Forum: How to Shepherd Your People in Light of the Capitol Riot
Editor’s Note: 9Marks asked several pastors how they intend to pray this Sunday to shepherd their congregation in light of Wednesday’s events at the Capitol.
In light of the recent foolishness seen at America’s Capitol building, here are 3 pastoral reminders I hope to provide my people with in conversation, teaching, and prayer over the next couple of weeks:
- God is still in control. This simple statement is undoubtedly the Christian’s go-to statement during times of turbulence. It may feel like an overused reminder to some, but I want to help my people see that it’s a truth to which we should never grow cold. When earthly America appears to be in shambles, we can rejoice in knowing that our Heavenly Jerusalem is not, and never will be. America’s current state is no surprise to God, therefore it should not be an overwhelming source of worry for us. We should see America’s state and mourn, yet with hope and anticipation of the more perfect dwelling which awaits us.
- Rebelling against the government is not a sin limited to one political party. When a friend asked me if I’d heard that protestors had stormed the Capitol, I immediately assumed it was people on the political left. He went on to tell me it was Trump supporters. What this reminded me of—and something that I will remind my people of—is that sinfulness exists along the entire political spectrum (which is not to say that all political protests are sinful). Christians and churches can helpfully engage politically, but we cannot do politics like the world. We must actively orient ourselves away from godless expressions of power, fear, and false hope.
- America is no utopia. From my observations, it seems that the motivation behind a lot of the rioting and protests has been rooted in a desire for America’s political structure to provide the “best life now.” We too easily put our hopes in the nation instead of in Christ and his people. Yet the United States is not God’s people. The church is. I intend to remind my people that as Christians, our best lives come from the redemption we have in Christ; and therefore—we have the ability to live amidst whatever political leadership the Lord sovereignly appoints—striving with joy to honor the Lord.
We should also remind our people that though America seems to be an object of laughter for many, the church within America can still present itself as an object of grace, a community of love, and a city on a hill. As our country is divided, immoral and rancid with sin, we get to give a presentation of God-given unity, morality, and holiness. Providing this contrast to the world has been God’s desire for His people since the beginning of time, and it should still be our aim today.
Trell Ross, Lead Planter/Pastor of Pioneer Church, Rockville, South Carolina
The events that transpired in front of the US Capitol on Tuesday were shocking and sad. Maybe one of those “I’ll always remember where I was when I watched it on TV” kind of moments. And as those events affect our congregation and our nation we’ll make them a point of pastoral prayer this coming Sunday morning.
Our focus will be less on detailing the events—what happened, who or what ignited the powder keg, who should be held responsible, and so on—and will instead focus more on how the incident impacts our congregation and how we can use it to pray for our country.
For our church, we’ll pray for comfort for the fearful. We’ll pray for healing for the grieved. We’ll pray for unity where we have differing opinions. We’ll pray that we might be peacemakers in a time of unrest and division. We’ll pray for those in our congregation who have roles in government and law enforcement—for courage, protection, wisdom, and justice.
For the nation we’ll pray for wisdom for our leaders who are surely still sorting through the ramifications of the whole ordeal. We’ll pray for a peaceful transfer of power and for our governing authorities to lead us in peace and civility. We’ll pray for comfort and healing for those who lost loved ones.
We’ll pray all of this humbly—with heads bowed and eyes on the cross, reminding ourselves that Jesus is our ultimate hope. He alone cures the riotous and rebellious spirit in all of us. He alone can bring comfort and healing when we feel we’ve been wronged. His throne alone is eternal, his gospel alone worth giving our lives for.
Jason Seville, Assistant Pastor of Del Ray Baptist Church, Alexandria, Virginia
What took place last Wednesday at the Capitol was sad and tragic. This coming Sunday, our church will lament that image-bearers were lost. We will pray for the grieving families to draw near to God and be comforted by God. We will pray for the continued protection and safety of our congressmen and elected officials because God commands us to pray for those in authority regardless of which political party is in office (1 Tim. 2:1–2).
As God’s people, we will pray that we will abhor what is evil and hold fast to what is good (Rom. 12:9). We will also pray that we would live peaceful, quiet, and honorable lives because we do not want to put a stumbling block before non-Christians in our witness (1 Tim. 2:2–5; 1 Thess. 4:12–13). We will pray that Christians demonstrate humility and respect towards all people because we too were once lost and deserving God’s judgment (Tit. 3:2–3).
We will also pray that we would put our hope ultimately in Christ, not in any political official because only he can bring the lasting change we all long for as we pray for His kingdom to come (Ps. 146:3–4; Matt. 6:10). We will pray that God’s will would be done through these difficult and tragic circumstances because we know he is ultimately in control and working all things according to the counsel of his will (Ps. 115:3; Eph. 1:11).
Alex Hong, Senior Pastor of Christian Fellowship Bible Church, West Covina, California
Oh God, we thank you for the resilience of our government—that it has, in your kind providence, been able to withstand even the challenges we’ve seen this past week. We lament the lives lost. We pray for the families & friends in grief. We ask that the forces that gave rise to such deep division and distrust would be exposed. We pray for healing in our land.
We know that we have no right to pray for such. Surely the sins of our nation are as high as the heavens. And yet we pray that you would spare us for further use in your kingdom; preserve our government, in so far as it is useful for you to provide us with the ability to live quietly as your followers.
God, our hope is not in this government. We know the day will come when it will fall. We pray that on that day, you will cause our true allegiance to be shown to be to you, and you alone.
Until such a time, bless America, and cause our constitutional government to be marked by justice and equity, we ask in the name of the Lord our Righteousness, and our King, Jesus Christ, amen.
Mark Dever, Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington, DC