haven’t read it, just stop what you’re doing. Go read that article, because it describes how churches are fragmenting and you will find yourself, it’s categorized, you’ll find yourself in there. And once you find yourself, a great way to find good confidants is to find someone else who fits into that same category as you. Say, Okay, I kind of know where I fit now. And I need to go find some other people in my life, in my church, who fit into the same category as me. There’s something you could even take your leaders through, there’s a little quiz at the end that lets people kind of self-assess where they’re at. You go through with your elder board or with your small group leaders or whatever, you know, your leadership structure is. And then you’ll find out okay, who fits in the same category as me. Those might be some people I can get some real momentum with. And it’s not to judge people who are outside your category, but it has helped me, personally, as a ministry leader to tremendously in identifying where people fall in this kind of political spectrum. And it’s not just right and left, I don’t want to explain it all, but go check it out. I think that will help you a lot.
Yeah, I love that. And that sounds incredibly helpful. And we’ll make sure to have a link at PastorServe.org/network in the toolkit for this episode for those of you watching, listening along so that you can click through that and get to that because I want to make that available to you guys. Thank you for that recommendation, Patrick. And what you said there is huge actually, because it has transitioned the church in such a way that you and I, whenever we first got into ministry, like you said, a lot of the conversations were around a theological distinctives, right? And that’s where we found common ground. And now is the cultural perspectives where we’re finding common ground. And I have seen this, I’ve witnessed this in my own ministry, in my own life, where there are people that the way that we’re approaching the culture from, you know, a biblical perspective, and a kingdom centric perspective, we’re finding more alignment, whereas we may have some theological distinctives, right? And in some ways, there’s a bit of beauty in that. And if this is what it takes for us to get to that point, you know, then you know, God knows what he’s doing. But it can be painful in the process, because at the same time, you may have people in your own theological family, your own theological tradition, who now you, as much as you agree on, you know, doctrinal distinctives. You are living and operating in two different realms of life and ministry, which can be jarring, right?
Oh, it can be incredibly jarring. And again, that’s why having these categories, these frameworks, becomes really, really helpful for you. Because now, I mean, I use that framework I just mentioned, when I’m meeting with people, it’s very easy for me to identify where do you fall in this framework, and that helps me feel sane. There’s something about being able to name something that takes away its power and the fear that it can induce. And so once you can name what’s happening in that congregant or that leader, not only are you less anxious, that also means because you’re less anxious, you’re going to be less angry, less reactive, more patient, more gracious. And so again, having a framework for understanding, like you just said, it’s not about the theological distinctives as much anymore. I care about theology by the way, I’m not saying it doesn’t matter. It’s about the cultural distinctives. That’s how we’re defining, you know, how we’re orienting ourselves in churches. So you need to have some categories for those things so that you can walk into conversations prepared and identify what’s happening. The same way you used to be able to 10 years ago, with theology, you’re talking about, like, oh, I can tell like you’re Arminian, or you’re Calvinist, and that’s why we’re having issues here. That category helped you show grace and mercy and patience and not feel anxious. You need cultural categories today.
That’s awesome. I love that. That’s a huge help. Patrick, share with us as we’re kind of winding down this conversation. I would love to hear some stories. Some stories of hope, some practical things that maybe you at your church or other churches are aware of, that have kind of processed through or, you know, I mean, it’s no one’s finished with this. It’s a journey. But have seen some positive development and growth in this idea of truth over tribe. Can you share some of those stories with us?
Yeah, I think that these stories can be found all over the church. We recently really for the last year have been going through different books of the Old Testament that her about exile. So the book of Daniel, the book of Esther, I think we might do the Isaiah 40 to 55. And that’s been really, really helpful for our church to reframe how they think about themselves. The truth over tribe thing, we are exiles living in Babylon, when you start thinking about yourself as an exile in a foreign land, you care far less about having the power, about having the voice, about being the most important person in the room. No, you’re like Daniel, Meshach, you know, you’re this whole crew of people who don’t have a lot of power, who don’t have a lot of voice. But you can use what influence you do have to bring the goodness of God’s Kingdom to bear in your little Babylon. And as we’ve done this, we have just seen this take light in our church, where people, wherever they’re at in their businesses and their public service, they’re starting to say, Okay, I don’t have to be in charge. I don’t have to take the power. Everything doesn’t have to fit with how I see the world, right? People are gonna disagree with me on issues, that’s okay. But I can be an influence for good, right? I can love my neighbor, I can show them mercy and kindness. And we say this all over the place. I mean, I think about you know, for example, we have a guy in our church who was a part of our local school board or guy who ran for state office. This is a great story. He ran for state office, and he was probably going to lose the primary because this is a red state so you win or lose in the primaries. He was being, you know, the guys going against him was just he had fantastic resources, much more well known than he was. And so it was assumed he was gonna lose. And all of his political advisors started telling him, hey, you need to start running some negative political ads about your opponent, because he’s got all these crazy skeletons in his closet. And if we just let people know about it, there’s no way no one’s going to vote for him. And my friend before that had happened, because he walked in the way of Jesus. And because he saw himself as an exile in Babylon, he said, I’m going to run a positive-only campaign. Now that sounds like a losing strategy, according to the world. But he stuck to his guns, and his political advisors are all angry at him because they’re all going to be out of a job in the long term because he’s not going to win because he won’t be negative. Well, you want to know what happened. He won. He broke, no polls predicted that he was going to win, no one expected him to win. He won running a positive-only campaign. Now my point is not that if you follow the way of Jesus, you know, you’re gonna get what you want, you’re gonna win the election, everything’s gonna go great. That’s not how the story always goes. But it is a positive story that shows that when you walk, even if he had lost, he would have walked away from that race with his conscience. He would have walked away from that race with a deeper character and a deeper trust of God. That’s what he told me goes in the midst of it, I thought it was going to lose. And all it did was throw me into Jesus’s arms, so I can hope and cling to Him more and more and more and more. And so when I hear stories like that, I mean, that’s a political story. We kind of talked about politics, but this happens across the board, in businesses, in schools, wherever your people are at. So if you can get people to start thinking about truth over tribe, being exiles living in Babylon, these are frameworks that can help them start living more faithfully, less partisanly in their day-to-day lives.
Yeah, that’s great. That’s great, Patrick. Real quickly, are there some practical steps that a pastor could do? If they’re watching along and listening along, they’re saying, Hey, this is what I’m living, this is, you know, this is water to my parched soul right now, because I feel stuck in this, but I want to help move people. What would you say are some steps that they can take? Very practical steps in ministry as a pastor to help shift some of the culture, even within their own congregation, to move away from some of this tribalism?
Yeah, I can give a few practical ideas. One was one I just mentioned, preach through the book of Daniel, and the book of Esther. You will be shocked how changing your congregation’s way of how they think about themselves, and their political context, does a lot. I mean, the Bible does what the Bible does, it changes people’s hearts and minds. So that’s one idea. Another idea, you know, I talked to lots of churches that have men’s groups in particular, it’s been interestingly, men’s groups, in particular, reading through our book Truth Over Tribe. We didn’t really anticipate that, we just had to have people reach out to saying, hey, are men’s groups going through this and we’re loving it, and people are becoming less partisan over time. And so I hate doing a book plug. That’s not my point. We don’t keep any of the money from our books, we actually give it all away. So there’s nothing financially, it’s very sincere. I’ve just seen that an effective way, is having a men’s group or small group read through our book, there’s discussion questions at the end of every chapter. And that can be a great way for you to be able to, you know, kind of help your church detribalize. You know, I think beyond those two things, one thing you could do is take your leadership board and you know, use that tool I talked about earlier, have them kind of self-evaluate. But I think if you have an elder board or something like that, it’s important, maybe using that tool to sit down and say, Hey, what kind of church are we going to be? Like, let’s get alignment on this. Are we going to be a church that’s kind of syncretized to the right, and we do all the right talking points, we’re gonna do the same thing you know, on the left, and on the left talking points. Are we going to not talk about politics? Politics are just off the table for our church. Are we talking about some of these? If you can get alignment on your elder board so that everybody saying yes, these are the things we will discuss. These are the things we do wade into, when you wade into those things, now, you’ve got a group of people at your back who said, Hey, we all agreed on this. So we’re all going to bat now we’re all shepherding the people when they come up, and they’ve got issues and problems, and they’re frustrated with what we said, and so getting alignment around this, in my mind is a huge key. And that’s been a gift at our church, we have tremendous alignment on these issues. Now it’s taken time, and it’s taken losing people. So it was not without pain. But now that we have alignment, when we have these big things happen, and they do happen from time to time, I’m never worried is someone on the leadership board going to come at me? You know, are they going to try and come and take my job? I just don’t have that fear, because we’re in alignment with one another.
I love that. Those are some great thoughts. Great examples. Patrick, this has been a phenomenal conversation. And I would echo, I know you didn’t want to do a book plug. But I would echo that, guys if you have the opportunity to pick up this book, Truth Over Tribe. Absolutely incredible stuff. And the reflection questions at the end of each chapter. Patrick, thank you for putting those in there. This is a great resource for the church and the time we find ourselves in. It’s incredibly healthy, Patrick, so thank you for the work that you and Keith did on this and, of course, your podcast as well. I highly recommend you guys, and we’ll have links again to the book, to the podcast, to that article that Patrick mentioned. And Patrick, if people want to connect with you, what’s the best way for them to do that? Because we’ll include that as well.
Probably the easiest way to get in contact with me is either go to our website, choosetruthovertribe.com. And my email address is right there. We love talking with people. Or if you’re on Twitter, PatrickKMiller_, send me a DM. I really do sincerely try to reply to everyone who reaches out to me, especially if you’re in ministry because I have a heart for my fellow pastor. So if there’s anything you want to hear more about, or just discuss and feel some sanity, reach out, I’m here to be your friend.
Awesome, brother, I appreciate it so much. Thank you for making the time to hang out with us and for all the work that you guys are doing in these challenging times for ministers, right, and for pastors. So thank you for the encouragement and the hope that you’re providing.
Thank you so much for having me. And I’m just praying that everybody listening to this podcast and every other podcast you do feel a deep sense of encouragement, and that you’re not alone, that you aren’t crazy. God is with you. You have friends in the foxhole, you just might not know them yet.
Awesome. Appreciate it. God bless you, brother.
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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