What’s going on in government these days is inflaming many people’s passions, but for Mike Winther it goes to the heart of a different kind of passion – the God-given one that became his life’s calling.
“Outside of our spiritual condition, there is no field of study or topic of conversation that is more important than the subject of civil government,” says the Pinnacle Forum Partner in California’s Modesto Chapter.
“Government policies determine our economic condition and the degree and extent of our liberty,” he explains. “Many governments attack the church and all governments make life and death decisions. Although Americans have been spared from the greatest abuses of government power, we are not immune to the danger. In many ways, the United States is sliding toward smaller, but still dangerous tyrannies, because our citizens don’t understand the principles of good government.”
And those principles, Mike says, can be found in one and only one place: God’s Word.
“I believe that my commitment to dedicate myself to the cause of biblical principles in the sphere of civil government was, and is, a calling from the Lord,” he explains.
Mike executes on that calling at the Institute for Principle Studies, a Christian think-tank, research and education non-profit he founded and has headed since 2005.
The organization’s mission is clear: “to teach how biblical principles apply to government, economics, and history.”
And its vision is strikingly Pinnacle Forum-like: “to transform society by encouraging the institutions of family government, church government, and civil government to carry out their God-ordained roles.”
While God designed governance in those three areas – family, church and civil – Mike’s primary focus is on the last of those three, and the related areas of economics and history. It’s a focus, he says, that dates back to his childhood.
“I have a long-standing interest in history and government,” he explains. “My parents were interested in these subjects and cultivated this interest in me. In junior high, I was reading excerpts of writings from the colonial era. By high school, I was craving deeper political and economic thought.”
And he recalls the event that changed his life.
“I remember my parents taking me to a lecture by a woman who had escaped from a communist bloc nation. She described in vivid detail some of the ways that the Marxist government tortured those who refused to accept state doctrine. Some of her accounts too gruesome and gory to retell. I was only about 13 or 14 years old at the time, but these accounts had a powerful effect on me.
“At that time, I resolved to do whatever I could to limit the illegitimate power of oppressive governments. This was a powerful milestone that has shaped nearly every aspect of my personal, academic and professional life for the last 45 years.”
Mike worked as a professional campaign consultant, and then headed a local non-profit serving the handicapped for nearly 20 years before launching the Institute for Principle Studies as “one expression of the commitment that I made 45 years ago.”
“Although I have studied and taught government in a variety of ways all of my adult life, I believe that (the Institute) is the most powerful vehicle for the development and propagation of a Biblical worldview of government and economics,” he says.
“We have a framework in which to study, research, teach and preach the principles that make societies free and prosperous.”
Mike co-developed a curriculum covering the biblical foundations of government and economics, and is a frequent speaker and teacher at churches, conferences and conventions across the country.
And, teaching young people is especially satisfying, he says. “When high school and college students experience those ‘light bulb moments’ when they see the power of a biblical concept properly applied to modern issues, I get an emotional rush.”
That said, executing on his passion and calling is not without its frustrations.
“We struggle to convince Christians that the study of government and economics are Christian pursuits,” he says in explaining one of his greatest challenges. “Half of modern Christians don’t want anything to do with civil government or the economics of public policy and many others don’t think that scripture has much to say about these areas And (the rest) are too busy to care. For much of the modern church, there is little desire to be equipped in these areas.”
Mike also notes that while some ministries exist to encourage Christians to engage in public affairs, the Institute aims to help better equip them for that.
“All too often, Christians feel the call to be involved in public policy and begin their work without adequate preparation,” he explains. “Instead, our focus is on understanding the proper, biblical role of government—and then to teach these principles. We are trying to keep the horse in front of the cart – to have knowledge before action.”
That goal of educating and equipping people to engage and execute on their calling made Mike a natural fit for Pinnacle Forum and its Four “E” Strategy.
“It is far too easy to become comfortable with two or three of these ‘E’s, but we need to be prompted to do them all. That is the heart of Pinnacle Forum,” he says, adding, “I believe that the order of these four ‘E’s is no accident. There is a logical progression in these steps—each one becoming slightly more difficult. Many Christians encourage; some equip; but most stop short of engaging and executing.”
Like many others, Mike sees great value in Pinnacle Forum.
“First, it is a small, intimate source of instruction and accountability,” he says. “Christians need several different kinds of instructional communities. We need to be part of an organized church, we need personal devotion time, we need family time with the Lord, and we need at least one Christian peer group environment. For many of us, Pinnacle Forum is a powerful, intimate peer group environment to help us in our Christian walk. This is the personal benefit of Pinnacle Forum.
“Second,” he continues, “Scripture teaches us to be world-changers. We are to work; to communicate the salvation message; to alleviate suffering; to promote justice and righteousness; and to shine a light on evil. In short, we are to disciple all nations about all that our God teaches us. Pinnacle Forum can be an avenue to help us fulfill this great command. Our Forum can motivate us to such good works and it can provide us with networking opportunities for these works.”
And, in the spirit of the first “E,” he offers some words of encouragement for Pinnacle Forum peers across the country.
“Don’t be afraid to invest time and energy into your small group,” he advises. “We can think of dozens of reasons not to be involved; we are all too busy! But what could be more important than our personal growth and the opportunity to support and network with others who claim the name of Christ? Are we too busy to disciple the nations—and ourselves? In my daily battle between the urgent and the important, I believe that my Pinnacle Forum participation is one of the important things.”
For more information, visit the Institute’s website at www.principlestudies.org.