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Your flock needs a shepherd, especially in an election year

Your flock needs a shepherd, especially in an election year

“Can I make it through November?” Maybe you’ve asked yourself that question recently. The last two elections were hard on your church, and you’re not sure you can white-knuckle your way through another. Maybe you’ve considered speaking up on a Sunday morning, but just thinking about what your inbox will look like on Monday fills you with anxiety. Almost anything you can think to say about the political chaos infecting the American church is likely to upset someone.

Maybe you’ll just stay quiet. Keeping your head down until the election is over might prevent another round of tense conversations and strained relationships in your church. But that would also cede the spiritual formation of your congregation to secular forces. You have their attention for one hour on Sundays; cable news and social media form them for hours and hours every week.

So what do you do? Look to Jesus, because your flock doesn’t need a political philosopher; it needs a shepherd. As the Good Shepherd, Jesus is our example, and in His ministry He demonstrated what it looks like to practice true spiritual formation in the face of deep divisions over political questions.

Historical Setting 

Let’s take a look at the historical setting of Jesus’ ministry. As Nancy French and I write in our new book The After Party: Toward Better Christian Politics (Zondervan, 2024), “Contemporary American politics may be polarized compared to our recent history, but it’s tame compared to politics in first-century Israel. Jesus lived in a society suffering under Roman occupation, which split people along ideological, party, and policy lines. Jews of the first century had different ideas about what to do with the Roman Empire. Some wanted to cooperate with the invaders, while others wanted to oppose them.” Among the first group, those who wanted to cooperate with Rome, were the tax collectors. These were Jews who helped the occupying Roman government profit off the people of Judea, which made them unpopular with groups like the Pharisees, the Siccari, and especially the Zealots.

Turning back to Jesus’ ministry, it’s striking that His inner circle included Matthew, the tax collector, and Simon, the Zealot. Don’t make the mistake of thinking Matthew and Simon had a simple tax policy disagreement. Historians tell us the Zealots resented Roman taxation and even violently targeted the Jewish tax collectors during a revolt instigated by the Zealots when Jesus was a child. Yet Matthew and Simon would stick together and, after Jesus’ ascension, build up the very beginnings of the Christian church with the other disciples. How did Jesus minister to these two bitterly divided men? Nancy and I tell the story in the first chapter of The After Party:

Years of sitting under the teaching of Jesus transformed the mindsets of Matthew the tax collector and Simon the Zealot. Note that this transformation was much more than the superficial “avoid politics at the dinner table” tactic that, at best, works only to help you white-knuckle your way through a Thanksgiving dinner. Jesus did not require Simon and Matthew to check their politics at the door. … Matthew 10 identifies them by their political labels as “Simon the Zealot” and “Matthew the tax collector” and expects later readers to still recognize them by their political labels and differences. A change deeper and more durable than short-term conflict management happened to the disciples. Jesus transformed their political thinking into something new. … Jesus shifted his disciples away from remaining exclusively preoccupied with the existing what of politics to an increasing commitment to the distinctive how of politics. This “how” of politics begins with the spiritual values that Jesus taught, including love, forgiveness, mercy, justice, truth, and two more values The After Party will especially focus on: hope and humility.

This shift from the what of politics to the how of politics is what The After Party is all about. As you pastor your church this election year, remember Jesus’ example and focus on forming your congregation around these values. Many of Jesus’ followers wanted him to provide political results, to lead a revolt against the Romans and reinstall the political Kingdom of Israel. But Jesus offered a much richer spiritual Kingdom. As 2024 rolls on, I encourage you to do the same.



In collaboration with The Porter’s Gate and through the QR code below, The After Party is pleased to give you an early peek into a forthcoming worship album, created to support churches in their discipleship efforts. It’s also a beautiful addition to your personal music collection. May it help you continue to place people over politics and keep Jesus over all.


  1. How can pastors offer a fair critique of political views while also pointing out the ways they may be wrong or dangerous?
  2. How can you, as a pastor, ensure your engagement in politics is built on solid Biblical foundations?
  3. What are the implications when the church does not step in to form our people's spiritual moral imaginations on topics like politics and race?
  4. How can you ensure that the political identity of your congregation is not defined by the options currently on offer from the right and the left, but rather through the cross?
  5. How can you lean into uncomfortable places to help others be formed into the image and way of Jesus this election season?
  6. Our common life in 2024 is complex, to say the least. How can you promote a comprehensive gospel as you address contentious issues through sermons, small groups, spiritual formation opportunities, and other communal efforts?
  7. The media has primed us to view a difference of opinion as a personal attack. The anxiety that results has separated us into “us” and “them”. How can you normalize anxiety as a human reality instead of attempting to moralize or pray it away?
  8. Can you recruit three friends to be your sounding board, your advocates, & your prayer companions as you navigate your church through election season, especially if you sense God calling you to take a stand that may be unpopular within your congregation?


Jesus, we live both as citizens of the Kingdom of God and as citizens of America, a Kingdom of this World. Empower us to engage in civic life with humility and compassion, seeking to serve our community with grace and love.

May we be a people who engage in our common life together while remaining untethered to any political party, partisan movement, or tribal leader.

May we be a people who seek put into practice the words “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10)



Dear Lord,

We come before you today to pray for faith and politics. We pray for the wisdom to understand that our biblical admonition is justice, kindness, humility, love, power, and faith in your power, Lord. We ask for guidance on how to translate these values into our political engagement.

We pray for the strength to act justly, love kindness, and walk humbly before you, Lord. We pray for the courage not to fear but to embrace the power you have given us, a power not of political might, but of love and sound mind.

We pray for those in positions of political power, that they may use their influence for the greater good and not for personal gain. We pray for the wisdom to understand that the ends do not justify the means, and that the way we engage in politics matters as much as the outcome..

We ask for your guidance as we seek to navigate the complexities of politics with grace and humility. Teach us to pray for our enemies and those who oppose us politically, not with malice, but with a sincere desire for their wellbeing and spiritual growth.

Finally, Lord, we pray for unity. Even as we may disagree on political issues, help us to remember that we are all your children, called to love and respect one another. May our political discourse be characterized by civility, respect, and a shared commitment to justice and truth.

In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.


Dear Heavenly Father,

We acknowledge your sovereignty and your power. We thank you for the opportunity to participate in the political process and for the freedoms we enjoy.

We pray for faith in the power of God to guide our political decisions and actions. Help us to act justly, love kindness, and walk humbly before You in all areas of our lives, including politics.

Lord, we ask for wisdom as we engage in politics, not just focusing on the ends, but also considering the means. Help us to not make politics an idol, but to keep You at the center of everything we do.

We pray for our political leaders and those in authority, that they may lead with integrity, justice, and compassion. Teach us to pray for our political opponents, seeing them as fellow human beings and desiring for them to flourish.

May we as Christians be salt and light in the political world, not adding fuel to the fire, but bringing peace, understanding, and love..

In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.


Dear Heavenly Father,

We pray for our leaders today, following the biblical pattern of intercession that you have shown us. We ask that you grant them wisdom, courage, and discernment in their roles. Help them to prioritize truth, justice, and charity in their actions. Remind them that the means by which they achieve their goals should be in line with the ends they seek.

Grant them a spirit of humility, understanding that they may not always have the full truth and that they can learn from those they disagree with. We also pray for their personal lives, that they may grow in love for their enemies and those they disagree with, as we understand the transformative power of words and actions.

In your name we pray, Amen.


Dear God,

We ask that you guide us in embodying the fundamental call of the Gospel, to love our enemies just as our Lord and Savior did. Help us to forgive, endure loss, and remember that your kingdom is not defined by the rules of this world. We thank you for the opportunity to preach the gospel in its sharpest clarity and to call people back to faith in the cross and the resurrection.

We pray for our neighbors, our friends, and our family, regardless of their political beliefs. Teach us to value these relationships above all else and to not let political disagreements overshadow the love we have for each other.

Finally, we pray for our enemies. Help us to see them not just in the roles they play, but as human beings. Guide us to pray for their flourishing, just as we would pray for our own or for others.

In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.


Dear Lord,

We come to you today with a fervent plea for peace. In our world that is filled with discord, violence, and misunderstanding, we pray for your calming presence.

We ask that you guide our hearts and minds towards unity and understanding. Help us to see one another not as enemies, but as brothers and sisters in your love. We pray for those who feel marginalized and unheard, that they may find comfort and justice in your name. We also pray for those in positions of power, that they may exercise their authority with wisdom and compassion.

Lord, as you promise in Psalm 46, we ask you to break the bow, shatter the spear, and burn the shields with fire. Make wars, overseas and in our churches, cease.

We pray for your kingdom of peace to reign in our world, in our communities, and in our hearts.

We ask this in your Holy name. Amen

PRAYER 7 - FOR COMMUNION, by Caleb Campbell, Friend of The After Party and Pastor at Desert Springs Baptist Church in Phoenix, AZ

Lord, we believe that communion is not primarily an individual act, it is something we do together as a diverse group of people from different backgrounds, nationalities, and political commitments, yet unified by Jesus, who welcomes everyone to his table.

In this act, we recognize that we are called to live according to the new covenant of Christ, as citizens of the Kingdom of God and practicing his values on earth, as it is in heaven.

As we prepare our hearts, we recognize that we often fail in this regard.

And so, Lord, we pray and confess that we have not always lived according to your kingdom. We have often propagated injustice and evil. We have often fostered disunity, practicing favoritism and elevating our own concerns and preferences over others. Moreover, we have often failed to show hospitality, love and grace… we have often not lived the fruit of the Spirit. We confess this before you now.

And we repent. We turn from these sins and turn back to you, Jesus, knowing that you will never leave us or forsake us. We ask that your Spirit would continue to shape us into your image.

As we take communion today Lord, we proclaim your finished work on the cross, your death and your resurrection. We cling to you, knowing that you are the one who brings salvation, forgiveness and reconciliation and in you, all things will one day be restored.


PRAYER 8, by Matt Ham, Friend of The After Party and Pastor at Hope Community Church in Charlotte, N.C.

Most Gracious and Merciful Heavenly Father,

Thank you for the gracious privilege of being able to come boldly to your throne of grace to receive mercy and help in our time of need. We know that this privilege was purchased by the broken body and shed blood of our humble Savior and King, Jesus Christ.

As we head into another political season we are in desperate need of your mercy and help. We need your mercy to anchor our hearts more securely in the grace that we’ve received, so that we may live with a restful, non-anxious presence.

You promised not to leave us as orphans, so please send your Holy Spirit to lead, guide, and direct our hearts in love for you and our neighbor.

Forgive us for all the ways we fail to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with you.

Deliver us from evil and lead us not into temptation, we pray.

We pray for your Kingdom to come and for your will to be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.  Thank you for the great promise that regardless of any election results, the gates of hell shall never prevail against your Kingdom. Help us to trust you as the only King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

We ask this in the name of Jesus, our Servant King, and for his glory, Amen. 

PRAYER 9, FOR WHEN WE ARE ANXIOUS, by Caleb Campbell, Friend of The After Party and Pastor at Desert Springs Baptist Church in Phoenix, AZ

Lord Jesus, we live in uncertain times. We feel anxious about losing that which we hold dear. We hear the fear-inducing, rage-inciting words of political actors, pundits and influencers and our hearts grow weary and our faith grows thin. Protect us from falling into the temptation of placing our trust in worldly leaders. When we feel anxiety, remind us that you hold the universe together by the word of your power, and that you are working through the chaos and crisis to bring about our good. May we fix our eyes upon you, knowing that you love us, that you are nearer to use than we are to ourselves, and that you are powerful to fulfill your promises towards us.



  • The Kingdom (Kingdom of God vs. Kingdoms of this world, counterfeit gods, keeping the kingdoms of this world in their proper (subordinate) place, etc.)
  • Grace in the Age of Rage: How do we embody the fruit of the spirit in politically combative times?
  • The Quartet of the Vulnerable (Widow, Poor, Immigrant, Orphan) and how this framing might inform our politics
  • Values Voters (Explore a theme each week, covering both red and blue teams – e.g. life, families, poverty, violence, greed, wage equality, etc.)
  • The Ends & The Means: Unpack the idea that Christians should bring Biblical admonitions of justice, kindness, humility, love, and faith into their political engagement. Discuss how these values should influence both the ends (the issues Christians support) and the means (how they support these issues)
  • Discipling Politics: Outline three possible approaches to politics and the pulpit (stay silent; tell your congregation how to vote; or equipping them with a framework to engage in politics in a way that aligns with their faith but might lead reasonable Christians to different decisions come election day)
  • Teaching about the intersection of faith and politics: This could focus on the idea that Christians often separate politics from their faith, acting differently in political situations than they would in other aspects of life. The sermon could emphasize the need to apply Christian values such as kindness, humility, and justice consistently, including in politics