This is the first of four articles about the Virginia Renewal pastor’s conference held at the end of March in Richmond.
By Scott Spages
The Virginia Renewal … Spring 2017 …. pastors and pews for America …
Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people. – Proverbs 14:34America is in political and cultural turmoil, and pastors and the church must provide a leadership role, or it will surely lead to our demise. This was the focus of the Virginia Renewal [VR] pastors conference, which was inspiring and educational with about 200 people—pastors and their wives—held at the DoubleTree by Hilton, Richmond Midlothian, on March 30 and 31.
VR is a project of American Renewal [AR] led by its’ founder, David Lane. AR has been around for about a decade and focuses on holding events that engage and encourage pastors, mostly in the so-called political battleground states. The purpose is to help Christians to better impact American culture by understanding America’s Christian heritage and the church’s role in that; and, to reclaim the call to provide Biblical leadership in the public square.
AR’s facebook page says: “People of faith positively affecting public policy.” Virginia Renewal draws an exceptionally diverse group to these events. With many denominations, and a variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds represented, this gathering truly looked like all God’s children. AR’s impact has been YUGE and this time was no exception.
The conference can be described by four sessions, beginning with lunch, on Thursday. We were greeted by a robust medley of patriotic and worship songs, by Classic Praise of East Texas (about 15 accomplished musicians), led by its’ founder, Dale Perkins. Worship was a key ingredient, to help us maintain the right spirit, throughout the conference.
Acting as a host, emcee and pastor was Ken Graves, Senior Pastor of Calvary Chapel, Bangor, Maine. Pastor Ken is a favorite at all AR events and has the innate ability to simultaneously question, exhort, challenge, and inspire the pastors and their wives. David Brody, Chief Political Correspondent for the Christian Broadcast Network, the first featured speaker, described him as “the Christian James Earl Jones” for his deep, booming voice that everyone loves. While Pastor Ken’s voice—the sound—is entertaining, it is his voice for God that resonates, and penetrates deepest.
Pastor Ken opened by bemoaning being gray-haired and wondering where all the young pastors were. Young pastors he opined had “abandoned the ‘whole counsel’ of God” to win people to Christ, when in fact that was the very thing they need to hear—the full counsel of God—to be won over. He exhorted the pastors to invoke the two advents of Christ: “suffering savior and conquering king,” cautioning that we “ignored that at our own peril.” He lamented “America’s Biblical ignorance” and called on pastors to “fix it.”
Next David Brody of Christian Broadcast Network spoke, also a member of McLean Bible Church in Vienna, VA. Pastor Ken in his introduction of Mr. Brody lampooned “fake news and its sequel—very fake news,” while highlighting David’s impeccable “integrity.” Brody, a Jewish believer relayed his testimony, in which his wife was an integral part, and affirmed that God still does miracles as witnessed by his salvation and Donald Trump’s election. Brody said he once told his wife, “I’m never going to believe in Jesus.”
Brody has known Trump about seven years and confirmed that then GOP primary candidate Trump called and asked for some “Bible verses.” Brody was happy to oblige and was encouraged when a few weeks later Trump called to say that he had received them and had them available, at his desk, to read daily.
Brody received a third interview with now President Trump and showed a clip. Brody showed and believed that the new President understood the gravity of his position and had become more committed to his faith. Brody related that the Art of the Deal, Trump’s book, was good instruction for us to “mobilize, get involved, [as that’s] what’s needed in a good deal—numbers [on your side] and we (the church) have them.”
He believes that Trump has a “1950’s mentality (that includes) prayer in schools,” and the “removal of the Johnson Amendment” and other things wholesome about that America. Brody added that “America was in need of a spiritual revival,” and that, “if Trump can fight for religious liberty, then so can we.” Finally, he again channeled the Art of the Deal and said we should “think big, like Trump.”
Our featured post-lunch speaker was one of the most passionate Christian conservative leaders in America, also a Virginian, Bishop E. W. Jackson. Harvard educated and a student of America’s politics, he brings a bold voice. He recalled praying for the 2016 election and wondering if “this was our last chance.” He said that “everyone will always remember where they were on election night.”
He highlighted America’s moral drift, as witnessed in the judicial arena, by noting that recently an “Oregon court (judge) said that two people” (one male, one female, each having tried being a transsexual and both now rejecting being either male or female) the judge concurred, “you are neither male or female,” if you say so.
As an African American, Bishop Jackson, has the unique ability to speak to the many minority pastors in attendance, while everyone was aroused to their feet. He said, “Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are not arbiters of right and wrong.” He added that, “It’s not the skin, it’s the sin!” and, the “only anecdote is Jesus.” He noted that “We’ve been praying ‘lord, turn our country around.’” Amen.
“We elected a person, not a messiah (in 2016)”, he added. “I was not looking for a messiah (in 2016)—I already have one” Bishop Jackson exhorted. He added “he (Trump) fights for us. He will fight to end the Johnson amendment” while noting that he did not serve government. He further opined that any Christians who were uncomfortable with Trump would then need to remove Rahab and Samson and others from their Bibles, as both were used to do good, by God, in spite of great moral failings. Preach it, pastor!
He connected our current struggle, by juxtaposing it with the drive of our Founding Fathers. “We got a victory. We got a reprieve” he cheered. He then said, “We are in a spiritual battle for the soul of our Nation.” “He (God) put America in the hearts of our founding fathers,” and they knew that “rights and freedoms do not come from a vote or the government, they come from God.” He declared “America is a Christian nation.”
The patriot who feels himself in the service of God, who acknowledges Him in all his ways, has the promise of Almighty direction, and will find His Word in his greatest darkness, a lantern to his feet and a lamp unto his paths. He will therefore seek to establish for his country in the eyes of the world, such a character as shall make her not unworthy of the name of a Christian Nation. – Francis Scott Key, February 22, 1812