Bob on Fox Business: “Our identity isn’t in Donald Trump”

On April 19, Charles Payne of Fox Business invited The FAMiLY LEADER President and CEO Bob Vander Plaats to discuss President Trump’s recent peak of support among white evangelicals in the polls.

But while the temptation is to think of presidential polling and demographics solely in terms of politics, Bob offered a powerful testimony to what it really means to call yourself an “evangelical” Christian: “Christians don’t find our identity in Donald Trump; our identity is in Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ alone.”

Watch the full interview below:

TFL celebrates 1,000 pastor visits to the Capitol!

The FAMiLY LEADER Foundation this week celebrated its 1,000th pastor visit to the Iowa Capitol!

TFL’s Capitol Project began three years ago with the goal to restore the biblical relationship between ministers of God in the Church and the ministers of God in government (Romans 13:4-6). Though Scripture clearly teaches the Church and government have separate spheres, the Church’s voice, like the prophet Nathan speaking to King David in 2 Samuel 12, has a role to play in advising our government leaders.

The Capitol Project has never been about politics. It has always been about building relationships, sharing the gospel, and advancing the Kingdom of God, not the kingdoms of men.

What God has done with that aspiration – including facilitating 1,000 pastor visits at the Capitol in just three years – has been awe-inspiring.

“When we started this project, I just knew we were being faithful to what God had called us to do,” recalls Greg Baker, vice president of church engagement for The FAMiLY LEADER Foundation. “I could never have imagined the number of friendships I would build with pastors from all across the state, nor could I have imagined the large amount of spiritual impact we would have over such a short period of time. I cannot wait to see how the Lord uses the next thousand!”

In a gathering of pastors celebrating the 1,000th visit, Baker explained just how much has changed in three years.

“I’ve had more gospel conversations at the Capitol this year than in the last seven years combined,” Baker said.

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Danny Carroll, a TFL family advocate who had served for years as a state representative, told pastors he used to imagine what it would be like to have just two pastors a day at the Capitol. With 1,000 visits in three years, the Capitol Project has far surpassed that average.

“I saw the Capitol filled with lobbyists for everything – agriculture, education, trucking,” Carroll recalled before the gathering of pastors, “but I asked myself, ‘Where’s the Church? Where are the men of God who know Scripture?’ Now, you’re there. How can the people of Iowa thank you enough?”

Several of the pastors also spoke about how the Capitol Project works and what it’s done for them.

“If there’s one thing we communicate to the folks at the Capitol,” said Pastor Dave Tyree of the Chariton Church of Christ, “it’s that we genuinely care about them, regardless of politics.”

“I used to feel intimidated in any big, government place,” said Pastor Richard Kaiser of the Dexter Assembly of God. “But today I’m chomping at the bit to get up there and share Scripture with my legislator. Yes, I’m going to talk to him about the Heartbeat Bill, but I want him to know I still love and care for him no matter how he votes.”

Pastor Ed Gregory of the Baptist Convention of Iowa shared how groundbreaking the Capitol Project has been, even to pastors inclined to speak to government: “Even if we pastors wanted to do this, we couldn’t do it without The FAMiLY LEADER Foundation.”

You can learn more about the Capitol Project and the fruit of its ministry by watching the video below:

The Timeless Voice: We bring a “tough teaching” to the Capitol

How is bringing the gospel to the Iowa Capitol like Paul bringing the gospel to Athens?

Greg Baker, vice president of church engagement for The FAMiLY LEADER, explains:

Donna Red Wing: A legacy of friendship and civility

By Drew Zahn

“I will be forever grateful that Donna invited me for coffee,” recalls The FAMiLY LEADER President and CEO Bob Vander Plaats.

Bob and Donna Red Wing were often quoted in the news media on opposite sides of contentious issues. Bob leads a Christian organization that advocates for public policy consistent with biblical values. Donna was a longtime LGBTQ activist and, in her own words, “a sometimes agitator.” They were natural “enemies” who became the most unlikely of friends.

Donna Red Wing passed away from cancer earlier this week.

“Donna often told the story of how a friend inspired her to reach out to the one person she was most naturally inclined to dislike. I’m not sure it’s really an honor, but she chose me,” Bob recalls. “She invited me to meet for coffee, and to both of our surprise, we both showed up! Then, over a number of coffee meetings, something even more surprising happened: We became honest, real, and true friends.

“Donna’s friendship did not change my convictions about God’s design for marriage or biblical sexuality, and neither did my friendship change her position,” Bob continues. “But that was never the point. We met to get to know one another as real people beyond the headlines.”

Bob and Donna’s unlikely friendship became the subject of astonished columns and articles in both local and national newspapers. In an age where deep cultural and partisan divides are the norm, their example of civility inspired many.

Watch the moving video made by Mutual of Omaha about Bob and Donna’s “unlikely friendship” below:

“We were often opponents on policy, but instead of lobbing rhetorical grenades at one another from the relative safety of our own echo chambers, we met face to face,” Bob recalls. “It changed us both. I know it changed the language and the tone we employ at The FAMiLY LEADER. Getting to know Donna taught our whole staff to stop and think, ‘How can we advocate for our position while still being conscious of and honoring the real people (like Donna) who disagree with us?’

“I’m deeply grieved that my friend is now gone from this world,” Bob says, “but I hope her example of reaching out will challenge others to do the same. I hope it challenges me. I want our commitment to restoring civil dialogue in America to continue as the lasting legacy of the day Donna Red Wing invited me for coffee.”

Drew Zahn is director of communications for The FAMiLY LEADER.

TFL’s Capitol Connection, Ep. 12: “Heartbeat” status…

“Wondering where the Heartbeat bill stands?”

Bob Vander Plaats sat down with The FAMiLY LEADER Capitol Team, Chuck Hurley and Danny Carroll, to find out what the options are for the Heartbeat bill’s passage as the legislature reaches 100 days in session.

Simple online tool:
We’re asking you to pray, to contact your legislator, to invite your friends … and we’ve made it easy for you to do. The FAMiLY LEADER has drafted a quick, online tool that helps you do all that and more in just a matter of minutes.

Join with thousands of Iowans in standing for life RIGHT NOW!


TFL’s Capitol Connection, Ep. 11: “Heartbeat” faces hurdle

What’s the status of the “Heartbeat bill”? What’s the hang-up? How can we help move it into law and save babies’ lives?

Bob Vander Plaats sat down with The FAMiLY LEADER Capitol Team, Chuck Hurley and Danny Carroll, to get the latest news in this video below:

In the video, Bob also mentioned “The Daniel Difference,” a devotional program on reviving the power of prayer in your life. It’s available for free in the YouVersion Bible app, or more directly by clicking here.

And keep an eye on your email inbox. The FAMiLY LEADER is planning to get the word out far and wide when the next opportunity is ripe for the people of Iowa to make their voice heard on “Heartbeat”!

If 7:14 partners with world’s most popular Bible app

Hundreds of millions of people around the world have the Bible at their fingertips, thanks to YouVersion, the fantastically popular, free phone app that boasts over 1,400 versions of the Bible available in more than 1,000 languages.

And now, If 7:14, the prayer ministry from The FAMiLY LEADER that has united tens of thousands of believers around the world in twice daily prayer for revival, has partnered with YouVersion to offer “The Daniel Difference” on the YouVersion app!

“The Daniel Difference” is a 5-day devotional that focuses on the prayer life of Daniel and the difference he made in the lives of kings and nations! Find the plan today and be encouraged to become faithful in prayer to our mighty God!

This Easter, don’t let politics define forgiveness

The following commentary by Bob Vander Plaats was first published at

In the past week, both Erin Burnett of CNN and Katy Tur of MSNBC have engaged in a national conversation about evangelicals and forgiving a most controversial subject: Donald Trump.

While there is value in these discussions, there is danger in looking at forgiveness and faith through the lens of politics. As we head into Easter weekend, I want us to look higher than headlines — to look through God’s eyes, rather than our own.

For God doesn’t look at us like we look at each other, doesn’t judge as we judge, and isn’t swayed by politics. The Bible insists that God holds us all to the same standard: his own perfection. And against that standard, we all sin and fall short of his glory. None of us is righteous. None of us has merited his favor, and we all deserve his judgment. Worse yet, the Bible says, the judgment for our sin is death.

This sounds like bad news, but to Christians, this message is the beginning of very good news. Why? Because of Easter.

We are entering the weekend when Christians remember the death of Jesus, who took our place of punishment upon a cross. He died in our place, that God’s justice would be paid. And that’s just the beginning of the good news.
For this savior who took our punishment didn’t stay dead. He rose again. He conquered death, leaving sin behind, and he invites every sinner to come to him and find forgiveness in taking our sin upon himself.

He invites every sinner to join him in his resurrection, so that we, too, may rise from the dead and have eternal life. If you repent from your sin and turn to new life through faith in Christ, then God sees you through a new lens, judges you by a new standard, that of his spotless son. God will pronounce you forgiven and clean and new. That IS great news!

Yet we must remember that God is no “respecter of persons.” In other words, he holds everyone to the same perfect standard, whether peasant or president or pastor. And he stands ready to forgive all who would repent and believe.

Those who believe, however, are also called to be obedient. To follow the God they believe in. And no occupation is excused from this obedience. When we come to have faith in Christ, it necessarily impacts everything we do. We are not only called to believe in Christ; we are called to be like Christ.

This Easter, don’t let politics hijack the good news. Rather, let us use the national conversation to share the truth of what Christ has done and is doing for us. Let the message you share ring true for young and old, rich and poor, president or pastor. And let us ask God to help us see all people through his eyes.

Bob Vander Plaats is president and CEO of The FAMiLY LEADER.

What we would have missed had we terminated our son

The following commentary by Bob Vander Plaats first appeared in the Des Moines Register.

Today, our son Logan is 21 years old. He lights up any room with his smile and infectious optimism for life. He’s bright. He’s savvy. He’s quick-witted. He’s intelligent. He’s caring. He’s empathetic. He’s talented, gifted and destined to make this world a better place. Frankly, we could use many more like him.

That being said, the attending doctor of his pregnancy quickly and not so subtly recommended we consider terminating his life … to end his heartbeat … to extinguish his future. The risk was too great, the doctor said. After all, we could have “another Lucas.”

While our first two sons had followed typical development patterns, our third child did not. Lucas was born with a very rare brain disorder called partial pachygyria lissencephaly. After being born in Sheldon, Ia., he was quickly helicoptered to Sioux City, then transferred to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in Omaha. The medical community didn’t think he would live for two days, much less two weeks, and for sure not two years.

Lucas’ path was rocky. In his first two years of life, he became a frequent flyer on life flights from rural Sheldon to Sioux City and to Sioux Falls, S.D. He needed to be resuscitated three times, twice on our living room floor in front of his brothers and another time in a Sunday school classroom in front of our friends.

The trials and struggles of Lucas’ life didn’t end after these emergencies. He had a full spinal fusion surgery at the age of 14 to protect his vital organs. Two years later, he had a feeding tube inserted to limit aspirations. And he continues to have a major seizure disorder necessitating constant monitoring.

Lucas is 24 now. He has never walked nor talked. He has required 24/7 care since his birth. In full transparency, his life has been a challenge for him and for us.

And yet, we view his life as a gift. His life, which many would deem unworthy, has taught us much … about life. Lucas loves unconditionally. He holds no record of wrongs and has no desire for paybacks. He delights in the little things – a ride in the car, music turned up way too loud, casual strolls on a beautiful day, visits from friends, laughing at and with his brothers, watching movies and playing a musical toy.

Darla, my wife and Lucas’ mother, states in one of her writings that when we get to heaven, she will become more like Lucas than Lucas will become like her. There’s a sweet presence about Lucas that one of his older brothers calls “the presence of God.”

Today’s society seeks perfection, and it spares no cost to pursue it – the perfect clothes, the perfect car, the perfect house, the perfect spouse, the perfect child, the perfect dimensions, etc.

Yet in a mysterious way, Lucas’ life offers a more profound perfection. Lucas’ perfection is not found in his seizures nor his disabilities. His perfection is seen in the response to his life and to his special needs. I believe his perfection is revealed in nurses, in doctors, in caregivers, in scientific discovery, in special friends like Ruth, in his brothers, in his mom and in the casual observers who open the door and offer a smile and an encouraging word.

Yes, our response to life reveals Lucas’ perfection and, I believe, his purpose. The weak have always taught and inspired the strong. This is their gift. This is what movies are made of, real life heroes. This why Chuck Norris referred to Lucas as the toughest kid he knows when endorsing the book I wrote about my son, “Light from Lucas.”

So Darla and I chose not to end a life by terminating a heartbeat. And I believe God blessed us with our fourth son and blessed Lucas to be hemmed between two older brothers and one younger brother – brothers who benefited Lucas while Lucas greatly impacted and enhanced their lives.

A heartbeat signifies a life, a life worth living in all of its fullness. A life … that makes us better!

Bob Vander Plaats is president and CEO of The Family Leader and author of the book, “Light from Lucas.”

VIDEO: Holy Week Service blesses the Iowa Capitol

On Monday, March 26, Iowa citizens, Capitol staff, and elected representatives gathered in the Rotunda of the Iowa Capitol for a worship service at the beginning of the “Holy Week” leading up to Easter.

The FAMiLY LEADER’s Vice President of Church Engagement Greg Baker explained prior the service that bringing worship into the halls of government can be a healing balm, particularly in such divisive times.

“In today’s culture we focus so much on what divides us,” Baker said. “Let us turn to what unites us: We can turn to our Savior Jesus Christ. This message of redemption has and will continue to transcend time, culture, class, race, and everything else that divides us. It reminds us that no matter who we are, what we do, or where we live … we all need Jesus’ saving grace.”

Pastor Dan Berry of Cornerstone Family Church in Des Moines echoed the theme of reconciliation in his message from Matthew 22.

“The Sadducees thought it was about the law, the Pharisees thought it was about the law, everyone thought it was about the law,” Pastor Berry said. “The [Sadducees and Pharisees] were the lawmakers of their day, and like today, they became so polarized, they forgot the reason for their leadership. … But Jesus said the first and greatest commandment was to love the Lord your God with your whole heart, then love your neighbor as yourself, and all the law hangs on these two commandments.”

Watch a short video recap of the service below:

Join The FAMiLY LEADER in being an ambassador for the gospel of Jesus Christ, even in the very halls of government! Give today by clicking here.

TFL’s Capitol Connection, Ep. 10: “Heartbeat” moves closer to House vote

The biggest topic on Capitol Hill this week was a public hearing on the “Heartbeat” bill, which would ban abortions after an unborn baby’s heartbeat can be detected. Yet religious liberty and school choice also saw some action. The FAMiLY LEADER’s Bob Vander Plaats, Chuck Hurley, and Danny Carroll give you the latest updates:

In this week’s episode:

  • Chuck gives an update on his travels to Chile and his granddaughter Mae’s struggle for life
  • Danny explains the process the “Heartbeat” bill still faces before it can be made law
  • Chuck hints at possibilities that may yet exist for religious liberty protections this session
  • Chuck recaps his testimony in subcommittee hearings on education savings accounts.

Bob also mentioned two other, must-see videos:

Make sure you sign up for TFL’s free, weekly Legislature Updates, which will keep you informed and in the know on key issues impacting your life during the legislative session!

Click here now and make sure to check the “Iowa Legislature Updates” box!

“Heartbeat” bill brings out heart-wrenching testimony

On March 20, the Iowa House of Representatives hosted a public hearing on banning abortions after a baby’s heartbeat can be detected in the womb.

The FAMiLY LEADER and the Coalition of Pro-Life Leaders assembled a roster of nationally recognized, expert witnesses from around the country to rise to the challenge of defending life.

Watch below a recap and excerpts from the testimony, both pro and con:

Give now to join The FAMiLY LEADER’s efforts to defend life!

SF359, the bill that includes both a ban on the sale of fetal body parts and a ban on abortions after the baby’s heartbeat can be detected, must next be brought to the floor of the Iowa House before it can become law.