Why I Agreed to Serve on Donald Trump’s Evangelical Council
GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump announced on Tuesday the creation of an executive council of evangelical leaders to advise him on topics of concern to the faith community and all those who understand the foundation essential for freedom. After much prayer, I accepted an invitation to be part of that group. Understandably some people I love and respect have questioned why I made this decision. Please permit me to address their concerns.
First, I want to underscore that I am not endorsing Mr. Trump or any political candidate. I have made it very clear for my entire 55-year ministry: I do not endorse candidates. I endorse and share with everyone the principles of faith and freedom. Any candidate, including many who ran this year, heard me begin my conversation with them with the words, “I do not endorse candidates or political parties. I share biblical truth and principles essential to the freedom our founders and the Constitution provided to the American people.” They knew my counsel always came without an endorsement. I will gladly counsel Hillary Clinton or any other national candidate willing to hear me.
Second, when I have met with Mr. Trump, it wasn’t a meaningless photo opp. There were no pictures and it wasn’t wasted time. I encouraged him, while assuring him of our love for him and his family, and concern for America’s future. But I also spoke bluntly and forcefully about where I’m convinced he needs to make essential changes in his approach and rhetoric while gaining the wisdom that comes from above to become the effective leader necessary to correct our nation’s dangerous course.
Third, I am compelled to do so by many examples in the Bible. Whether it was Joseph counseling Pharaoh, Daniel counseling Nebuchadnezzar, Nathan calling King David to account, Samuel speaking prophetically to King Saul, the Apostle Paul in chains before King Agrippa, or countless other biblical instances. God calls his followers as ambassadors for Christ to engage, at times personally and directly, with secular leaders — including the godly, the wicked and others who may or may not find their way to the heart of their Creator.
Will Trump take to heart and benefit from the counsel that I and other Christian leaders offer him? Or at the end of the day will he be satisfied attempting to use us to try and score points with evangelical voters? Only God knows. But for my part, I am going to faithfully proclaim biblical truth, knowing it is my duty to speak truth in love to him and others at every opportunity.
In April I met privately with Mr. Trump because Dr. Ben Carson had encouraged him to do so. At that time and this week in two meetings on Tuesday in New York City with evangelical leaders, I heard and witnessed what may be a miraculous start in the opportunity to impact someone with the truth of God delivered in love and patience. With as much sensitivity as possible, I have sought to deliver the counsel of Joseph, Daniel, the Old Testament prophets and the lessons of the New Testament with Mr. Trump, which is also the desire of others on the council.
In New York Tuesday, I met first with Mr. Trump and a small group of leaders he refers to as an advisory council. Then we went to meet with nearly 1,000 evangelical leaders. We heard Mr. Trump respond to important issues, including the need to protect religious freedom. I sat there while black, white and Latino pastors shared with him their concerns, including the pressing need for Trump to build bridges and not just walls. I totally agree.
I am personally convinced Mr. Trump has opened the door to hear from God and His Word through Christians and church leaders who love him, his family, and this country and want the best for every American. He says boldly, “I want to make America great again,” to which I responded personally and forcefully to him, “Only God and ‘We the people’ can make America great again!” In no way did he push back, and with all my heart I pray we can have a leader that will point us to that reality.
At the close of that larger gathering, I shared with those attending and prayed. I told these church leaders that I believe Donald Trump is attracted to the compassionate, courageous Jesus he has seen in some Christians. I’m praying he will see Jesus high and lifted up in His body, the church, and that the church will become the shining city set on a hill Jesus referenced — one that “cannot be hidden” — because we have joined together in oneness with the Father and supernatural unity with one another.
Now, don’t mistake unity for sameness. Faithful Christians will continue to differ on many things, including on how we should respond to our political choices this November. But my prayer is that this diversity and these differences will not degenerate into discord and broken relationships. Our next president is for a few short years. Our King and church family is forever.
May we truly become the body of Christ, connected to one another, fulfilling our distinctive roles, submitted totally to the head, Jesus Christ. And in the mean time, I will go on sharing Jesus, His wisdom and the enduring principles of freedom to anyone who will hear me.