Held Hostage

This story is only half-told. I am curious to see how it unfolds. It might be a story the church should pay attention to. We’ll see.

It’s about the Republican Party, whom many Christians already closely follow. They don’t need me to remind them to pay attention.

Besides, I usually don’t. But this story did catch my eye.

It starts with a guy named Whit Ayres, a GOP mainstay who wrote a book last year called 2016 and Beyond. It was both diagnostic and prescriptive–i.e., this is the state of the Republican party, and this is what Republicans must do to survive in the future. Like previous assessments, he concluded that the party needed to diversify and change along with a changing nation.

He codified all of his research into a checklist for the 2016 Republican presidential nominee. If the candidate scores highly enough on each, he/she will win the general election and save the party.

  1.  Is the candidate positive, hopeful and optimistic?
  2. Does the candidate hold, or has he or she recently held, major political office?
  3. Does the candidate offer a specific and persuasive agenda to appeal to the economic anxieties of the middle class?
  4. Does the candidate appeal to Hispanics and other minority voters?
  5. Does the candidate appeal to blue-collar white voters?
  6. Does the candidate appeal to young people?
  7. Can the candidate win critical swing states, especially those where Republicans hold major statewide office?
  8. Can the candidate unite the various factions of the Republican coalition?

Not a Republican? Don’t care if the Republicans survive or not?

No problem. This is where it gets interesting.

Of all the potential Republican nominees, Donald Trump scored the lowest on all of these benchmarks. He is the opposite of what Whit Ayres and the GOP establishment recognized they needed in a candidate if the party was to survive.

So how did he win the nomination?


The Republican primary electorate doesn’t reflect the general election population. The primary voters are nearly all white and older. The general election voters include more women, minorities, and young voters.

So if the Republicans lose, it will be because the party was held hostage by…the party. A party out of touch with the very people who could help them survive.

That’s what I mean by “half-told.” We’ll have to see how this plays out.

But isn’t this a telling metaphor for church?

I love Andy Stanley’s language in Deep & Wide, about creating a church that unchurched people love to attend. When it comes to decision-making, their church prioritizes people who aren’t there yet but might come someday. Doing so creates a future for them. It allows them to be flexible and fluid, responding to a changing culture in ways that make sense.

In essence, they give the people who don’t look like them, believe like them, and aren’t even at their church, a vote in the direction their church is going.

As the church thinks about its survival in the future, it should pay close attention to the outcome of this election. Not because a Republican or Democrat in office will have any affect on the church or God’s kingdom. But because of one important question this election will decide:

Can any organization, churches included, afford to be held hostage by their own people?


Eric and his wife Lindsey have been at Highland Church in Memphis since 2012. You are likely to find them walking the local Greenline with their sons Noble, Foster, and dachshund Tucker. Eric cares deeply about preaching and social justice. He has a BA in Biblical Text and a Master of Divinity from Abilene Christian University. Eric is a board member for HopeWorks, an organization that provides hope and job training to the chronically unemployed and formerly incarcerated in Memphis.

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Author:  Publish Date: August 19, 2016

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The CHARIS website hosts conversations of and about Churches of Christ. In partnership with the ACU Library and the Siburt Institute for Church Ministry at Abilene Christian University (Abilene, TX), the website is supported and led by the Center for Heritage and Renewal in Spirituality (CHARIS) at ACU. The Center’s mission is to renew Christian spirituality through engagement of Christian heritage, at Abilene Christian University and beyond. The views expressed on the CHARIS website are those of the various authors, and do not necessarily represent the views of Abilene Christian University or CHARIS at ACU. Questions or comments about the CHARIS website can be directed to charis @ acu.edu.

2017-18 CHARIS Editorial Board:
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