A U.S. senator who was in ministry before he was elected to office says he’s still serving God in Congress – only in a different way.
Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) served as program director from 1996 to 2009 at the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma’s Falls Creek summer camp and was in youth ministry for 22 years. The Oklahoma convention is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.
He was elected to the U.S. House in 2010 and 2012 before winning a special election in 2014 to succeed Sen. Tom Coburn, who was retiring.
“My wife still calls this 'life's greatest interruption' for us. We didn't see ourselves serving in Congress,” Lankford said Thursday during the virtual Values Voter Summit. “I saw myself serving in ministry for the rest of my life. But God completely interrupted our life in 2009-10 and called us to be able to run for Congress.
“This is my calling,” Lankford said, referencing his service in Congress. “This is my task to be able to have ways to be able to serve my fellow man, and to still be able to serve God in the process. … People will catch me and say, 'Well you were in ministry and now you've left the ministry.' And I laugh and I say, 'No, this is still my ministry,' ... and I feel like He has led me to it.”
To those who say Washington, D.C. is similar to Sodom and Gomorrah, Lankford says, “God was pulling people out of Sodom and Gomorrah. He still seems to be sending people into Washington, D.C. That would tell me He's not written this place off. And if He's not written this place off, we shouldn't write it off.”
Many legislators in D.C. are people of faith, Lankford said. He and Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) served as honorary co-chairs of the National Prayer Breakfast in 2019 and 2020.
“I can live my faith here as much as I can live it back in Oklahoma. And that is not only accepted, but it is constitutionally protected,” he said. “... When the media looks at people of faith in Congress, they go, 'Ugh, they're going after a theocracy.' We're not trying to create a theocracy. ... But we also believe that you can be a person of faith and still be able to serve other people around you.”
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Pool
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.