Over the past few weeks, my daily personal experience in listening to God speak through the Bible has uncovered a great deal about national leadership. Most of my encounter with the Bible over this time has centered-in upon the lives and leadership approaches of two kings—a man named Saul and another one named David who both led the nation of Israel over 3000 years ago.

Of course, I’d be the first to recognize that the political environment they lived in and the one we see in our own culture are two very different worlds. Saul never had to get elected and David never ran a TV campaign ad. Neither of them had to come up with a catchy slogan or pick a vice-king for their administration’s ticket. They didn’t arise out of political parties or ever experience tracking polls. CNN and Fox didn’t exist—so the scrutiny on these leaders was of a whole different sort.

All that being said, these recent biographical studies in Israel’s first two kings have been a profound help to me as a backdrop to what’s going on in our culture today. (Remember the old saying: Fail to learn from history and you’re doomed to repeat it.) For the first time in my lifetime, the political world is touching full force on things beyond legislation, policy, and political platforms. The societal and spiritual ramifications of this year’s election are obviously higher than I can recall. Faith—a once taboo topic in the American cultural dialogue—is now very much at the center of the conversation. The issue of race is one of the driving forces behind the choices Americans face. Gender is a chief point of discussion. Generational issues form debate lines as to what is better—older ways or newer approaches. Even the political parties themselves—while seemingly energized—are at a crossroads since unquestioned party loyalties have almost become a total thing of the past. (This is a good development in my opinion, by the way.) People seem to be making choices less because of a party label and more because of what a candidate or movement represents in belief, conviction, and character. (Insert your own “No Duh, that’s the way it’s supposed to be” reaction to all of this.)

In Saul and David's cases, neither were Republican, Democrat, independent, or Green. Both of them entered their role in national leadership like rock stars. (Sen. Obama wasn’t the first.) Both of them were bold mavericks (Sen. McCain wasn’t the first.) Both of them began their leadership roles at young ages. (Gov. Palin and Sen. Obama weren’t the first.) Both of them were war heroes. (Sen. McCain wasn’t the first.) Both of them were swept into power because of the people’s concern over national defense. (Sen. Biden and Sen. McCain weren’t the first.) Both of them started out quoting the ancient sacred Scriptures as a guiding force to how God held a leader and their nation responsible for living inside His ways. (God's ways pave the pathway to the best versions of our lives and our nation. Both Saul and David were anointed as a savior of sorts to a nation in profound turmoil. (Sound familiar?)

In 3000 years since the two kings, some things haven’t changed. While we are seeing history in the making here in 21st-century America, it’s not new stuff. America is just following the generational trajectory of what happens when cultures make right or wrong choices about what's most important. We feel it currently only because this kind of reality has always existed in human affairs. You see, when things feel not-quite-right in the lives of everyday people just like you and me, we begin looking for a leader to march us out of the morass that will engulf us if we don’t move out soon.

Neighbors, we’re at a cultural crossroads today. Our tenuous dependence upon the resources of those who don’t love us out in the wider world make some of us nervous. Our fears that our planet's ecological sustainability is deteriorating as we speak because of the speed of our culture lead us to a crossroad. Race and gender realities are no more removed from the national soul today than in the intense days of the Civil Rights movement. We just use a different language about it all, today. The involvement of the faith community within the public square is at stake. We are not at a Democrat vs. Republican crossroad. We are at the crossroads of who America is going to become. As a pastor, I don’t say this to scare or for the purpose of hyperbole, but to simply state a truth.

The two different leadership trajectories of Saul and David led their nation to two drastically different outcomes. Saul was a miserable failure--a man who relied upon his own wisdom and strength--and ended up destroying the most sacred values of that people. David--albeit an imperfect man--restored the things that were most sacred to God and the people. And brought that nation and culture into a whole new reality—even adding immeasurably to the moral and cultural beauty and traditions that he had been handed at birth. He made his world better because God was free to shake him up inside of the inner world of his soul.

Just moments before David’s meteoric rise to leadership would begin, the Scriptures explained what the most critical ingredient inside a person is such that GOD IS FREED TO CHANGE THE WORLD THROUGH THEM: “Don’t judge by appearance or height…the Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but THE LORD LOOKS AT THE HEART” (1 Samuel 16:7—nlt).

The heart.

A leader’s heart. A nation’s heart. YOUR heart. And mine.

This year’s election represents something deep and important about our culture—but only because it represents something deep and important about you and me. And that’s not a political reality—it’s a soulful one.

Who are you becoming? Who is your family becoming? What kind of culture is Mokena fashioning in our classrooms, bedrooms, halls of justice, and churches...on park benches, judicial benches, and the athletic benches of our children? Who are we becoming? What are we calling important that really doesn't matter? What are we ignoring that will save us from becoming one more culture among many who litter history books with their slow demise instead of becoming "a city on a hill"? WHO ARE WE BECOMING?

The voting booth in November won’t determine the final answer to these questions—you and I will. God looks at the heart of things—so, then, so should we. Imagine a political party built on the platform of the heart. God's heart. That's where God establishes His party.

More to come on this…



I am coining a new term that will be the root word of a new brand of religion. The new religion has already kicked off, but will be officially launched with our new Web site: http://www.togetherlinessism.com/. We—the founders of this new religion—are choosing to break this news, here, in Mokena's paper—the Messenger. You can say you heard it here first! (I hope without seeing my face that you can pick up on the fact that my tongue is planted firmly in my cheek. There is no new Web site. And while we aren't starting a brand new religion, the tenets of this spirituality are very much in the initial stages of being put into practice.)At the printing of this article, our church—Grace Fellowship Church—and a sister church to us in Mokena—Missio Dei Church—will be three weeks into an experiment. The public part of the experiment will last 7 weeks—but the behind-the-scenes part of it will have lasted even longer. From mid-July through the end of August, Grace and Missio Dei will have spent 7-weeks "doing church together." Our experiment is to test whether or not two churches can work intimately TOGETHER. And, the thrust of my words in this article will be that TOGETHER is a big difference from side-by-side. To illustrate the difference, I'd have you put the palms of your hands firmly together—pressing in, palm-to-palm, with both sets of fingers sticking up parallel to one another. It would take a little bit of strength, but someone could pry your two hands apart if they grabbed your arms and pulled in opposite directions. This is an illustration of side-by-side.Togetherliness is a different story. To illustrate this, put those palms back together, and then slide your fingers down into one another—where the valley of each finger and knuckle cradles its corresponding fingers in the other hand. Together. It would be much harder for these two hands to be yanked apart. In fact, something would probably get broken if force were used to try and break the lock—or what I would term togetherliness.The book of Ephesians talks about this kind of togetherliness: "Speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of His body, the church. He makes the whole body FIT TOGETHER PERFECTLY. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love" (4:15-16—nlt). That phrase in the middle—fit together perfectly—really pops out at me. Even the apostles say that Christianity is just another name for Togetherlinessism.The wind-up on this experiment is that it's not always easy to do things together when it would be easier to do them side-by-side—within a much smaller framework of risk. In other words, there would have been no way we could have inter-locked our fingers and hands if we had not let loose of some of the smaller stuff that we had previously been holding on to too tightly. Like our personal ways of doing stuff. Much like a marriage, both husband and wife covenant to adopt one another's ways. In a marriage, two people blend their ways of life together—endeavoring to keep the best of both.Now, a number of weeks into the experiment, I have to be honest with you. I never realized all of the extra work involved and complexities of blending two churches' personalities, approaches, styles, leaders with turf, liturgies, missions, ministries, people and a whole host of other things. It's turning out to be much more than holding worship gatherings in the same building at the same time. And I am so happy to say—much, much better than I even wished. The way that these two churches' people and ministry leaders have comported themselves and blended together with one another will go down as LEGENDARY in the religious history annals of Togetherlinessism. This experiment has been both a blast and a success—at least from one guy's vantage-point. I would bet my last paycheck that God has been beside Himself with joy as He gathers with us and sees us work this stuff out while we do our best to glorify Him. I think He laughs with us when we see the humor in our own idiosyncrasies and approaches. Sticking our stuff out there has been an exercise in trust and humility. We're not perfect. (Their pastor, Paul Vroom, would tell you the same thing about them.) Sometimes the experiment has forced us to see each others' junk. And that's been the most encouraging and re-assuring part of it all. Christians aren't perfect. Far from it. God's got a long way to go with us. But, by doing life together, we help God in His refining process of turning us into the best versions of His dreams for us.Our 7-week experience has been punctuated by doing a study of the Bible's David. The shepherd. The giant-slayer. The warrior and king. The psalmist and musician. The sinner. The repenter. One of the great stories behind David's greatness was a life-changing, destiny-altering friendship of Togetherlinessism he shared with his best friend—a man named Jonathon. There would have been no David without Jonathon. (Read the scriptural accounts of the poet-king's life and you'll see what I mean.) I wonder if we'll ever fully realize how important it is for churches and Christians to practice our religion of Togetherlinessism—even when it forces us to leave our assumptions, our routines, our normal ways of doing and seeing things, and our self-serving benefits for the larger values of discovering the real and living God and encouraging others to do the same. If we don't model it, who will?


Pastor John Morlan is togetherly with his wife of 10 years, Julie, and three kids—Jack, Cameron, and Eliana. He has been attempting to practice Togetherlinessism at his church—Grace Fellowship—for over 15 years, now. Join him and them in this effort if you believe togetherliness is the heartbeat of God. Check Grace out on the web http://www.gracelife.cc/ --or e-mail him at john@GraceLife.cc.