In April 2018, pastors from across the United States gathered in Washington D.C. to meet with their members of Congress. The goal? To have meaningful conversations with legislators about the issues close to God’s heart — namely standing with children and families around the world who are vulnerable to poverty and violence. One of these pastors was Jon Odom of Cornerstone Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In this interview, Jon reflects on his experience as an advocate and how valuable making a connection with your legislator can be.

This isn’t your first time meeting with your member of Congress, but what was your first time doing that like?

I came somewhat politically informed but not an expert, and I was thinking, “Who am I to talk to these people? I’m not really sure what I have to offer.” And the takeaway was that I don’t need to be a political expert. I need to come into this conversation as I am: someone who loves Jesus and loves the world. I want to represent that with integrity to my legislators. And so I think I’ve gained confidence in my ability to engage these conversations. And going back home, I felt a sense of a burden to reach out to these people and build a relationship. My legislators are just normal human beings and they represent my interests as one of their constituents.

What are some of the issues you discussed with your member of Congress?

I told my legislators about seeing a New York Times piece on children in Syria running down the street as there is shelling going on. I shared with them that I have little children — a 6-year-old, a 4-year-old, and a 6-month-old — and I imagine what I would be feeling if those were my kids. This is not a nameless, faceless crisis. These are real people. So I just represent my story of the people that I’ve met and care about, and try to personify these crises for our legislators.

Why do you think Christians should advocate for and stand with those in need?

The reason Christians should engage in these kinds of conversations and come to know their legislators is that we’re ambassadors for Christ. Washington D.C. is full of ambassadors, full of representatives — people who represent states, people who represent nations, lobbyists who represent interest groups. But we have the most important cause and the most important Kingdom to advocate for our government to represent. Paul said we are Christ’s ambassadors. We are making that appeal on God‘s behalf and on behalf of “the least of these.”

Would you encourage pastors to meet with their members of Congress?

I’d highly encourage pastors and everyone who follows Jesus to make a priority to get to know your legislators. You may be feeling a little scared or uncertain, but World Vision does a great job at equipping you for those conversations. You’re not walking in blind.

Why do you think it’s important for Christians, specifically, to get to know their elected officials?

Remember, our legislators are real people, they’re human beings. But they’re accustomed to people wanting things from them. And so as I develop a relationship with my legislators, I remember I’m bringing something to them and for them as human beings. I just want to love them and pastor them like I would a member of my congregation. And so as I have opportunities to say, “Hey, how’s your family? How can I pray for you? How can I support you?” without expecting anything in return, it’s been amazing to see how that has opened up doors and opportunity for conversations.

You don’t have to be a pastor or an advocacy expert to speak up for justice or to stand with the world’s most vulnerable people. Want to know more about advocacy and how your voice could make a difference? Click here to learn about the different ways you can make an impact, or fill out the form below to hear about our Volunteer Advocate Community:

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