A WARNING TO MY FELLOW EVANGELICAL LEADERS MEETING WITH DONALD TRUMP: “WATCH AND PRAY THAT YOU MAY NOT ENTER INTO TEMPTATION.”

“Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Jesus, Matthew 26:41)

As hundreds of my fellow evangelical ministers and ministry leaders attend a forum with Donald Trump today, they will face serious temptation.

Since the beginning of our Republic, evangelicals have been of great interest to every brand of politician. We are passionate, focused, often disciplined, committed, energetic, and generous with our time and money. Our preachers are some of the best communicators around. We know how to draw in an audience, make a persuasive case, and call the faithful to action.

In other words, when it comes to what a political campaign needs, we have the goods.

Democrats and Republicans, progressives and conservatives, left and right routinely recruit religious leaders to their causes. It happens in just about every country on earth—and, when it comes to evangelical Christians, it most certainly happens here in the U.S., during every campaign cycle.

I’ve been there. I’ve stumped for candidates. I’ve loaned my name to their advisory boards. I’ve raised money for them. I’ve opened their rallies with prayer. I’ve introduced them to networks of church leaders. I’ve formally endorsed them.

After 21 years as a minister to top government officials in Washington, D.C., I am no stranger to how politics works when it comes to religion.

During the last decade, though, I’ve come to see this process for what it is. Too often, politicians—and would be politicians—see religion, religious leaders, and particularly evangelical pastors—as simply tools to help them achieve their goal of winning an election, assuming power, and carrying out their agenda.

In other words, for most of the politicians I have known and worked with over the years, religion, and specifically religious leaders, are to be placed at the service of politics. This is the danger facing my colleagues and friends who are gathered in New York to listen to Donald Trump engage in the art of the deal for recruiting evangelical spokespersons and pastors to aid him in his quest for the presidency.

It is not my intention to instruct my fellow ministers on how they are to deal with Mr. Trump or his candidacy, but, instead, to warn all of us not to be beguiled by the temptation to compromise our most dearly held principles for the empty promise of a place at the table of power, for, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6)