In a stunning upset Tuesday night, Mark Harris — a former Charlotte megachurch pastor — defeated U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger in a North Carolina Republican primary.
Harris is running to represent the 9th Congressional District, which includes southeastern Charlotte and extends east to Fayetteville.
In Tuesday’s primary, Harris took 48.5 percent of the vote to Pittenger’s 46.2 percent. The election was a rematch from 2016, when Harris lost to the congressman by 134 votes, The Charlotte Observer reported.
Pittenger — elected to the seat in 2012 — became the first sitting member of Congress to be voted out of office in 2018.
In his victory speech on Tuesday night, Harris said, “I invite the congressman and his supporters to join our journey as we focus on keeping the 9th District red in November, ensuring the hard-working people of the 9th District have a congressman who is focused on representing them and their values.”
The Republican candidate will face Democrat Dan McCready in what is expected to be a close race.
Harris told CBN News that he believes it is important for Christians, and especially pastors, to be involved in politics.
“There is no realm that God has made an exception for that he doesn’t intend for believers to be salt and light,” he said. “Every arena God expects us to be engaged.”
David Lane, founder of the American Renewal Project, strongly backed Harris’ candidacy.
His organization aims to encourage and equip pastors to run for office, according to CBN News. Lane said he personally knows of at least 300 pastors running for office at the local level.
“A grassroots, precinct-level explosion is occurring across the country by evangelical and pro-life Catholic Christians,” Lane said.
The leader hopes the trend will continue into the 2020 elections, with even more pastors throwing their hats in the ring.
“Imagine in 2020 a thousand evangelical pastors running for local office: city council, school board, parks and recreation,” he said. “If they averaged 500 volunteers per campaign, that would be a 500,000 grassroots, precinct-level explosion in the public square on November 3, 2020.”
The Pew Research Center noted the very first speaker of the House of Representatives, Frederick Muhlenberg of Pennsylvania, was an ordained Lutheran preacher.
Muhlenberg’s signature as speaker can be seen prominently on the Bill of Rights.
His brother Peter Muhlenberg, also a Lutheran minister, won a seat in the first Congress too. Prior to that, he served simultaneously as a pastor and member of the Virginia legislature.
During the Revolutionary War, Peter Muhlenberg raised a regiment of soldiers among the members of his congregation in Northern Virginia.
He reputedly concluded his last sermon to his flock by borrowing from the wisdom of the Bible’s King Solomon: “(I)n the language of holy writ, there is a time for all things. There is a time to preach and a time to pray, but those times have passed away. And there is a time to fight, and that time has now come!”
The parson then took off his clerical gown to reveal a Virginia colonel’s uniform underneath. A statue depicting the moment stands in the U.S. Capitol.
According to Pew, six of the 91 total members of the first Congress were ministers.
Additionally, at least nine ministers served in the Continental Congress, with John Witherspoon, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, perhaps the most well known.
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