Donald Trump Visits McLean Bible. How Do You Pray for a President? Contrasting David Platt vs. Franklin Graham

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.

Your Pastor,

David

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. 

  1. 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.” 
  2. Washington Post, “‘My aim was in no way to endorse the president’: Pastor explains why he prayed for Trump.” 
  3. The Atlantic, “On Praying for the President.” 
  4. ABC News, “Pastor expresses sympathy for church members ‘hurt’ by surprise Trump visit.” 
  5. Washington Times, “Trump visits Virginia church to pray for victims of mass shooting.” 
  6. USA Today, “Virginia pastor explains sudden decision to pray for Trump, after some ‘hurt’ by it.” 
  7. Huff Post, “Trump Visits Church On Franklin Graham’s ‘Pray For Donald Trump Day’ With Hat Hair, Golf Shoes.” 
  8. 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‘”
  9. John Fea, “Why Did Trump Go to McLean Bible Church?” 
  10. 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. 

 

9 thoughts on “Donald Trump Visits McLean Bible. How Do You Pray for a President? Contrasting David Platt vs. Franklin Graham

  1. From what I have been able to see, it seems to me like Platt handled this unexpected situation about as well as it could have been handled. He hospitably and graciously welcomed the President, prayed for him precisely as 1 Timothy 2 tells us to pray for our leaders, and kept the gospel at the forefront. I am a strong critic of many of Trump’s behaviors and words and policies, but if I had been in Platt’s congregation I believe I would have been happy with how the situation was handled.

    Liked by 1 person

    • All reports indicate that Platt handled the surprise situation very well and Trump seemed uncharacteristically quiet.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t think Donald Trump knew what he was walking into when he attended for a few minutes.

    All reports said his demeanor seemed uncharacteristically quiet. Remember, this is a guy whose reputation for decades has been shooting off his mouth (or Twitter finger) and grabbing center stage whenever he could.

    Platt did mention a private conversation with Trump backstage before the public prayer. Though that was private and confidential, I wonder what was said and whether that had something to do with it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My wife and I had been members of the Montgomery County (moCo) campus of McLean Bible church and tithed there for over 2 years. We have been deeply hurt by people who attend the church and you could even say also the pastor. I stopped going there myself because I really sensed something was spiritually wrong but I could not put my finger on it. I rarely noticed people that are filled with the happiness that you would expect from one who knows that God truly loves them. They have very rigid rules that you will never find outside this one church like they only accept one translation of the Bible and criticize you if you don’t use it. My wife and I together were also having personal experiences with the pastor for MoCo. I never ever thought badly of anyone there, I always prayed for them and had close relationships. Yet even with this something was causing people there to be way uncharacteristically closed up and not talk about personal stuff which is very odd for “born from above” Christians. (I can’t speak to if they really were or not, I saw no real proof.) Pastor Mike Kelsey even commented that I seemed very happy and smiled all the time for someone he knew was in severe chronic pain all the time. I really struggled with whether it was right for me to comment here about the church, if I was criticizing and not helping the situation. My reasoning in doing so is that I imagine a new Christian coming to this church and thinking that all Christians are like the members of this church. And I now know for certain that what is lacking at MoCo, I have never seen lacking at any other non-denominational church of the many I have attended starting in the 1970’s and all the way through until only a couple years ago. We started at MoCo because it is within walking distance to our house. I can remember so many times at Church of the Redeemer when the Holy Spirit came upon me during and after church, at times helping those with addiction problems on Friday night, etc. I am not talking about emotion, there is actually far more emotion in David Pratt’s teachings than anything at Church of the Redeemer. I started even to notice that his teachings almost depended too much on emotion and not enough on Biblical fact. Although I never had a critical spirit, I now believe that the Holy Spirit was speaking to me about it.
    Over that past year in small circles at people’s homes, even the pastor, they spoke hatred toward anyone who supports President Trump. You see now why I had to write this comment after David Platt telling us that people who were upset with him praying for the president “had a Valid Reason” for being upset. What I am telling you is both my wife and I experienced this Anti-Trump hatred multiple times. They did not know about our thoughts on this, it really doesn’t matter, it is just unacceptable for any Christian to behave this way. Or have such hatred in their heart that even any discussion is out of the question. What David Platt wrote was a wake up call for us. We are both super forgiving people. You would expect church to be an oasis that is away from this type of nastiness. To better describe what my wife and I tolerated at church meetings is best explained as an elitist attitude of self awarded high morality, they know better than you or I do, we are just wrong and that is that. I spent the longest time trying to understand how a true Bible believing Christian could even be so conflicted. And you do see that things are conflicted within this church. Under the cover of superior morality, the racism and political lines divide this church. If you go here, please start paying attention…notice that the way functions are handled seem to happen in ways that are from odd to illogical. I think they are calling themselves a non-denominational Christian church and are really a liberal southern baptist evangelist church. Heavy on the evangelist, which is fine but not for every Christian. We all have different roles for certain. Going here you might feel inadequate if you don’t sell your home and go to some dangerous place as a missionary. I prefer at least at first if people would concentrate on their own salvation and their own sinful selves because what is at stake for all of us is Eternity. This is way too important for each of us to get even 1% wrong. We have to remind ourselves that we are sinful and we need the grace of God’s Son Jesus every day. When you start looking down upon other people as a Christian for non Biblical reasons then you are really in trouble yourself, and you will be looked down upon if you think the current president is doing a good job for Christianity, Israel, Pro-life, decreasing poverty (3 million off of food stamps) and unemployment (especially among minorities and low income people). It’s not about the man Trump at all, its about the good being done through him. The Bible is filled exclusively with persons picked by God who are seriously flawed. It’s a theme all through the Bible. So that God gets all the credit and glory. The best pastors in America never hold back their stories of how wretched they were until God saved them. So now Christians adorn themselves with a higher morality and harshly judge others? What? Its also about the other party’s anti-God platform which would be upon us all if he wasn’t president. This is all seriously beyond my comprehension as a Christian and it probably is for you also but at this church it is for real whether it makes any good sense or not. Grasping at a way to understand it….we are to “be in the world but not part of the world,” well in this majority progressive liberal area of Maryland and D.C., the churches are filled with people “in the world,” for the reason of wanting God to not interfere in their lives and pleasures. Be careful, again Eternity is at stake not this world, seek after God for exactly who He is and do your best to change yourself FOR God, not the reverse. The Bible even states that if you Honestly seek after God for exactly who He is and you wish to serve Him, Jesus says: “You will ever surely find Me.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your comment. I appreciate it deeply and respect your thoughts. I would like to respond more in detail later but one of the issues going on is that McLean Bible was theologically flipped. It’s becoming a part of the Neo-Calvinism movement and David Platt represents that aspect. McLean Bible under Lon Solomon was not in that line of theology. There are many people who attend McLean Bible who can’t or don’t want to know the difference between Calvinist vs. Arminian theology. That tension is going on behind the scenes.

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  6. Can anyone at McLean Bible church tell me how you can even be a Christian and be upset that David Platt prayed for President Trump? Or David Platt, can you please tell me how you can be a pastor and say that Christians “have a valid reason” for being upset that you prayed for President Trump.

    You are either for a pro-Israel, pro-life, pro-Christian president who has reduced the number of poor people in this country and believes in the Constitution which was set up by Biblical standards. Any spirit filled Christian who is paying attention SHOULD notice the continued growth of President Trump in his Christian beliefs. Yes, he is self absorbed, but who exactly, what kind of man could even survive all of the attacks that he does and keep working hard? Sure we all wish he would hold his tongue and not fight but this man is in the fight of his life. How well would you hold up if you were just trying to do the right thing and at the same time you were accused of treason? And all of your family also. And everyone in your administration. And all of the fake media lying about you 24-7? At least try and get to know the man. His father taught him that in the world there are winners and there are losers. His own brother who committed suicide, Donald sees as a loser. When you try and understand people you can see the reasons behind the devil’s strongholds in their life. You can understand their faults. Your faults are just different than his faults. He likes to attack people verbally who first attack him. This man is no racist, if you think so you don’t know anything about the real man. You can see the change in this man for the better because of Jesus. He is no longer the star of the Apprentice or a real estate tycoon, he has moved on to a more important and serious person, who takes his current job very serious. And he desires to grow as a Christian. He has Bible study at the White House at least once a week. Why do you think he picked Pence? I’m just totally AGHAST that a Christian could be anti-Trump and pro-Democrat now a days!

    Are you for a party that is OK with infanticide, antisemitic, anti-Christian and pro-Muslim, anti-Constitution, anti-God, want to rewrite our history, policies of which have destroyed the family, driven 13 million onto food stamps with Obama, drove jobs out of our country, decreased the middle class and increased the elite ruling class, replaced democratic representation with an administrative bureaucracy and deep state, pushes pro-Marxist government and on and on. If you are for this you are no Christian. You are a walking contradiction and you are living a lie.

    It’s absolutely fine if David Platt wanted to avoid politics and concentrate on the changing of men’s hearts instead of the changing of presidents. The Holy Spirit once spoke loudly to me about praying for the election of a president instead of praying for God himself to use good and/or evil to change the hearts of men and their salvation. I get that BUT….THIS IS NOT WHAT DAVID PLATT HAS DONE. He has told us that “we are justified to be upset that he prayed for president Trump.” He needed to stand up as a man of God and tell everyone that as Christians we should pray for all presidents. INSTEAD HE PARTOOK IN TRUMP DERANGEMENT SYNDROME. HE IS THE ONE THAT “JUSTIFIED,” HE JUSTIFIED HATING PRESIDENT TRUMP. This is a horrible thing in the Biblical church! As members of McLean Bible Church MoCo this was a long time coming.

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