Dr. Joel Hunter is pastor of Northland Church, a congregation of more than 20,000 in the Orlando area. He is also a spiritual adviser to President Obama. You can hear Joel Hunter’s sermons online at northlandchurch.net and learn more about him at pastorjoelhunter.com. We talked with Joel about how American Christians can better engage the culture, what it is like to advise the President, and how grace is sufficient in our weakness.
Carmen LaBerge: You have a long history of civic engagement. For folks who aren’t aware of all of your past and how, really, how the faith became ignited for you during the Civil Rights Movement and, in particular, was triggered by the death of Martin Luther King Jr.
Can you talk to us about how that really led you to the nature of your faith in Christ and really has provided the energy for your ministry along the way?
Joel Hunter: Yeah. When I was in college, I was a part of the Civil Rights Movement. When Dr. King was assassinated, I came to a crisis of faith. That’s when I gave my full life to Christ and devotion to Christ. Part of that giving him my life, was to advocate for those who were not included. The vulnerable populations. That went all the way from being vulnerable in the womb to being vulnerable outside the womb. I’ve always had as a part of my ministry, to make sure to try to include the people that would not normally be included. That’s just been a part of the way I’ve tried to love like Jesus.
Carmen: I wanted to start the conversation there because, I think that we hear a lot of, I’ll just use the word, apocalyptic, language in relationship to the election cycle that we’re in. We hear a lot of very heated, deeply partisan conversation, even among Christians, about the future of our country. I would love for people to hear you talk about where hope is really found and that it really … It’s important who wins the White House, but no matter who wins the White House, where are Christians supposed to be finding their hope?
Joel: Christ is our hope. I keep telling my congregation, God is still going to be God no matter who’s in the White House. He’s still going to be in control, none of this is a surprise to him. He is going to be working his will through his church, through his people and if one person wins, it’s going to go one direction, if another person wins, it’s going to go the other direction, but the point is that, God is going to work his will no matter who wins this election.
I know people like to exaggerate. There’s a certain level of us that never gets out of middle school, where we kind of like to be scared and so, we kind of spook each other out and all that kind of stuff. The point is that, our system is one of checks and balances. So, no matter who wins the White House, they’re not going to have the kind of power everybody gives them credit for. It’s up to us to make our communities better and different and the real power lies with the people and that’s what we have to realize.
Carmen: Joel, if you could wave … You wouldn’t wave a wand, but if you could assert your personal will over the people, what are the issues, let’s just grab three. What are the three issues that you would really, very much like to see Christians more seriously engaging in our culture today?
Joel: The first one is, I’d urge everybody to be a bridge builder instead of a divider. Satan has only ever had one strategy and that’s division and, ultimately, trying to get us to self-isolate, whether it be our group or ourselves. That’s his direction. That’s been his direction since the Garden. God, on the other hand, has given us the minister of reconciliation …