Southern California megachurch pastor Jim Garlow will step down from his role as senior pastor at Skyline Church in La Mesa in order to focus on ministering to lawmakers, ambassadors and federal government employees.
Garlow told The Christian Post last week that he will officially step down from the San Diego-area 2,100-member congregation in the middle of November as he looks to expand a governmental ministry he helped found called Well Versed Nations.
The ministry, which has existed in some capacity through holding weekly Bible studies for members of Congress for the past four years, has been expanded in recent months to include Bible studies for employees of the United Nations in New York City and employees of a federal agency in Washington, D.C.
The group is also associated with a periodic joint Jewish-Christian Old Testament study for Israeli lawmakers in Jerusalem that was launched this year.
"We know that the ways of God apply to every aspect of culture, including the governmental," Garlow explained. "We don't buy into the notion that biblical principles must be kept from the governmental sphere. We recognized that God and government should not be separated because He is the One who first thought of government."
On Sunday, 47-year-old Jeremy McGarity, who pastors at Seven Church in Lakeside, was announced as Garlow's successor at Skyline. Garlow has served as pastor of the Wesleyan church since 1995.
The decision comes as Garlow has argued in a new book released this month, co-authored by evangelical Christian author and historian David Barton, that it is important that elected officials have a true understanding of a biblical worldview.
But in order to do so, the authors of This Precarious Moment: Six Urgent Steps That Will Save You, Your Family and, Our Country argue, churches and pastors need to practice "biblical applicationalism" — applying of Scripture to everything in every aspect of life, including government and political issues.
"If our elected government officials had a grasp because they were elected by people who have a distinct biblical worldview, we could reduce human suffering and poverty in this nation," Garlow asserted. "But, many pastors have shied away from some of the more controversial topics because they are concerned they are not going to be liked as well if they speak out on them."
Well Versed Nations' Capitol Hill ministry has primarily been led by former Southern Baptist Texas pastor Rick Scarborough, the founder of Vision America Action, a conservative Christian advocacy group that seeks to mobilize "Christians and churches to fulfill those responsibilities in order to strengthen society and governmental structures."
Through the Capitol Hill-based ministry, Well Versed Nations seeks to help members of Congress "make biblical application to governmental life."
Garlow told CP that Well Versed Nations most recently launched a Bible study within a federal agency. The study began late last month and will, for the time being, meet on a monthly basis.
Though he wouldn't disclose which federal agency the ministry is operating in, Garlow explained that his ministry has also received approval to hold Bible studies once per month in a second federal agency. He added that Well Versed Nations is also looking to get permission to launch another Bible study in a third federal agency.
"We are just starting Bible studies now in some of the departments or agencies here in Washington, D.C.," he said. "There you have career bureaucrats who are lifelong and not elected officials and we want to see the truth of God's word applied in life there."
This year, the ministry has held three Bible studies for employees at the U.N. headquarters in New York City. Former Minnesota Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann has been involved in helping lead those meetings.
Well Versed Nations is hoping to launch another U.N. Bible study for ambassadors and the U.N. diplomatic core, according to Garlow. The ministry has met with about 20 ambassadors so far to get acquainted and to invite them to learn "the eternal truths that bring health to a nation."
"We will be looking at the transcendent truths of the Bible," he said. "To the extent that God's will is followed is that extent the nation has peace and tranquility. To the extent that kingdom principles of governance are violated is that extent there is great wounding and suffering in that nation. My interest is to bring the word of God, will of God, way of God, kingdom of God to every facet of culture including the government."
Well Versed Nations takes it name from Garlow's 2016 book, Well Versed: Biblical Answers to Today's Tough Issues.
Garlow, who has authored several books, is known for his beliefs on the sacredness of biblical marriage (one man-one woman) and the sanctity of life. Like many evangelical pastors who hold similar views, Garlow has received much criticism from the political left.
Garlow was a strong advocate for California's ballot Proposition 8 in 2008 that would have amended California's constitution to define marriage as being only between one man and one woman. Garlow served as director of the California Pastors Rapid Response Team, a group that favored the proposition.
Last month, Garlow attended the White House dinner for evangelical leaders that was attended by as many as 100 evangelical leaders and their spouses.
Garlow's new book co-written with Barton, the founder of founder of WallBuilders, LLC, was released last Tuesday. The Precarious Moment lays out six problems facing the U.S. and ways they should be solved.
Those six issues cover the need for the government to "return to a biblical foundation," the nation's racial divide, the nation's broken immigration system, the need for millenials to experience a spiritual awakening, the need for the Church to stop worrying about being culturally accepted and the importance of the relationships between the U.S. and Israel.
As far as solving the nation's immigration problem, Garlow believes that both Democrats and Republicans have made mistakes over the last few decades by not enforcing the nation's immigration laws.
Garlow believes that the border should be secured and a wall should be built, but added that the government should lay out a strategy for legalization for the millions of unauthorized immigrants who have come into the nation during the period of relaxed immigration enforcement. However, he is not advocating for the immigrants who came here illegally to receive a path towards citizenship.
"I would have them using an amber card," Garlow said, adding that a green card suggests that immigrants can work towards citizenship. "They could have a card that would allow them to be here legally."
On the race issue, Garlow and Barton's new book appeals for white people "to understand that being black in America is not as easy as we might think" despite the privileges the U.S. affords its citizens.
"We have one race. The human race. We are all made under God in his image. But the fact is there are differences that we as whites don't always grasp," Garlow said. "One of the things that I practiced personally is to get along side of my African-American friends and ask them in appropriate ways 'What it is like being black and what do you experience that I don't know or I don't see or I don't understand.'"
Garlow added that it can be "quite eye-opening" to learn what many African-Americans are facing in the U.S. today.
"We are borrowing the idea of Sen. James Lankford [R-Okla.] and Tim Scott [R-S.C.] for Solution Sundays. The idea is to invite someone over to your house for dinner who is of a different ethnic background than you," Garlow said. "The very act of doing this, we could really resolve some of the racial strife and racial wounding if there was that kind of interaction, It sounds so simple but really believe that it has merit."
"We believe there is a short period of time that racial strife will be stirred by the enemy to get worse and not better if the Church does not take the initiative," Garlow continued. "Racism at its core can only be dealt with by repentance to the Holy Spirit to convict sin in the human heart."