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FIRST-PERSON: The election and beyond

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DULUTH, Ga. (BP) – In the course of my day, I have a list of the things that need to get done, divided into areas of urgency. They’re all important, but depending on deadlines and other factors, some get precedence. They’re just too important to ignore.

I have my own system for attending to those tasks that involves writing pads, sticky notes and email flags. There is always room for tweaks to the system, but all in all it works.

Today, the ability to focus borders on becoming a superpower. Distractions come in so many forms that we’ve become accustomed to it. I know this by how strange it feels for me to have a moment standing in line or waiting for my gas tank to fill and I consciously don’t reach for my phone to fill the time.

The next eight weeks promise to be active in our country. And no, it won’t be just because college football is (kind of) back. A presidential election like no other looms. The stakes will be the highest they’ve ever been, we’ll hear. Our grandchildren will be learning about its impact in history class. The future of our country depends on voting for X candidate.

I don’t dispute any of those things necessarily. Everyone needs to vote according to how the Lord leads them. Baptist Press has shared articles on both the Democratic and Republican platforms and how they align with the convictions held by Southern Baptists in the Baptist Faith and Message, as well as in resolutions approved by messengers at annual meetings.

But despite this election’s importance, it cannot be allowed to overtake our mandate to share the Gospel and be a light in our communities. It cannot worm its way into dividing congregations. Churches are the most essential – no, crucial – service there is today.

In a Kaiser Family Foundation poll, 53 percent of U.S. adults say their mental health has been negatively impacted due to the coronavirus, up from 32 percent in March. Accumulated stress due to areas such as job loss and isolation has also brought an increase of substance abuse as well as difficulty sleeping and eating. Domestic abuse has increased throughout the world. Young adults and teenagers are more depressed because of the effects of COVID-19. And for the title of “Most Impossible-to-Please-Everyone Job,” it’s a horse race between pastors and teachers.

It would be naïve to think we won’t continue to talk about this election up to Nov. 3. It’s beginning to feel equally naïve that there will be a clear winner accepted by all on Nov. 4. The debate isn’t going to end there; I seriously doubt it ends in mid-January when someone is inaugurated either for the second time or the first.

But my greatest concern isn’t the election. I’m most worried that the Church can become distracted from its main objective – to share the Gospel. The enemy loves to create division, and politics is a favored tool to accomplish that objective.

We need to craft that power of focus. There are areas in your town or city that need your presence, your witness. Ministries in your church need you to volunteer. It’s time for all of us to get off the bench and on the field. Despite the obstacles the Church faces, nothing will prevail against it (Matthew 16:18).

Yes, there will be debates, heated ones, over the next couple of months. We’ll see the “Can-you-believe-this?” Facebook posts and “It’s-crazy-he-said-that!” video clips.

But that won’t change the needs only the Gospel can fulfill. We can’t lose sight of that. Regardless of the list of things commanding our attention, it’s just too important to ignore.