I answered my phone at 11 p.m. on January 19. I was in Washington, D.C., with my wife Alison to attend the January 20, inauguration of Donald Trump and Mike Pence to become the 45th president and 48th vice-president of the United States, respectively. The call was from a friend who was working with the Trump team. He asked me if Alison and I would like to attend the 8:30 a.m. church service with the Trump and Pence families the next morning. I said yes.
He said we must be at a certain place at 6:30 the following morning to go through security and be taken to St. John’s Church, otherwise known as the “church of the presidents,” one block north of the White House. As we went back to our hotel room we got more excited, realizing we were going to be among just 200 or so people at the service. So we got maybe three or four hours sleep before we had to get ready for the Friday morning service on inauguration day.
After we joined the group that morning and boarded the bus, we were escorted by police to the church. As we entered the small sanctuary, I pointed out to Alison the front pews, where small cards on the first three rows read “Reserved for the Pence family, “Reserved for the Trump family” and “Reserved for Secret Service.” We found a seat about eight rows back, eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Trump and Pence families.
At 8:30 Vice President-Elect Mike Pence walked down the aisle with his wife and family. At 8:35 President-Elect Donald Trump came down the aisle with his wife and the Trump family. It was really quite surreal.
The service included hymns, Scripture reading, and a short sermon by Dr. Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas. Dr. Jeffress delivered a message from the book of Nehemiah. After he concluded, Dr. James Dobson came to the pulpit and asked Mr. Pence to stand. Dr. Dobson challenged him to live for God every day and then prayed over him.
Next, evangelist James Robison walked to the pulpit and asked Mr. Trump to stand. The evangelist then talked directly to Mr. Trump about the importance of honesty and integrity. Before praying for him, Robinson said he believes God is going to use Donald Trump for “such a time as this” (Esther 4:14). The service lasted about 30 to 40 minutes and was one of the most remarkable spiritual events I have ever seen. I think everyone in the room was moved by the power of God.
A little aside here: As Alison and I were the last ones leaving the church, I spotted the reservation cards still on the pews. I picked them up and handed them to Alison. We’ll frame them as a memento of the honor of being in this place on this historic occasion.
With respect to President Trump, I do not know where he is spiritually. Although he would say he is a Christian, I have never heard a clear testimony of repentance and salvation. He does talk with great fondness of his mother taking him to Sunday school and church when he was a child. But his New York City life of fame, fortune, and ego is well documented. Yet, something has happened to him in recent years. At least, he has expressed and demonstrated a respect for Christianity and the people of God. Why else would he choose Mike Pence, a well-known evangelical Christian, to be his political soul mate?
I don’t know what the future holds for President Trump. I didn’t vote for him in the primary, but I did vote for him in the general election. I agree with his patriotism, his respect for law and order, and his basic conservative values. I’m sure on some things I will disagree, and sometimes I will be disappointed in his actions. But isn’t it that way with all the leaders we look up to?
Let me challenge you as I challenge myself to pray daily for President Trump and Vice President Pence, for none of us can understand or appreciate the enormity of the job these men face. America has traditionally been the major force for good in the world. Without a strong America the world is a much more dangerous and volatile place. The world needs steady leadership from our U.S. White House.