Christians care for others. It drives us to take action to meet the needs of those in our local communities and beyond. It also defines the way evangelicals vote, according to findings from Thinking faithfully about politics, our recent report. But if we want to care for our neighbours well, we need to go beyond voting in elections and deepen our engagement with politics.

When it comes to caring for others through social action, the church excels. Foodbanks, parent and toddler groups, lunch clubs for the elderly, youth clubs, warm welcome spaces and homeless shelters are all examples of the many ways that churches are meeting the immediate social and economic needs of their communities. Care for others is often what Christians are known for. 

However, in addition to social action, there is a way to care for others that is far less spoken about within our churches. That is, the need to get to the root of the issues that people are facing, and to positively influence decisions that are being made which contribute to these issues. In other words, the church needs to engage with politics.


Care for others defines the way that evangelicals vote

Our recent survey revealed that a high percentage of evangelicals engage with politics through voting in elections (93% of respondents said they are certain or likely to turn up to vote in the next general election). 

Even more encouragingly, we found that evangelicals’ voting behaviours are defined by their care for others – 58% said that one of the top factors determining the way they vote is which party they believe will best help others who are most in need. Only 11% said they vote for the party that will most help themselves and their family.

The way in which evangelicals are prioritising others’ needs before their own as they cast their vote, is a practical display of the type of humility set out in Philippians 2:3 – 4, where Christ instruct His followers to: Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others”. 

Care for others should drive us to engage with politics beyond voting in elections

It is greatly encouraging that Christians are considering others when casting their votes. However, if turning up to vote is all that Christians are doing to influence politics for the good of others, then we are not doing enough. 

Caring for others should include thinking faithfully about politics. To think faithfully about politics is to ask ourselves the question: how can I follow Jesus’ example of loving my neighbour through engaging with the political system?’.

To follow Jesus means to follow Him into the spaces He was in – speaking truth to power. Jesus would turn up and engage with the pharisees and tax collectors, the religious and political leaders. He would call on them to prioritise meeting people’s needs over strict laws (seen in various parts of the gospels when He challenged the hypocrisy of leaders by healing on the Sabbath) and He would urge them not to store up wealth but to use it to serve others (see His interaction with Zacchaeus in Luke 19).

Many of us are cynical about what good can really come from politics. The process of seeing change through political engagement can often be a much slower one than creating change through social action. However, the long-term way to reduce the number of people facing social issues (such as poverty, unemployment, poor education and lack of access to high-quality healthcare) is to raise our voices and call on change to policy. 

What does engaging with politics beyond elections look like?

Social action is a compassionate way of meeting immediate needs and it’s vitally important. We should not use political engagement as an excuse to stop meeting people’s practical needs. But neither should our practical response to others’ needs stop us from addressing the root of the issue. That’s why there’s a need for both social action and political engagement. Getting involved in politics may not feel comfortable to everyone, but reframing it from being political’ to seeking the good of others through engaging with the political system’ may be less intimidating. 

Our research tells us that evangelicals are already engaging in politics in a wide variety of ways, more so than the general public of the UK. We found that in the 12 months before they took part in our survey, 72% of respondents had created or signed a petition, 56% had contacted an elected representative and 43% had boycotted certain products for political, ethical or environmental reasons. Other ways respondents had engaged were by taking part in a public consultation, contacting the media, or campaigning for/​joining a political party or campaign group. 

There is great variety in how evangelicals are using their voices to speak up for and show care towards those most in need in our society. For some, engaging faithfully in politics might mean becoming an active member of a political party or attending marches or rallies, for other’s it will simply mean signing petitions and contacting local representatives (take a look at our Connect resource to help you do this) – all of this, if done with grace and prayerfulness, can have real kingdom value. 

If you’re not already, maybe you now feel inspired to show care for others in one of these ways too.

Thinking faithfully about politics

Thinking faithfully about politics

A snapshot of how evangelicals think and act as they engage in politics Find out more
Connect with your elected representatives

Connect with your elected representatives

A resource to help you begin to build relationships with your public representatives and encourage you to pray for and support them as they represent you in your nation Find out more