By Eric Walton
The New York State Legislature is a part-time legislature. Regular session days occur during the first six months of the year, but not during the second half of the year. Following a terrific first half of the year where we met in-person at the statehouse, the Bible study continues to meet during the off-session months via video conference.
Just this week, we had a former state senator, who recently retired from public service, join us because he missed the close fellowship that he had previously experienced. This is the same senator that once joined our Bible study (via video conference) from his vacation aboard a cruise ship in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. We are so appreciative of the faithful attendance multiple legislative members bring to our weekly studies. Their commitment is leading to a growing community among our attendees.
During each week’s study, there is an opportunity to share what is going on in each person’s life. This had led to some very vulnerable moments. For example, last week, three members of the Bible study reported that they each had recently lost a close family member. The outpouring of compassion and prayer as they ministered to one another was amazing. It didn’t matter that they were from different political parties. The Bible study is still “the most bipartisan group in Albany” as one legislator put it. He then went on to say, “In fact, it is the ONLY truly bipartisan group in Albany.”
About three months ago, one legislator shared one of the reasons he enjoys our time together. He said that his family is involved in their home church, however, just as he is getting mentally and spiritually prepared to worship and hear God’s Word, someone from the congregation will undoubtedly interrupt him by asking how he intends to vote on a certain issue. Sadly, that sometimes leads to stress and disagreement or even an argument. It affects his heart as he prepares to enter worship. At the legislative Bible study, he gets an hour of studying God’s Word where nobody asks about how he is going to vote on a particular bill. It is a spiritually safe place for elected officials.
Another legislator shared a similar story. She says, “I get invited to many churches every Sunday, and I enjoy them all, but they are not my ‘home’.” She reports that the legislative Bible Study is where she can let down her guard and leave spiritually encouraged.
That is encouraging to us because it means that we are meeting another one of our goals. On a weekly basis, each attendee is challenged to grow in understanding as we read the Word of God aloud. Then, there is an opportunity to respond and apply God’s Word to one’s life. We want these studies to be a place where those who do not yet know Jesus Christ can meet Him, and a place where those who do know Him can be encouraged to follow Him more closely.
Our desire is that every elected official surrender his or her life to Christ, find a local church where they can get plugged in and be discipled in their faith. It is clear, though, that many have not yet found this. For various reasons, legislators often struggle to connect with a local congregation. We’re thankful for each member who attends our Bible studies, but would you pray that more elected officials would authentically connect with a church home in their district as well?
Thank you for your prayer and continued financial support of this ministry.
Pastor Eric Walton serves as New Yorker’s Family Research Foundation Legislative Chaplain and is the Senior Pastor at Living Hope Church (Ballston Lake, NY).