On Sunday June 2, 2019 President Donald Trump showed up at McLean Bible for prayer. David Platt prayed over him. This post looks at the issue of the President being prayed for and contrasts what Franklin Graham advocated for, vs. what David Platt actually did.
“The Church is not a gallery for the better exhibition of eminent Christians, but a school for the education of imperfect ones.“
Henry Ward Beecher
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. 5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus,
1 Timothy 2:1-6 NIV
David Platt at McLean Bible
The other day two things happened that stunned me. People were Googling Donald Trump and McLean Bible and they found this blog, and I got a few messages from people about how they saw the United States President at McLean Bible. Before we proceed into discussing this situation let me report on one aspect that will help clarify what took place.
The Absence of the Neo-Calvinists From Franklin Graham’s Prayer List
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association released a statement of faith on May 26, 2019 ceiling for people to pray for President Trump. You can read it here. When you review that list, what is missing from it? Whose names are absent? After all you see James Dobson, many televangelists, and many traditional culture war evangelicals. Who was not listed? Well you didn’t see individuals like John Piper, Mark Dever, David Platt, Matt Chandler, Kevin DeYoung, etc.. They were missing..why is that? Well many Neo-Calvinists like to divorce faith from politics. I look at the issue more in, “What The Wondering Eagle Appreciates and Respects About Neo-Calvinism.” Many in the reformed camp would be critical of Franklin Graham for how he marries faith and politics.
What Happened at McLean Bible on Sunday June 2, 2019
On Sunday June 2, The President was golfing out in Sterling, Virginia. He decided that he wanted to be prayed for and allegedly ran into a problem. Most church services are over by noon. McLean Bible has a late service that starts at 1:00 p.m. So Donald Trump decided to swing by and showed up at 2:25 p.m.. At McLean Bible David Platt wrapped up his sermon earlier for communion at the mega church. He was only given a matter of minutes from what I have heard. When he arrived David Platt prayed over him for a couple of minutes. David Platt used 1 Timothy 2 to pray for President Trump. The President was silent, didn’t comment or speak up during the situation. After the situation David Platt later issued a statement through McLean Bible clarifying what happened and stating that he was not trying to engage in politics. That statement is below.
Dear MBC Family,
Sometimes we find ourselves in situations that we didn’t see coming, and we’re faced with a decision in a moment when we don’t have the liberty of deliberation, so we do our best to glorify God. Today, I found myself in one of those situations.
At the end of my sermon at the 1:00 worship gathering, I stepped to the side for what I thought would be a couple of moments in quiet reflection as we prepared to take the Lord’s Supper. But I was immediately called backstage and told that the President of the United States was on his way to the church, would be there in a matter of minutes, and would like for us to pray for him. I immediately thought about my longing to guard the integrity of the gospel in our church. As I said in the sermon today, Christ alone unites us. I love that we have over 100 nations represented in our church family, including all kinds of people with varied personal histories and political opinions from varied socioeconomic situations. It’s clear in our church that the only reason we’re together is because we have the same King we adore, worship, fear, and follow with supreme love and absolute loyalty, and His name is Jesus.
That’s why, as soon as I heard this request backstage, the passage from God’s Word that came to my mind was 1 Timothy 2:1-6:
“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.”
Based on this text, I know that it is good, and pleasing in the sight of God, to pray for the president. So in that moment, I decided to take this unique opportunity for us as a church to pray over him together. My aim was in no way to endorse the president, his policies, or his party, but to obey God’s command to pray for our president and other leaders to govern in the way this passage portrays.
I went back out to lead the Lord’s Supper and then walked off stage, where the president was soon to arrive. In that brief moment, I prayed specifically for an opportunity to speak the gospel to him, and for faithfulness to pray the gospel over him.
While I won’t go into the details of our conversation backstage, one of our other pastors and I spoke the gospel in a way that I pray was clear, forthright, and compassionate. Then I walked back out on stage, read 1 Timothy 2:1-6, and sought to pray the Word of God over the president, other leaders, and our country. (If you would like to see the full context of my comments and prayer, I have included the video below.) After I prayed, the president walked off stage without comment, and we closed our gathering by celebrating heroes among us, a couple who has spent the last 48 years spreading the gospel in remote places where it had never gone before they came. We then recited the Great Commission as we always do, sending one another out into the city for the glory of our King.
I wanted to share all of this with you in part because I know that some within our church, for a variety of valid reasons, are hurt that I made this decision. This weighs heavy on my heart. I love every member of this church, and I only want to lead us with God’s Word in a way that transcends political party and position, heals the hurts of racial division and injustice, and honors every man and woman made in the image of God. So while I am thankful that we had an opportunity to obey 1 Timothy 2 in a unique way today, I don’t want to purposely ever do anything that undermines the unity we have in Christ.
In the end, would you pray with me for gospel seed that was sown today to bear fruit in the president’s heart? Would you also pray with me that God will help us to guard the gospel in every way as we spread the gospel everywhere? And finally, I’m guessing that all of us will face other decisions this week where we don’t have time to deliberate on what to do. I’m praying now for grace and wisdom for all of us to do exactly what we talked about in the Word today: aim for God’s glory, align with God’s purpose, and yield to God’s sovereignty.
I love you, church.
If you would like to read more I am gong to link s few articles of differing perspective. I left out some articles because I think some journalistic sources are confusing David Platt’s clarification with an apology. I think David Platt was trying to explain his point of view.
- CNN, “Trump’s visit to a Virginia church after mass shooting left some congregants ‘hurt.’ The pastor says he didn’t mean to ‘endorse’ the President.”
- Washington Post, “‘My aim was in no way to endorse the president’: Pastor explains why he prayed for Trump.”
- The Atlantic, “On Praying for the President.”
- ABC News, “Pastor expresses sympathy for church members ‘hurt’ by surprise Trump visit.”
- Washington Times, “Trump visits Virginia church to pray for victims of mass shooting.”
- USA Today, “Virginia pastor explains sudden decision to pray for Trump, after some ‘hurt’ by it.”
- Huff Post, “Trump Visits Church On Franklin Graham’s ‘Pray For Donald Trump Day’ With Hat Hair, Golf Shoes.”
- Newsweek, “PASTOR WHO PRAYED FOR TRUMP TELLS ‘HURT’ CONGREGATION MEMBERS: ‘MY AIM WAS IN NO WAY TO ENDORSE THE PRESIDENT, HIS POLICIES, OR HIS PARTY‘”
- John Fea, “Why Did Trump Go to McLean Bible Church?”
- World, “Trump visits Virginia church for prayer.”
The Differences Between Franklin Graham and David Platt, Plus Analysis of the Situation
I am going to ask you to watch both segments from David Platt and Franklin Graham. They are very different in my view and polar opposites in many ways. Franklin marries faith and politics and makes them one topic. He used prayer as a battering ram to attack critics and more. He also politicizes prayer and makes it a political issue especially when he talks about how Trump is the most attacked President in history. When Franklin Graham says to pray for our leaders its only a specific and narrow interpretation. I don’t recall Franklin Graham calling for people to pray for President Barack Obama, and I don’t recall him being as enthusiastic about prayer for President George W Bush. While he supported Bush he didn’t wrap himself around him like he does the current President. David Platt, in contrast took a very different approach. He mentioned that the leader of a nation should be prayed for regularly. He also mentions that there should be prayer for any leader regardless of what party they are a part of. He stress that prayer should not be political as be believes prayer should be more of a uniting force around the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When you compare and contrast the two, David Platt put Franklin Graham to shame. Joe Carter of The Gospel Coalition stated that Platt handled it the right way. You can read his thoughts in, “David Platt Models How to Pray for a President.”
Now McLean Bible has always been a very conservative church. I was involved at McLean for years. You can actually read about my prior involvement there in, “The Wondering Eagle’s History with McLean Bible Church.” But what is McLean Bible’s political influence? This is some of what I know. When Ken Starr was investigating Bill Clinton during the Whitewater and later the Monica Lewinsky situation, its my understanding that Senior Pastor Lon Solomon wrote several notes to Ken Starr encouraging him spiritually. In the past several important Republicans have been involved at McLean Bible or show up there for worship. That included the former Republican Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, from Mississippi. Senator James Inhofe from Oklahoma has also attended. Currently I have heard that Vice President Mike Pence has attended worship there as well.
As to how to look at the situation with Donald Trump showing up this is my take on the incident last Sunday. First of all I say the following in as about a respectful way as I can. I don’t think Donald Trump knew what he was walking into when he attended for a few minutes. Keep in mind that he surrounds himself with many Christian Nationalists such as Paula White, Jerry Falwell Jr and Franklin Graham and like minded individuals. Those individuals play off his narcissism and feed it. In Donald Trumps’ mind he probably assumes that all Christians are like that. When he came to McLean Bible he probably was expecting David Platt to shower him with the same kind of praise that Jerry Falwell Jr or Paula White has done. When Trump noticed that being absent I think he became uncomfortable and left. They really didn’t prat for the victims of the Virginia Beach massacre which also happened a couple of days before all this occurred. Now to be fair to Donald Trump while he may not know the theological differences between Arminianism, Calvinism, Mennonite theology and more, nor do many people who show up in evangelical churches. In this perspective I think Donald Trump would be able to relate to many people in many churches.