Dozens of Southern Baptist megachurch pastors and their wives met with Vice President Mike Pence and senior White House officials on Wednesday to cap off the annual Southern Baptist Convention MegaMetro retreat.
Organized by former SBC President and Arkansas pastor Ronnie Floyd, as many as 68 megachurch pastors and 65 of their wives traveled to the nation's capital on Monday to partake in the annual invite-only retreat, which was attended only by pastors with Sunday church attendance of 2,000-plus.
"Folks wanted to come to Washington, D.C. so that we can pray for our country and be in the environment of Washington," Floyd told The Christian Post.
During the 3-day conference, discussion was devoted "to talking church." While Floyd led the pastors through various panels and interviews touching on how to "reach people for Christ," Floyd's wife, Jeana, led separate discussions for the pastors' wives.
On Monday night, the group of about 120 took a 90-minute tour of the Museum of the Bible to give those who had never been to the six-month-old museum an opportunity to see it.
The conference concluded on Wednesday with as many as 116 of the pastors and their wives visiting the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, located next to the White House, to participate in a 90-minute White House senior staff briefing.
According to Floyd, the briefing was led by Deputy Director of the White House Office of Public Liaison Jennifer Korn.
The group also received a "surprise" 20-minute visit from Pence.
"Once again, I was reminded that the president, vice president and their administration are totally committed to the biblical issues we deeply care about — the sanctity of life, the family, the support of Israel, religious freedom, and securing a strong nation under God," Texas pastor Jack Graham told CP.
"Throughout the day, and in many previous meetings, I've heard them say 'please pray for us.' They say, 'support us — yes — but mostly pray for us!'"
"I believe everyone in our group walked away grateful for the opportunity these leaders have given us to be salt and light, and grateful for their commitment to the issues we care about," Graham added.
Floyd said that at the tail end of the meeting, Pence asked to take a picture with the group.
"I am grateful for the opportunity. The way we think about it is the more we know about our country, the better we can pray for our country," Floyd, who has been a part of previous meetings and events at the Trump White House, said. "Ultimately, that is our goal because we are called by God to pray for the leaders of our nation and that is what we do."
The conference was attended by pastors including Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Dallas; Ted Traylor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, Florida; Grant Ethridge from Liberty Baptist Church in Hampton Roads, Virginia; and Jonathan Falwell of Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia.
The pastors' meeting with Pence comes as organizers are planning a potential meeting between Trump and over 1,000 evangelical pastors later this spring as the 2018 midterm elections get closer. Trump held a similar meeting in the months before the 2016 general election that was attended by over 900 Christian leaders in New York City.
Floyd said that to his knowledge, details of such a meeting are not quite set yet.
"I think that is probably in that formulation stage of what it might be," he said.
The meeting with Pence also comes as a diverse group of evangelical leaders are preparing to travel to Wheaton College in Illinois next Monday and Tuesday for a conference looking to discuss the state of evangelicalism.
The conference will look for ways to respond to the fact that the term "evangelical" has taken on a more of a political, rather than theological connotation in the eyes of some today.
To his knowledge, Floyd said that he has not been invited to the event.
"I believe personally that an evangelical is someone who believes the Bible is the inspired word of God, they believe that Christ is the only way to salvation, that He is the answer to sin problems and that He died in our place," Floyd said. "I believe that evangelical is someone who also believes that the greatest need in the world is the Gospel and that they are going to spend their life and all of their resources to get the Gospel to the world."
When asked if evangelical leaders who serve as informal advisers to the Trump administration have been invited to the Wheaton conference, one of the conference organizers, Darrell Bock of Dallas Theological Seminary, told CP that "they are not involved in our discussions yet."