THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (Christian Examiner) – One thousand evangelical pastors are being encouraged to pray about running for political office in 2016.
That's any elected office, from school board to city council to county commissioner to state assembly. That's what Rob McCoy did, and it gave David Lane an idea of how to galvanize non-voting evangelicals.
"It's not my idea," said Lane, a well-known evangelical political activist. "I think the Lord gave me the idea."
Over the last 10 years Lane has led "Pastors & Pews" dialogues between 15,000 pastors in 18 states and national politicians such as governors Mike Huckabee and Bobby Jindal, and senators such as Ted Cruz and Rand Paul.
Lane said he noted an adverse relationship between evangelical Christians' disinterest in voting and the cultural decline in the United States.
"We have between 65 and 80 million evangelical Christians, and half aren't registered to vote," Lane told the Christian Examiner. "And half of those registered, don't vote. ... Overall, we have about 12 percent of evangelical Christians participating in the political process.
"My goal and my job is to get evangelicals to engage," Lane continued. "I'm optimistic the Lord is going to let us participate in restoring America's Judeo-Christian heritage and re-establish a Christian culture."
Lane, an elder at Calvary Chapel in Thousand Oaks, California, watched in 2014 as his Senior Pastor Rob McCoy went through a time of dedicated prayer before eventually announcing to the congregation that he believed God wanted him to run for an open seat in the state assembly.
McCoy had grown the church from about 100 to 700 participating in Sunday morning worship since he was called as pastor in 2001, but he was a political novice. He gathered about 200 volunteers who knocked on every door in the precinct, and made it from the primary to the statewide election.
With 625 volunteers and a war chest of about $1.8 million—to his opponent's $6.3 million—McCoy lost by about 4,000 votes in an election in which about 130,000 votes were cast.
"The thought that came to me," Lane told Christian Examiner, "if the Lord called 1,000 pastors to run for an elective office, and each of them had an average of 300 volunteers, that would be 300,000 grass root, precinct-level, evangelical conservatives coming from the ground up, engaged in the political process. It would change America!
"Nobody's confused that politicians are going to save America," Lane continued. "These engaged evangelicals would be voting for their biblically-based conservative values."
The pastors' political campaigns also would likely awaken the interest of the nation's 50 million Christians who in the past have not voted, wrote Paul Bedard in an article for the Washington Examiner newspaper.
"Only a merciful God can cause America to change, and God works through His people," Lane said.
That's why prayer is so important; people need God's guidance about whom to elect, Lane said.
"The mess we're in, having squandered our Judeo-Christian heritage, we need God to show up," the evangelical activist continued. "You always see God from behind. You did not know in 1979 that Ronald Reagan would become the best president, but when you look at Reagan now, you can see God's hand was on him."
In early 2014, McCoy explained to The Acorn, a suburban Los Angeles newspaper, why he was running for political office.
"I want to prove to Sacramento and to the rest of the state that you can have a regular citizen go and operate the government the way it was intended to be, by the citizenry and not by professional politicians," McCoy said, adding, "This is not a change in careers. My primary calling is as a pastor and I intend to remain a pastor. One of the folks I talked to was Gov. [Mike] Huckabee, and he was successful in doing that, and I plan to do the same. I don't plan on leaving the ministry."
The umbrella organization for the Pastors & Pews dialogues is the American Renewal Project, which Lane started in 2005. The organization, according to its website—AmericanRenewalProject.org—is a network of "people of faith positively affecting public policy."