Organization hopes to become a movement in NC
By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
ALBEMARLE — “My friends, if our nation is to even survive, we must rise not just to a new vision but to a true vision of faith and freedom where God is sovereign once again,” the Rev. Mark Creech challenged pastors Tuesday at the Stanly Baptist Association in Albemarle.
Jason Phibbs, organizer of the grassroots initiative Vote For Truth NC, wants to see Christians take that vision into the voting booth on Nov. 6.
A self-described Christian conservative devoted to loving his family, saving the nation and sharing the Gospel, Phibbs said his work as county coordinator for Vote For Marriage NC revealed to him that the church is “the most powerful political organization in the state not leveraging their influence.”
When he found out that in North Carolina, where President Obama won the 2008 election by just 14,000 votes, there are some 281,000 unregistered Christians, he knew something must be done.
“This doesn’t even count the Christians that were registered and didn’t vote or those that were not informed enough to vote their values,” he said. “So, knowing how important this election is, our mission is to inspire and equip the local church to speak biblical truth into the political process and encourage Christians to vote their biblical values.”
Phibbs said the three-step plan — getting Christians registered; getting them informed on the issues and where candidates stand on life, marriage and religious liberty; and getting them to the polls — will require pastors to use their pulpit for the purpose God gave it to them: “To live out the Gospel in everyday life, including at the polling places.”
That’s one reason he called on the CAL’s Dr. Creech to address nearly three dozen pastors and lay leaders from Stanly, Anson and Montgomery counties at Tuesday’s gathering.
“I knew he would be able to speak to both the issues at stake and why the church must get involved,” he said. “He touched on some important issues facing our nation, communicated the urgency of this election and challenged the pastors to take action.”
With his message titled “An Artificial Wall of Separation,” Dr. Creech said today’s government is telling Christians “Worship God if you wish — just keep your religion out of public policy. You can hold to your religious tenants that teach life is sacred, but you’ll still have to pay for abortions. You can follow your own beliefs about sexual immorality, but you’ll still have to foot the bill to protect or prevent others from having to be responsible for their own sex lives. Your obedience to God is secondary, because it is the state that grants you your rights instead of the state being required to protect them.”
“I tell you this is an unprecedented attack on the individual conscience and the fundamental God-given right of someone to practice their religion,” he added, demanding, “Where are the voices of pastors who should be outraged? Why is there such a craven silence?”
Phibbs said unfortunately some pastors are unsure of what they can legally say from the pulpit.
“It is critical that both pastors and their congregations know that speaking their biblical values in the political process is not only their constitutional right but their biblical responsibility,” he said, which is why Tuesday’s event included a review of legal guidelines as they pertain to pastors and churches.
Phibbs said participants reviewed a 19-point Yes/No chart of political activities as a quick-hit resource so they could see at a glance what their church can do and what they can do individually as pastors so as not to violate any laws. They were further directed to a more thorough ADF (Alliance Defending Freedom) discussion of the issue.
“We had a strong, favorable response from pastors,” said Hal Bilbo, director of missions for the association. “Since Stanly Baptists represent the largest number of churches in the area, we often are used to create a forum for addressing community needs, or to rally evangelical churches to respond to cultural issues.”
Phibbs made it clear that his goal is not to start a political action committee, nor is it to persuade pastors to endorse candidates.
“A much more powerful message is to preach the truth of the Gospel and then urge the congregation to compare the candidate with those values,” he said. “I don’t trust myself or others to say things in such a way to change hearts, but I do trust the Holy Spirit of God to lead people to make decisions based on God’s word.”
Having run for N.C. Senate in 2010, Phibbs said he faced head-on the difficulty of motivating voters, some of whom don’t believe the ballot they cast will make a difference and others who hide behind a range of excuses to conceal what amounts to spiritual laziness.
“It is work to find out what is going on in your culture and then more work to go to God’s word and see what it teaches on an issue. And many people don’t know their Bibles, so that makes it more difficult,” he said. “Plus, one of Satan’s most successful devices against the church is getting us busy doing stuff, a lot of which has no eternal significance.”
It’s this uphill battle to get voters’ attention and equip them that motivated Phibbs and his wife, Amy, to begin the Vote For Truth initiative to put a number of resources together in one place. When the www.votefortruthnc.com Web site becomes available later this month, it will include links to voter registration kits, further guidelines for pastors and churches as well as links to information about where candidates stand on the issues. Without roaming all over the Web, potential voters will be able to print out a voter registration application, check out traditional Christian values as presented in the Manhattan Declaration, study the candidates to see how they measure up to biblical standards and get the tools they need to be informed before heading to vote in November.
Bilbo said he hopes the movement will bring a new awareness that the church is “engaged in conversation to clarify social values.”
“Our aim is not to enforce status quo or ‘tradition’ but to rediscover biblical values and live them out in the world,” he added.
Phibbs said he knows he can’t reach all 281,000 unregistered Christians in the Tar Heel state, but feels compelled to do what he can to reach the estimated 3,400 or so in Stanly County.
He began with empowering church leaders this week, urging them to sign up for the Watchmen on the Wall Pastors’ Briefing set for Thursday at First Baptist Church in Charlotte, to schedule voter registration efforts for September and to plan sermons that focus on critical issues and the importance of voting. He also asked them to get their congregations involved in yard sign distribution, voter registration and giving rides to the polls.
“Signs resonate in a rural community for whatever reason,” Phibbs said, referencing the success of the Vote For Marriage campaign. He said people who might not respond to an out-of-town organization will often take an interest when a friend, neighbor or someone else in their own community brings an issue to their attention.
“My thought is ‘let’s just see what we can do in Stanly County,'” he said. “I can’t guarantee that there will be someone in every county of the state that wants to join this effort, but if God wants this to spread He will raise people up.”
That said, Phibbs is open to speaking to groups outside of Stanly County to help them get involved.
“They will just have to cover the costs of adding their specific county candidate information to our site and we can send them the logo so they can purchase as many yard signs as they would like through the vendor of their choosing,” he said. “This is purely grassroots. I spoke with both the state board of elections and the federal elections commission and individuals do not have to register as a PAC to campaign for ideals as long as we do not advocate a particular candidate or party. It’s just people exercising their free speech and spending their own after-tax dollars.”
Dr. Creech urged pastors and lay members to tap into the Vote for Truth NC resources and get the initiative going in their churches.
“Religion has been placed at arm’s length from the government,” he warned. “But I genuinely believe that if our nation is to be restored to its former greatness, it is the church that must lead the way.”
“We are responsible to sound the alarm, warning our church members and all who will listen of the peril that our community and our country will suffer if we disregard God and discourage good,” he said, adding his hope that the Vote for Truth initiative will “link churches and Christians together with a single voice to herald truth, freedom and personal responsibility.”
The CAL will notify supporters as soon as the www.votefortruthnc.com site is up and running. Meanwhile, to find out more, contact Jason Phibbs at firstname.lastname@example.org or via phone at 704-425-5214.