Lake Wisconsin Evangelical Free in Lodi, Wisconsin has stated that politics will be avoided in the church for the purposes of unity and creating an environment that is welcoming. This is a deeply encouraging policy in Scott Larson’s church and has been this way for an extended period of time. In the evangelical movement which struggles to divorce itself from politics, the actions by this EFCA church could be a model inside the greater EFCA as to why politics must be separate from faith. After all the only way evangelical Christianity can work is if its apolitical.
“Politics has less to do with where you live than where your heart is.”
“I have never regarded politics as the arena of morals. It is the arena of interests.”
“No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money.
Matthew 6:24 NLT
Jerry Falwell Jr. poses with Donald Trump. A question to Falwell shortly after this Tweet got me blocked on Twitter.
Lodi, Wisconsin sits in Columbia County and is north of Madison, which is the closest city. In the last census the population for Lodi is 3,050. Lodi is known to attract Mallard ducks even in winter. In 1948 the police chief’s daughter named the duck, Susie and the name stuck. The tradition grew into a celebration called “Susie the Duck Day.” Agriculture in the area is also important and Lodi celebrates with their agricultural fair which occurs early in July. While there are a few churches nearby let’s look at one Evangelical Free which is known as Lake Wisconsin Evangelical Free Church.
Lake Wisconsin Evangelical Free Overview
Today Lake Wisconsin Evangelical Free is over forty years old, but its roots began in 1971 with a small Bible study in the community. In 1972 it became affiliated with the EFCA and purchased a building in Lodi. In time Lake Wisconsin also helped plant two others EFCA churches in Wisconsin. The first is that of Sauk Praire Evangelical Free in Praire du Sac, which recently changed its name to GraceWay Church. The other church planted is DeForest Evangelical Free in DeForest which is about 25 minutes north of Madison. The Wondering Eagle has already been writing about DeForest Evangelical Free. In the fall of 2017 I wrote a post about what the senior pastor blogged about in regards to a shooting in a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The senior pastor of DeForest exhibits a common problem in evangelicalism. That issue is namely knowing when to speak and when to stay silent. In a situation where several people are shot to death or wounded it is not the best of times to wage the evangelical culture war of abortion. In addition the senior pastor uses the occasion to discuss how gun control would not work and make additional political points. For me the senior pastor of DeForest Evangelical Free helps explain why for some people evangelical Christianity is not a faith system about God, but instead it is a political party. You can read more about DeForest in, “The Shooting at a Planned Parenthood Clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado and the Disturbing Response by DeForest Evangelical Free Senior Pastor Chuck Gaston.”
The building Lake Wisconsin meets in today was built in 1985 after the church purchased the land in 1983. They did an expansion in the summer of 2002. This EFCA church is led by Scott Larson and Daniel Sjogren. Scott is the senior pastor while Daniel is the youth and outreach pastor. Scott, who comes from Western Springs, Illinois, attended college at the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point and then went onto Moody Bible Institute for his Masters. He arrived at Lake Wisconsin in 2007. Scott who has four children is very much into Chicago sports teams. In contrast Daniel began serving at Lake Wisconsin in 2014. It appears he is from the lower Midwest, specifically Nebraska. Daniel attended Missouri Baptist University for undergrad. He then attended Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in the Chicago suburbs where he obtained a masters. As proudly boasted on social media he supports the football program of the University of Nebraska.
Lake Wisconsin’s Statement on Politics
Lake Wisconsin has a webpage on its website that states they will not engage in politics or lean towards one political party. You can see that webpage here, but I have also lifted the statement and have it pasted below.
To truly understand what Jesus teaches exasperates traditional partisanship loyalties. Lake Wisconsin Church exists to make fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ. As we do this, we attract individuals from diverse ethnic, political, and economic backgrounds. Throughout this process, we unapologetically teach and affirm the Scriptures in ways reasonable, Bible-believing Christians cannot deny. As a church, however, we will not identify with a particular political party or endorse legislation which Christians can reasonably disagree.
It is our hope that guests from all political backgrounds would feel welcome at LWEFC, and that as they attend, they would experience a transformation towards Biblical ideals that transcend politics as usual.
There are a number of things to be said about this, so lets analyze this practice by Lake Wisconsin in the next section.
This EFCA Church Understands how Destructive Politics is to Church
Lake Wisconsin leans Neo-Calvinist in its theology. After all you can look at the recommended websites being pushed in December of 2016 newsletter and find John Piper’s Desiring God and The Gospel Coalition being recommended. ef0c3d_7f728ca2c7b14586adf3bdafbd49da7c
Neo-Calvinists are very a-political and don’t believe that politics should belong in the church. While there are a couple of exceptions most feel strongly on this topic. While I remain deeply critical of the Neo-Calvinist movement this is one of the good features of it. You can read more about that in, “What The Wondering Eagle Appreciates and Respects About Neo-Calvinism.” And in this area I think Lake Wisconsin does something that is very healthy and good. This EFCA church realizes how destructive, polarizing and problematic faith can be when its married with politics. As such they don’t go there and stay away from the topic. For me this is deeply refreshing. What stood out for me, and this is another reason why I wanted to write about Lake Wisconsin Evangelical Free is the following. In writing about the EFCA and going from district to district this church stands out in one unique way that is really quite rare. This has been one of the only EFCA churches that I have come across that dedicates a webpage to the issue and boldly states that they are not going to get involved in politics and choose sides.
Shane Claiborne if I remember correctly once stated that politics and Christianity is like mixing ice cream with manure. While younger people understand how hostile and problematic faith and politics can be, many older people do not. Recently in the Washington Post, columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. wrote a column about how politics is driving people away from not just evangelicalism but religion. His column received a lot of attention on Twitter and social media. You can read that post in, “E.J. Dionne Jr. in The Washington Post on Why Young People are Abandoning Religion.” The issue of faith and politics proves to be incredibly damning and creates many problems. You can look at what happened at the recent Southern Baptist Convention meeting which is remembered for becoming a political rally at the end instead of a faith meeting dealing with some abuse issues because Mike Pence spoke to the SBC. You can read more in, “Mike Pence Speaks to the Southern Baptists in Dallas, While Garrett Kell Expresses His Concern, and For Some Southern Baptists Faith is Not About God, but Instead a Political Party.” The damage of mixing faith and politics is severe. After all from evangelicals losing their authority to talk about many issues, to blacks fleeing white churches resulting in segregation quickly increasing and severe harm is being done. You can read more in, “Recommended Reads: From the New York Times to Michael Gerson in the Washington Post, and The Atlantic; USA Today Editorial on Evangelical Christian Leaders Supporting Anything Trump Says.” In early American history Evangelicals used to believe that politics and faith should be separate. Thomas Jefferson honored that belief in his well known letter to the Danbury Baptists in 1802. The separation of church and state is needed and good both for the secular state and also the Christian church. In the end it protects the Christian church. As Philip Yancey has written about all you have to do is look at Europe’s history of what happens with faith and politics/government are mixed. You can read more about Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists in, “Remembering Thomas Jefferson’s Letter to the Danbury Baptists in January of 1802.”
Its the hope of this writer that perhaps Lake Wisconsin can become a role model in the greater EFCA for its neutral policy of politics. As I have said above this is one of the few EFCA churches that I have come across that dedicates itself to specifically stating that politics will be avoided. That is exceptionally encouraging and Scott Larson’s church deserves to be singled out and recognized. It also is important in another way. As Christian nationalism grows in one wing of evangelicalism there needs to be strong push back against a dangerous and toxic movement. Nationalism is very different from patriotism, but with many evangelicals marrying the two together the consequences I fear will lead to problems and history repeating itself in a dark way. Its in this context that I think Lake Wisconsin can be a model for the EFCA about why politics has no role in the church and why it should not be raised. That is it for the day, Lake Wisconsin I look forward to writing about you more in the near future.