Matthew Barnes: Part 2, Chaplain of Indiana Statehouse (Pastor of the Week)
By: Heather Cox
Find Part 1 of Matthew Barnes’ story here: http://iwualumniblog.com/2017/05/pow-barnes-1
As Barnes’ job as Statehouse Chaplain progressed and evolved, it began to mean doing Bible studies with legislators, staffers and lobbyists. Since then, the Capitol has also brought on a women’s chaplain who does women’s Bible studies and ministers to all of the women in the Statehouse. In addition, the Statehouse has a chapel service every week in the chapel room of the Statehouse. Barnes paved the way for prayer and Bible studies to enter the Statehouse – making Indiana the first Statehouse to have a chapel.
The Capitol also offers one-on-one counseling, lunch meetings and dinner meetings. Barnes mentioned that he does a lot of the “official” prayers, such as inauguration and swearing-in prayers. He sometimes prays at the start of the new session in the House and Senate and is even the chair of the Governor’s prayer breakfast.
Additionally, they have a Statehouse Prayer Service the first session day of the year in early January. This year was the 13th Annual Statehouse Prayer Service, which included the Governor praying for the Executive Branch, the Chief Justice praying for the Judicial Branch, the Speaker of the House and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate praying for their chambers, and etc. Barnes said that when they started this prayer service 13 years ago, around 40 people showed up. This year, there were more than 800 Hoosiers gathered in the center of the Statehouse to pray for and with their leaders.
Another part of the ministry at the Statehouse, is Public Servants’ Prayer. On this website, they have the United States broken up into four regions. From there, you are able to choose your state. Everyday on this website, they have three people to pray for–from State Legislators to Congress. Barnes said to explain the purpose of this prayer tool, they use 1 Timothy 2:1-4:
“I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.”
“We started this website to help people make it a priority. They can get an email at 7:00 in the morning, and just start their day off with praying for three of their leaders. Now, this is all Nationwide – we now have the data on all 8,000 or so political leaders from that state level and higher, and so we just put that out there – every single day- just three people in each state, to pray for,” Barnes said. The ministry also puts this information on Twitter and is now followed by more than 30,000 people.
Barnes said, “It’s just amazing what God is doing through prayer, because as God’s people pray, He works. And a real passion of mine is the prayer ministry side of this, because I could do a Bible study in a Statehouse, but it may not have as far of a reaching effect on getting as movement of people praying for their leaders – that can really have an impact.” Even though Barnes is very passionate about this job and praying for our leaders, every job has its challenges.
For Barnes, the challenge is staying out of politics. He explained, “As an American, I can put my “American hat” on, but as a Christian, my “Christ hat” has to be on first. I have to look at all situations, even though I have an opinion. I have to focus more on the transcendent issues of the heart. Because, if we as believers can see folks come to know Christ and growing in The Word, their decisions will be based out of a biblical worldview – as opposed to trying to just win the issue, and then, you really haven’t won the heart. That’s my focus, but sometimes it can get muddied. As we know, in politics, many people try to wrap the cross in the flag, and that can have a dangerous result.”
Conversely, the most rewarding part of the job is seeing legislators and staffers come to know Christ. Barnes stated, “It’s worth every dime, every ounce of effort, all of the blood, sweat and tears to see someone come to know Jesus as their Savior. Secondly, then, would be being a part of the lives of these folks that I have grown to love.” The Indianapolis Star wrote an article about Barnes several years ago that was titled ‘The man who loves politicians.’ He explained, “And I have come to love them, I really do care about them deeply. It’s because they’re people and God loves them, and I want to love what God loves. So, I love political leaders and being a part of their lives every day, talking to them every day is just a true blessing to me.”
Learn more about Barnes here: http://www.capitolcom.org/indiana/biography