Gainesville pastor Jentezen Franklin discusses role as an evangelical adviser to Trump; Free Chapel leader says GOP nominee was ‘attentive,’ responsive in 3-hour initial meeting
It’s a meeting Jentezen Franklin describes colorfully, but the person at the center of his story — newly minted GOP presidential contender Donald Trump — is anything but short on color.
Trump entered the room at Trump Tower in New York with his mother’s Bible and began to lay out his Christian history in the meeting with evangelical advisers. Raised Presbyterian, Trump recalled his father taking the family to Billy Graham crusades.
The billionaire businessman proclaimed he was a Christian, saying he rededicated his life to Christ at age 60, said Franklin, senior pastor of Gainesville-based Free Chapel.
“He did say ‘I don’t wear my religion on a sleeve and I’m not, by any means, a saint,’” the pastor said with a slight chuckle. “But (Trump said), ‘What America needs now is not a preacher in the oval office — it needs a leader.’”
Franklin talked in-depth about the recently formed evangelical committee he is serving on and Trump’s candidacy in general during a sit-down interview last week at Free Chapel at 3001 McEver Road, just south of Browns Bridge Road.
“I see my role on the committee as representing the evangelical community in general, but also the voices of the men and women in my church and every church that can’t be heard by Mr. Trump or be in that circle,” said Franklin, who has led Free Chapel for nearly 25 years ago, seeing it grow to include campuses nationwide.
For Franklin, whose ministry includes a national TV program, “Kingdom Connection,” his work on the committee began several months ago with an invitation via a phone call from the campaign.
“They made it clear (serving on the committee) was not an endorsement but that it would be basically a listening session,” he said. “(Trump) was interested in the concerns and fears of the evangelical community.”
The initial meeting was scheduled to last an hour but went on for three. The group, comprising 15 prominent pastors and others, gathered with Trump around a long conference table.
Trump “was very attentive,” Franklin said. “He has one persona on television, but when you get in a room with him, he’s actually a very good listener. And the people who were there spoke very bluntly — I would even call it, at times, confrontational.
“We understand that anytime we get those kinds of calls from politicians, it’s got to do with votes, too.”
The group could continue to meet monthly until the Nov. 8 election.
However, if he’s elected, “he has indicated that he absolutely wants to have an ear to the evangelical community through this executive committee,” Franklin said.
The 54-year-old pastor said he would serve on the same type of committee for Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton, if asked.
“I would love to have a voice at her table on issues such as pro-life, religious liberties, standing with Israel,” Franklin said. “These are vital things for the evangelical community. These are things we live for and care for deeply.”
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SOURCE: The Gainesville Times