When Pastor Amos Dodge and his Capital Church congregation led their first annual sunrise Easter service on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1979, about 120 people showed up. These days, on Resurrection Sundays, old Abe looks out on six to seven thousand people worshiping the greatest Emancipator, their songs and prayers broadcast all over the world by CNN and other networks. Dodge is delighted—but wonders how long it can last without opposition.
“We’re not politically correct,” he says. “It’s an Easter service. We make no apologies for it, and we’ve enjoyed incredible favor and success.” But one of these days, he predicts, “somebody is going to rise up and say, ‘Why are they letting this church do this on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial?’ We can expect some opposition. We’re not going to ask for it, but we can expect it.”
That thought first came to him, he says, during a pastors’ conference at the Alliance Defending Freedom Academy two summers ago, as he heard ADF attorneys, allies, and clients talk about the increasing legal attacks on Christians across America. Dodge freely admits he’d been a little oblivious to much of what’s been happening—and says learning the truth hit him hard.
“I see that the pastorate in America has changed pretty remarkably in my lifetime,” he says. Years ago, local pastors were highly regarded and esteemed. Now, he says, “it’s almost like you are resented, or rebuffed. They don’t mind if you’re just a good pastor and do nice little things, but when you raise your voice against moral issues, make biblical stands … there’s a pushback.”
“There’s a carefulness, a guardedness that comes to a pastor, almost automatically,” he says. “Because who wants people demonstrating? Who wants bad press? You’re there to impress the community in a good way. But I have to declare the Word of God, and do it with a boldness—not arrogance—but a boldness that says, ‘This is what the Bible says.’ That’s our authority, and that’s what we’re called to do.”
To have ADF “to work alongside us, and be there when the church needs help legally … that’s huge.” It’s also a gentle nudge, he says. “What [ADF] does is to say to us, ‘Be a shepherd, but be a prophet, too.’ The hope of the world is not Congress [or] the Supreme Court. The hope of the world is going to be the Church.”