President Donald Trump went to Church today. After playing a round of golf on Sunday morning, he visited McLean Bible Church in Vienna, Virginia. A spokesman from the White House said that President Trump was there to “visit with the pastor and pray for the victims and community of Virginia Beach.”
David Platt is a Pastor at McLean Bible Church. Platt was formerly the President of the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board and is a Council member of the Gospel Coalition. McLean Bible Church is a nondenominational church located just outside of Washington DC. The Church describes their aim as, “We glorify God by making disciples and multiplying churches among all nations beginning in greater Washington, DC.”
What does a Pastor say when the President of the United States arrives for Church? One could conflate Christian faith with conservative politics and therefore deflate the Gospel and create needless divisions in your church. One could condemn the man and his politics and so initiate another unnecessary division in your church and once again confuse the Gospel. One could use the opportunity to campaign either for or against President Trump.
The Scriptures provide us with examples of how to navigate such scenarios, although I don’t recall a specific example of a national leader visiting a church service. There is Daniel before Nebuchadnezzar, and Paul before Agrippa, Festus, and Felix. As David Platt made mention in his prayer, 1 Timothy 2 gives us instructions as to how to pray for Governing authorities,
“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”
It is clear from Platt’s prayer that he shares this Pauline view of the world.
I’m not privy to the arrangements made prior to the President’s visit (reporting suggests that it was quite an impromptu visit), but it is worth noting that Mr Trump did not speak or share while on the platform; Church is not a political rally. Mr Trump did not pray or read the Bible, as Church’s sometimes feel obliged when dignitaries visit. Pastor Platt and the Elders of McLean Bible Church respectfully guarded their pulpit and they rightfully acknowledged their nation’s leader with them and prayed for him and for the country.
We need more examples like David Platt.
How would we greet our political representatives, should they turn up to our churches next Sunday? What would our reaction be should our Prime Minister, Scott Morrison or our Opposition Leader, Anthony Albanese decide to drop by for church? Or if you live in Victoria, what if our Premier Daniel Andrews wished to attend? Placards or prayer? Posturing or Gospel presentation?
In an era where social outrage and political partisanship are on the rise, and where the culture drives people to the poles of icy extremes, David Platt offers us an example worth heeding.
Take 3 minutes to watch the video and listen to the pastor’s prayer for the President.
Since writing earlier today I have received some pushback. For the most part, Christians have expressed gratefulness for the way in which David Platt prayed, but some are suggesting that it’s all about optics rather than the content of the prayer. I don’t know what motivated the President to turn up that morning (I’m not naive enough to think politics wasn’t at play), but I also believe that the God to whom we pray is more wise and powerful and can outwit even the optics created by the President of the United States. The will of God to whom we pray will outdo the intent of any who wish to spin it for their own short-term political ends.
David Platt has since written this letter to his church. I appreciate his love for the Gospel and for his Church https://www.mcleanbible.org/prayer-president?fbclid=IwAR1nxkslWRJlU7kxOquyYYmyQxsjilfOHIp5nCtKKbG5GZwuAjn2vMfvRlI