Serving as pastor of a large, multi-congregational church can look a lot like being an elected official. Navigating multiple stakeholder groups and many differing opinions inside congregations can be rough stuff.
I feel deep empathy for our elected leaders in Congress as they navigate the contentious issue of immigration. I respect the courage demonstrated by Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake as they exemplify true leadership in attempting to find solutions to this difficult issue. Our House members must show this same courage, and we will stand with them as local Evangelical leaders when they do.
We do not support amnesty nor mass deportations. Instead, we follow Scripture’s lead and believe reconciling a nation of laws with a nation of immigrants showing compassion to the most vulnerable as we do, is achievable. People of good will, leaders of conscience can and will find reasonable solutions if they, in good faith, try to do so. It will, though, take courage and guts, and we pray for our leaders every day to this end.
A broken immigration system breaks God’s heart as it displays injustice and breaks apart families. At Redemption Church, we serve everyone who comes to worship with us in each of our six congregations. No one asks for papers to come hear about a welcoming and compassionate Savior who calls those lacking status, those kept out and deported — His most precious ones.
We don’t engage this issue as partisans or politicos but as pastors who are called to love our neighbor and our neighborhood. We are simply responding to the needs of our congregations. The families being separated by a broken immigration system worship and weep in our churches. If one part of the body suffers, every part suffers with it.
Nearly 50 pastors signed a full-page ad that ran in The Arizona Republic on Father’s Day. We join thousands of Evangelical Christians around the country who are calling and praying for fair and reasonable solutions to this immigration crisis. Our statement of principles does include a call for an accessible path to citizenship for the 11 million along with the border security, protection of taxpayers, future flow concerns and family unity provisions nearly everyone agrees upon.
Along with the newspaper ad, we have recorded a radio ad, held events, met with our members of Congress and most importantly, prayed fervently. We won’t be silent this time and we will do our part to stand and be counted.
It can be assumed that our House members will be attacked for demonstrating courage and leadership as our senators have been. If this were easy, we would have solved it already. But we didn’t become pastors nor did we run for office to do the easy things. “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and of a sound mind.” And so we thank our senators for being two Timothy-type leaders and pray for our House members that they would likewise demonstrate this kind of leadership.
Arizona has received a big black eye for our inability to lead on this immigration issue that impacts us greatly. What a redemption story it would be if Arizonans and our elected officials led the way now in truly solving these problems. Our two senators have gotten us off to a great start. Now our House members have to do the same.
— Tyler Johnson is the lead pastor of the multi-congregational Redemption Church in Gilbert, Phoenix, Mesa, Tempe and Flagstaff.