Roughly 400 pastors and faith leaders will descend on Lynchburg, Virginia later this week as two major evangelical forces unite together in the beginning efforts of a 2020 national ground game aimed at restoring Judeo-Christian principles across the country and mobilizing an evangelical army of pastors to lead the way.
The closed-door two-day event will be held at Liberty University, one of the largest evangelical universities in the country and is organized by the American Renewal Project, led by influential political mechanic David Lane. They're bringing in the pastors for the affair, many of whom are expected to take part in a political training session as they mull whether to run for local or statewide office.
"The Pastor and Pews events have been extremely valuable in mobilizing church-going voters and illuminating critical issues for elections," said former presidential candidate and Fox News Contributor Mike Huckabee.
Huckabee, a former pastor himself, has spoken at these events many times before and understands their value.
"I am convinced that the pastor and pews model was instrumental in the 2016 election of President Trump and has been instrumental in numerous statewide elections for congressional, US Senate and gubernatorial races."
President Trump won 81 percent of the white conservative evangelical vote in 2016 and during it all, the American Renewal Project was on the ground and extremely active. In the 60 days before the General Election, ARP spent $9 million in six battleground states, including some big prizes like Florida, Ohio and North Carolina. Now they're back at it looking for a repeat.
"It is the single, largest, most cohesive voter bloc in the last election," said Doug Wead, a noted historian, and best-selling author and advisor to two U.S. Presidents. "Now its all about voter ID and turnout."
With all the extra vitriol, animosity and energy aimed at Trump this time around, the president will need a similar showing or even better to win in 2020.
"Evangelicals propelled Donald Trump to victory in 2016 and if he's going to win again in 2020, it must be an all hands on deck approach," said Scott Lamb, senior vice president for the office of communications and public engagement for Liberty University. "Pastor events like this one truly are the Ground Zero launching pad for mobilizing the evangelical crowd."
Of note, some members of President Trump's unofficial evangelical advisory group are expected to attend including Pastor Paula White and evangelical leader Johnnie Moore.
The emphasis of the American Renewal Project event will be focused on pastor involvement; not only to get their flocks to the polls but also to possibly get involved in politics themselves. The genesis for this started back in 2014 when Lane's pastor, Rob McCoy, ran for the California State Assembly. He lost a very close race but in the process, assembled hundreds of volunteers from the church. Lane says it was after that race that he heard from the Lord about this idea of pastors running for office in an effort to change the moral fabric of America. He asked his network of pastors to pray about it. It's caught on like wildfire.
In 2015, the first "Issachar Training Sessions" began. The men of Issachar are mentioned in the Bible. They were, "men who understood the times." (1 Chronicles 12:32)
What followed? In 2016, roughly two hundred pastors stepped up to run for office. Two years later in 2018, the figure was about 300 more. In 2020, the goal is to have 1,000 pastors running across the country.
"David Lane's Pastors and Pews training sessions are having an effect across the country," Newt Gingrich told CBN News.
You only need to look at the state of Missouri for proof. In 2018, six pastors in the, 'Show Me State' ran for state legislator and five of them were elected. Three of them won seats in the Missouri House, which just this year, passed a ban on abortions after eight weeks of pregnancy, without exceptions for rape and incest.
In this 2020 cycle, CBN News has learned that two more Missouri pastors have announced they will run in GOP primaries for the Missouri House.
The pastors' movement, engineered by the American Renewal Project takes plenty of prayer and persistence. In California, Pastor Rob McCoy, who lost that close election back in 2014, never gave up in the desire to be a light for Christ in his community and local politics. He is now the mayor of Thousand Oaks, California.
Meanwhile, ARP has been extremely active in recruiting pastors to the cause. In 2018, nearly 600 California pastors took part in the Issachar Training Sessions. The hope is that if just a couple dozen of them ran for office in Southern California in 2020, it would be a game-changer in the very liberal state.
"In California and Missouri we have evidence that trained and courageous pastors can change history," Gingrich said.
Most Conservative Evangelicals see a culture spiraling out of control and drifting further away from Judeo-Christian principles. They are well aware of America's spiritual roots and it was pastors, especially back in the Revolutionary War period, that led the way speaking out boldly from the pulpit on the moral and cultural issues of the day. This effort is clearly an attempt to see a new generation of pastors step up.
Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), a former Southern Baptist church leader himself, who has spoken at past ARP events, told CBN News the time is now to rise up.
"Some in our society try to silence people of faith so their voices are not heard," Lankford explained. "But faith leaders, like any other American, have a role in our government and in our elections. We are grateful to live in a country where any person can speak and organize. If people of faith sit in silence, we surrender our right to speak out for the importance of every life and to wisely stand up for our core values in this culture."