Amid the contentious, polarized political climate of Washington, D.C., some government leaders have found common ground in an unexpected place: prayer and Bible study.
Members of Congress have opportunities for both, although the scope and depth of the groups vary greatly. Some try to be so inclusive that they become broadly “spiritual” and offer sort of a potpourri theology—what one former member of Congress described as “cotton candy ministry.” Others, though, seek to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ and help leaders to become firmly grounded in God’s Word for making complex policy decisions.
The Congressional Prayer Caucus, chaired by Sen. James Lankford (R.-Okla.) and Rep. Mark Walker (R.-N.C.), wedges a prayer meeting into a 30-minute break between the first and second votes of the week. Members pray for guidance and for their constituents who are facing difficulties, but Lankford told Decision that the caucus focuses mainly on advocating for religious liberty, both across the nation and across agencies.
Once a quarter, late in the evening, some members of Congress and their staffers gather in the House and Senate Chambers to pray for members, families and staff. Then they walk to the Capitol’s statuary hall area to pray for the president, and finally they move to the old Supreme Court building to pray for the Court. It’s a solid hour of intercession, Lankford said.
For members of Congress, operating in a very partisan environment, corporate prayer “implements a right tone and a right spirit,” Walker said. “It reminds us, first and foremost, that God doesn’t call us anywhere that we are exempt from being a light for Christ. It’s good to be able to group together and remember that. Because as soon as you go out in the hallway, you have reporters, you have everything kind of pushing you to a very harsh tone if you’re not careful.”
Among the organizations providing prayer and Bible study opportunities for government leaders, one stands out for its unconditional commitment to in-depth study of the Scriptures and an audacious, worldwide goal: “to deliver the Gospel to every public servant, in every capitol, every year.” Capitol Ministries, founded by Ralph Drollinger, leads weekly Bible studies for both houses of Congress, and another at the White House on Wednesday mornings that is sponsored by several members of President Trump’s Cabinet. Predictably, atheist groups are complaining, but Cabinet members who attend the Bible study find it invaluable.
“I look forward to Wednesday mornings,” said Secretary of Energy Rick Perry. “I know that when I walk out of there, I’m going to be edified in some way that I wasn’t before.” Perry told Decision that studying the Bible with fellow Cabinet members is like an oasis in the noisy, chaotic world of Washington, D.C.
But for Drollinger and Capitol Ministries, Washington, D.C., is just the tip of the iceberg. Over the past two decades, the organization has established ministries in 40 of the 50 state capitols. And through a new initiative called CivicReach, Drollinger aims to establish evangelism and discipleship ministries in as many as possible of the 40,000 incorporated city and county governments across the United States.
He explained: “If we can create outposts for Christ like we have in D.C., not only in all 50 state capitols but in thousands of local city and county governments throughout America, then we will be able to effect change in our nation—not through pressuring lawmakers to vote right, but by winning them to Christ, discipling their hearts and giving them a Christian worldview through a regular, high-protein diet of the Word of God.”
Finally, Drollinger hopes to minister to leaders around the world. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,” Jesus said in Matthew 28:19. So, Capitol Ministries seeks to establish ministries in 200 foreign capitols as well—that’s basically every country and territory in the world. Twenty-four such ministries have already been established.
In-depth, verse-by-verse Bible study is crucial for true discipleship, Drollinger said. People need to know what God’s Word says in order to live in a way that is pleasing to Him.
“There’s nothing more exciting,” he said, “than expositing the Word of God, drilling deep in the Word of God, making custom application for the life of a public servant, and then having them respond with comments like, ‘You know, I never knew that’ or ‘I never saw it that clearly.’”
Drollinger said elected officials have confided in him that, if they had known some Biblical truths earlier in their careers, it would have changed the way they operated or related to people. And at least one current member of a Capitol Ministries Bible study has stopped attending a liberal mainline church and begun attending an evangelical one instead.
“Men and women come to study,” Drollinger said, “and they’re developing taste buds for the Word of God. I feel that once that occurs, behavioral changes will follow.”
That’s the kind of impact Drollinger wants to see among government leaders at all levels. Drollinger, a former college basketball player at UCLA who then played four years with the Athletes in Action sports ministry before a brief stint in the NBA, makes a comparison to collegiate and sports ministries. If the church, he says, would send disciple-makers to the “campuses” of political leaders the way it reaches out to college students and athletes, far more governmental leaders would be mature in Christ and thus could lead the nation more effectively.
Regardless of how the church at large responds to that challenge, Drollinger is committed to helping leaders far and wide to live and legislate by the Word of God.
“We’ll take on the big, difficult issues and try to give exegetical basis,” Drollinger said. “Like, what does the Bible say about immigration? Or what does the Bible say about abortion? Or what does the Bible say about homosexuality? We don’t shy away from the big issues, and we’ll try to exposit them. We won’t ever tell a member how to vote, because we don’t want to be political activists. But we’ll tell them what the Bible says.”
The Scripture quotation is taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.