Brian Stiller

Podcastor

Author

Global Ambassador @ WEA

Brian Stiller

Podcastor

Author

Global Ambassador @ WEA

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Washington And Ottawa: Pictures In Contrast

June 20, 1998 Articles

I stood in early February in a sea of 4,000 applauding Americans and their guests as the President and first lady entered for the annual Washington Prayer Breakfast. It was during the congressional hearings on the Lewinsky affair and I wondered how those at my table (some were downright hostile to Clinton) would react.

The night before at the Washington Hilton, a few thousand of us had gathered to hear congressional leaders, political operatives and foreign diplomats tell their stories of fatiguing conflicts and spiritual quests. This was not the religious right at prayer! It was a mixture of groups from across the political spectrum, including various church and mission/parachurch leaders.

Then a few days ago I gathered in Ottawa with some 55 for an evening dinner led by those in charge of the Canadian National Prayer Breakfast – prior to the national prayer breakfast – on Parliament Hill. Apart from two Baptist and two United Church ministers I looked in vain for Canadian church leaders lending their support for federal politicians on leadership in Canada.

The next morning, April 22nd some 400 of us climbed the steps to Confederation Room for the Canadian National Prayer Breakfast. As I had done in Washington, here in Ottawa we stood as the head table arrived, with not one national party leader, including the prime minister showing up. The speaker Kim Phuc – the poster child nalphamed in the Viet Nam war – spoke passionately about her childhood, her coming to Christ and her call for reconciliation. Again, I hoped to see national church leaders but saw few.

The snap shots of these two events were in such contrast I was started: and it wasn’t the size, pomp and ceremony neither. I wondered, if we can’t muster a few of our leaders to take the time to affirm the importance of Christian thinking and leadership among federal politicians then when Ottawa – as people and institutions – rejects or worse ignores our views and presence, we have no grounds on which to cry foul.

With a few exceptions, our track record (I speak here primarily of Evangelicals) this century is dismal. Withdrawing from public life for much of this century, we sent a clear message that public leadership was less than important. Finally, we noticed in the late 1970s that without biblical values permeating society we all lose. By this we contributed as much to Canadian secularization as did the radicals fomenting secularist and humanist values. We did that by being sectarian: that is, we ostensibly eliminated any concern for sectors – outside of the institutional church – of society which have enormous culture sway and influence by opting out.

I do not suffer from American envy, and neither am I deluded about the American scene. It is flawed and ladened with all sorts of Kingdom-destroying tendencies. But if we as Canadian Christians are serious about shifting the culture and creating an openness to Christ and the Gospel, we need to show that we believe that Christians involved in national leadership is important. As I sat listening that morning, I asked myself four questions:

Does the ruling of our nation matter to me as a Christian leader?
For those of us in church leadership, what do we tell our people what the rule of Christ and his kingdom is about? Is our only means to influence a protest on some single issue?

How does my work reflective our concern on public forms where I live and minister, including the nation? Does my mayor or representatives of various levels of government know I care about them?

What do I say to members of my congregation or denomination about their possible calling – vocationally or as volunteers – as public leaders/servants?
Unless people of faith are at the core of decision making, our protests, as loud as they may be, will have little effect. For the values of those who make the decisions will in the end rule.

If we fail to be strategic about placing God’s very best in critical places of leadership, will we end up being just another protest group?
This goes beyond political life to areas such as education, medicine, research, media, and the list goes on.

One day – be it even a national prayer breakfast – does not a spiritual movement make or unmake. A lesson we can learn from Christian leaders to the south is from their determination to move forward Christian presence in public life.

Let’s have no more sermons about the deplorable state of secular-driven governments unless we have done our part in preparing, encouraging, and setting loose the “Daniels” of the Kingdom to serve.

Brian C Stiller
1998