David Jeremiah, author, pastor, and televangelist
Who he is: Jeremiah is the senior pastor at Shadow Mountain Community Church, a 105-year-old Southern Baptist congregation in California, where he succeeded best-selling author Tim LaHaye. Jeremiah is also the founder of Turning Point Radio and Television ministries. His more than 50 books books include Captured by Grace, What in the World is Going On?, and The Coming Economic Armageddon.
His evangelical ties: Jeremiah often speaks at Cedarville College (where his father was once president), Dallas Theological Seminary, Moody Bible Institute, and the Billy Graham Training Center. He is frequently asked to speak at chapels for professional athletes. (His son works for the National Football League.) He was listed among the Top 10 people who influence pastors in a 2010 LifeWay Research poll.
His beliefs and politics: Jeremiah spoke out on politics for the first time in 2012, urging support for Mitt Romney and arguing that it was crucial for Christians to vote based not on their political party, but on their beliefs. Jeremiah opposes abortion and signed the evangelical declaration on marriage after the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage last summer.
His Trump ties: Jeremiah was one of about 40 religious leaders who prayed with Trump in September, and asked God to send Trump “a strong African-American who can stand with him and represent that community.” Jeremiah said at the time he had not officially endorsed any candidate. Trump also attended a rally for the Bible that Jeremiah hosted in 2013.
Jack Graham, Texas pastor and evangelist
Who he is: Graham leads the 40,000-person Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, and runs PowerPoint Ministries, which broadcasts his teachings on Christian TV and radio. He served as president of the Southern Baptist Convention from 2002 to 2004.
His evangelical ties: Graham served as the honorary chairman of the 2015 National Day of Prayer. His close personal friend is O. S. Hawkins, president of GuideStone Financial, which runs the largest Christian mutual fund in the world. Last year, Graham hosted the North Texas Presidential Forum, which included all the leading GOP candidates except for Trump; the event was sponsored by Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition.
His beliefs and politics: Graham prayed with George W. Bush—a fellow Texan—several times in the White House during the early years of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he told Baptist Press. In previous elections, he has encouraged Christians to vote based on family values over economics. He endorsed Mike Huckabee in 2006.
His Trump ties: When San Antonio pastor and author Max Lucado broke his political silence in February to criticize the tone of Trump’s campaign, Graham tweeted, “I couldn’t agree more.” (Following this week’s meeting, Graham shifted to say he’s ready to endorse Trump: “I am convinced he is going to make a great president of the United States.”)
James MacDonald, Chicago megachurch pastor
Who he is: MacDonald leads the 13,000-member Harvest Bible Chapel in the Chicago suburbs. In the past 15 years, the congregation has planted 150 new churches through Harvest Bible Fellowship. MacDonald hosts men’s conferences and broadcasts Bible teachings through a program called Walk in the Word.
His evangelical ties: MacDonald joined the Southern Baptist Convention last year. He associates with a Reformed-leaning crowd—pastors like Acts 29 president Matt Chandler, Philadelphia pastor Eric Mason, and Moody Chapel’s Erwin Lutzer. He’s also friends with Christian publishing veteran Robert Wolgemuth, radio host Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, and child star-turned-evangelist Kirk Cameron. MacDonald was an advisory board member for Mark Driscoll’s Mars Hill church, but stepped down a few months before Driscoll’s resignation and the church’s closure in 2014. A couple years before, he left The Gospel Coalition over “methodological differences.”
His beliefs and politics: MacDonald has called on his congregation to pray for President Obama and urged the president to speak more directly to Islam’s relationship to ISIS terror. He spoke at a caucus event for Ben Carson, but did not officially endorse him.
His Trump ties: MacDonald said that as a pastor, he does not endorse candidates, but found Jerry Falwell Jr.’s initial remarks on Trump compelling. He attended Tuesday’s Christian gathering and shared a picture of himself alongside Calvary Chapel pastor Greg Laurie and Prestonwood Baptist’s Jack Graham, another member of the advisory board. “Loved the way the gospel and concerns of Christ followers were spoken to him and how he listened,” MacDonald said after Tuesday’s meeting.
Jay Strack, student ministry leader
Who he is:Strack regularly speaks about leadership, character, and transformation in Christ at Southern Baptist churches and colleges across Florida. He’s an ordained Southern Baptist minister and former president of the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists, a group with about 100 members. Strack is also the founder and president of Student Leadership University (SLU), which puts on faith-based programs to train high school and college-aged Christians in Orlando, San Antonio, and other major cities.
Evangelical affiliations: Strack is friends with popular business consultant John Maxwell, and they have spoken at events together. SLU programs bring in a younger generation of popular evangelical speakers, including Catalyst founder Brad Lomenick, evangelist D. A. Horton, and spoken-word poet Amena Brown.
His beliefs and politics: Strack supports Israel and has traveled there nearly 100 times. He has spoken against abortion and critiqued the budget under President Obama. Strack previously endorsed Mike Huckabee.
His Trump ties: He has said little publicly about Trump. In January, he tweeted, “Let's vote for someone who can win. ‘A leader has followers if not, you're just a man or woman taking a walk.’ John Maxwell.”
The Republican Heavyweights
Michele Bachmann, Republican politician
Who she is:Bachmann was Minnesota’s first female Congresswoman, and ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, dropping out six months into the race. She spent eight years in the US House of Representatives and seven years in the Minnesota state senate.
Her evangelical ties: An Oral Roberts University alum, Bachmann left her Confessional Lutheran church prior to her presidential run to attend an Evangelical Free Church of America congregation. Her husband runs a Christian counseling practice. She traveled to Israel with Tony Perkins, head of the vocal Family Research Council. She participated in a patriotic religious freedom event with David Barton, a controversial evangelical historian who had served as one of her advisors.
Her beliefs and politics: Bachmann identified with the Tea Party movement within the Republican party. She cites as inspiration Francis Schaeffer, the theologian whose book Whatever Happened to the Human Race? spurred pro-lifers in the 1980s. She was endorsed by the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List. Earlier this year, Bachmann said the current conflict in the Middle East “lines up with Scripture” and end-times prophecy.
Her Trump ties: When asked about the 2016 race in January, she said she disagreed with Sarah Palin’s Trump endorsement and, instead of picking one of the other candidates, jokingly endorsed the late Ronald Reagan. In March, she championed Mitt Romney’s critique of Trump. This week, she tweeted from his meeting with Christian leaders, “Trump was forthright, said he would support pro-life judges. Respectful, and warmly received.”
Ralph Reed, founder of the Faith and Freedom Coalition
Who he is: Reed made a name for himself as the director of the Christian Coalition for most of the 1990s, his efforts earning him a spot on the cover of Time magazine at age 33. He left the organization to start a successful political consulting firm, advising George W. Bush’s election and re-election campaigns. However, he lost his own 2006 race for Georgia lieutenant governor due to his ties to lobbyist Jack Abramoff. He re-entered national politics by launching the Faith and Freedom Coalition in 2009.
His evangelical ties: 700 Club televangelist Pat Robertson appointed Reed to lead the Christian Coalition. His Faith and Freedom Coalition was also featured on Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network, where David Brody called it “the Christian Coalition on steroids.” The group’s events have featured Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Paul Ryan, Jim Bob Duggar, and Ben Carson. Two years ago, Reed predicted evangelicals’ demand for a bold outsider with a magnetic personality in an op-ed coauthored by evangelical communications strategist Joel C. Rosenberg and Concerned Women for America CEO Penny Nance. Nance recently decided to vote for Trump.