Nine years ago, when I moved my family from the safe suburbs of Portland, Ore., to Ankara, the capital of Turkey, little did I know what kind of environment we would be entering. Within the first month, three Christian brothers from one of our Foursquare churches were brutally stabbed to death.
As time unfolded, the Middle East region would enter a new time of turmoil with the Arab Spring. It would overturn established monarchies and lay the groundwork for new governments to be established. Out of the chaos of the Arab Spring emerged ISIS and a number of various “mini-wars.”
In Turkey, we would see more than three million Syrian refugees come in a matter of four years. On top of this, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (or PKK), recognized in Turkey as a terrorist organization, would continue to bomb targets in the southwest of the country, killing hundreds yearly.
In July 2016, Turkey experienced its fifth coup, which resulted in a major crackdown against anyone associated with the perceived instigator, Fethullah Gülen. Tens of thousands of people were fired from their jobs.
Within an environment of ever-increasing political turmoil, the church in Turkey struggles not to be overwhelmed by the tornado of negative events that continue to unfold.
As a pastor who has served in this politically charged environment for over nine years, I have found three points of wisdom especially helpful:
- Keep the main thing the main thing.
As pastors, we have the incredible privilege to bring hope, life and true answers to people’s biggest struggles. We preach that Jesus is Lord. This is the bedrock of all that we hold dear. May this great truth not be sidelined by secondary, temporary issues.
- Address certain issues with wisdom.
Some would say that pastors should not touch political issues. But we also don’t want the people of God to be deprived from hearing God’s perspective on current events. They otherwise would be discipled from multiple worldly voices. As pastors, you don’t need to tell people what to think, but you can share God’s heart. Help people seek what God is calling each of them do.
- Don’t trip.
Because it is all too easy to make mistakes in this arena, we have to be extremely careful not to lose spiritual souls due to misspoken words. Sometimes, if we are not sure if something should be said, then we should hold off on saying anything at all.
When the stressful spirit of politics starts to creep near, let us not forget that we are anchored in God’s glorious love, filled with His all-consuming peace and destined for great things in His kingdom.
- That the emerging church in Turkey and throughout the region will not be caught up in politics
- That all those who are ministering in Turkey will gain God’s prophetic perspective on current events
- That our pastors will shape culture from the foundation of love, peace and hope
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