Pastor to State Capitol seeks to disciple lawmakers
By Barbara Shoun
JEFFERSON CITY – There’s a new ministry at the Missouri State Capitol, and it has nothing to do with politics.
Capitol Ministries Missouri is completing its first year as an outreach for Jesus Christ within the political arena.
“We are a disciple-making ministry,” said State Director Paul Meinsen. “We’re not there to influence legislation. We’re there to influence legislators.”
Capitol Ministries Missouri is part of the much-larger Capitol Ministries effort to place one full-time disciple-maker in each of the 50 state capitols and in international key cities. Begun 12 years ago in California, the ministry now has active affiliates in 19 states with plans to establish three more affiliates in 2009.
The ministry’s ultimate goal is to reach every political leader in the world, at every level of government, every year, with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The leadership of the non-denominational organization includes a number of well-known Southern Baptist Convention names including: Charles Stanley, pastor, First Baptist Church, Atlanta; Paige Patterson, president, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas; and R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Ky.
The ministry’s format centers on a weekly Bible study and pastoral teaching for senators and representatives. Held in a Capitol hearing room at 7 a.m. on Tuesdays during the legislative session, attendance in 2008 averaged 8-10. More than 20 legislators attended at least twice.
Another Bible study is held at 7 a.m. Wednesday mornings for legislative staffers. This Bible study continued when the legislative session ended in May and has grown in the interim.
Meinsen prepares an outline and notes for each week’s study. The lesson is distributed by e-mail and hard copy. Those who can’t attend and who want to keep up with the study can also access the study notes on the ministry’s website at www.capmin.org. These notes are available to the public as well.
Meinsen stresses that Capitol Ministries does not involve itself in political issues but focuses on evangelism and on prayer for those who are in authority. “That’s what sets us apart from most other Christian groups in the capitol,” he said.
Capitol Ministries works through teaching of God’s Word, one-on-one ministry, biblical counseling, and special events.
Eventually, Meinsen hopes to serve the executive and judicial branches of state government as well as the nearly 2,000 lobbyists who frequent the Capitol.
“I am a pastor, and the Capitol community is the community I am to reach,” said Meinsen. “As with any pastor, you disciple and teach your flock. For those who are not believers, the pastor seeks to build relationships so that they can have the opportunity to present the Gospel.”
A native of southwest Missouri, Meinsen had served as a pastor and youth leader for about 15 years before entering The Master’s Seminary in Los Angeles. Sitting in front of him in Greek class was a 7-foot-1 student named Ralph Drollinger, founder and president of Capitol Ministries.
Meinsen became intrigued when the professor allowed Drollinger to tell the class about his vision for ministry in the nation’s state capitols. Meeting with Drollinger for further discussions outside the classroom, he was told that Capitol Ministries was ready to put someone in Missouri.
Believing that God was opening doors, Drollinger, Meinsen, and the ministry’s national expansion director visited the state in May of 2007 to contact some legislators they already knew.
Meinsen said he felt the stamp of confirmation in his heart when the men were told by State Rep. Shane Schoeller (R-Willard) that “I’ve been praying for a ministry like this.” Schoeller had worked in Washington, DC where he had observed a similar ministry under the direction of the late Pastor D. James Kennedy.
Meinsen and his family headed for Jefferson City right after his graduation from seminary in December of 2007. Like many missionaries, Capitol pastors have to raise their own support. They are not funded by the state. The ministry is supported by churches, individual donors, and businessmen.
Rep. Schoeller said Capitol Ministries is serving a great need in two ways. Referring to the weekly Bible study, he said, “It’s nice to be able to have a little set-aside for spiritual nourishment at the Capitol.”
The second is the accountability factor. “As a Christian, if you don’t have those near you to help hold you accountable, there are times you make decisions you regret,” said Schueller.
“When you’re in Jeff City, it’s very high pressure. You don’t get a lot of time; you are constantly going when you’re there. If you at least have accountability, it’s one more safeguard. It’s good to have someone hold you accountable to the faith which you believe.”
Meinsen is looking forward to the opening of the 2009 legislative session in January. “We are pleased with the foundation laid this year,” he said, anticipating further ministry growth in 2009.
Capitol Ministries is planning a Pastor’s Day at the Capitol Feb. 17. On that day, pastors are invited to visit the Capitol for a time of fellowship, hearing the Word, and prayer. They will be encouraged to meet with, and pray for, their local senators and representatives. Further details will be made available closer to the date.
Anyone interested in learning more about the ministry can contact Meinsen at email@example.com or at 573-418-2077.