For the young Congressional aides that swarm into Washington D.C. every year, life on Capitol Hill can be exciting and an opportunity to enact some real change by assisting the nation’s politicians, but it can also be isolating.
Mark Tapscott knows this life all too well. As a young Congressional aide, Tapscott spent years working on Capitol Hill in the 1970s and served in Ronald Reagan’s administration. While he found this time on the Hill exhilarating, he also found himself indulging in the “pleasures and passions” of this world a little too much. That’s why he established HillFaith, a ministry aimed at helping mentor the young and intelligent men and women who will likely go from being a congressional aide to a local or national leader.
“I decided to start HillFaith because the Lord said, ‘Do it,’” Tapscott said in an interview with The Daily Citizen. “With most of us, the Lord begins calling you to do something that is different from what you’ve been doing all your professional life. I’ve been a journalist since 1985. You wonder if this is really what the Lord is telling you to do, but I’ve been covering national politics and congress for decades, and I noticed, beginning about three or four years ago that I kept seeing myself in young people working on the Hill that I was dealing with.
“When I first came to Washington in the 1970s, I first worked on the Hill for several years, so I got to know it pretty well. To be honest, I came up here to change Washington, but in a very real sense it ended up changing me and not for the better. I set my faith aside and went after the pleasure and the passions and the dazzling things about the world. And it didn’t have a good end.”
But fortunately, that’s not the end of Tapscott’s story. In 1991, God changed his life and set him on the path to help other young people avoid the same pitfalls. About three years ago, Tapscott set out to create HillFaith.
“I know what it’s like to be on the Hill and to be drawn away from the good by the temptations up there,” Tapscott shared. “I also became passionately interested in Christian apologetics. There’s been an explosion in the past 20-25 years of great Christian apologetics. There are tremendous facts, logic, history and archaeology that prove that Jesus really was resurrected on the third day and He really is what He claims to be, the Lord of the universe. And He really will change your life, like He changed mine.
“The Lord gave me a passion to share that with the people who work on the Hill.”
And that’s what Tapscott does. Through his website, he offers young staffers an opportunity to meet up over coffee and have a “friendly conversation, no judgements, no preaching, just two people talking about how to make it on the Hill and elsewhere” by sharing his own personal experience.
“You need to understand people who work on the Hill. They tend to be young—the average age is about 28. They tend to be highly educated. By-and-large, they don’t come from a faith background and many of them are very skeptical of it because that’s what you are taught in college these days. Consequently, it is a very, very rich field for the Gospel harvest. As it happens, they also, being that they do the day-to-day work of Congress, they’re extremely influential, but very invisible,” Tapscott explained.
Think about it. Though the average American could name several politicians off the top of their heads, most people don’t know the name of the staffer who manages Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s schedule or who helps Senator Mitch McConnell with research.
However, they have an incredible amount of influence over the future of policy. Imagine if every one of the 20,000 staffers who worked on the Hill were informing their boss about an issue from a Christian perspective.
“Jesus changes hearts, and changed hearts, change policy,” Tapscott said. “And that’s no more obvious than on the life issue. You can’t know Jesus and not know that this unborn baby is God’s creation, and we have to protect them.”
Tapscott does this through informal meetings, which he calls “office hours.”
“I try to keep it as informal as possible because these are very intelligent people, and they tend to be very open to a very reasonable, evidence-based conversation about the most important questions. And of course, the most important question is, is there really a God who created the universe and who created us with a purpose,” Tapscott shared.
“But you need to do it in a non-threatening way, in a conversational manner,” he said. “And I have found, given my background with four decades of covering politics, Congress and having managed large staffs of people, I have some mentoring skills that they can appreciate. It’s kind of a complementary thing, and, so far, I’ve had some folks that weren’t all that impressed and some folks that were very impressed. And in fact, we’ve become friends. I have to admit, I really enjoy mentoring and I even more enjoy having the opportunity to share with these folks what Jesus has done for me.”
And there’s a small window to really reach these young staffers. Due to the low pay that most experience, the average staffer lasts only about three years in Washington D.C. before they go back home and begin running for office or doing something else equally significant.
“They tend to be very influential people, and that’s why it’s important for America that HillFaith exists to take the Gospel to these people,” Tapscott explained. “They’re in positions of influence in Washington D.C., the nation’s capital, and when they go back home, they’re in positions of influence. It’s taking the Gospel to Caesar’s household.”
In order to continue reaching out to as many people as possible, HillFaith is currently in the process of updating its blog-based website to something more official and are offering courses to young men and women across the country interested in learning more about apologetics. The courses have been immensely popular.
“There’s a hunger there among people to know this evidence that God really is there, God exits,” Tapscott said.
In addition to his ministry HillFaith, Tapscott still works as an investigative reporter and was covering Washington D.C. on January 6, when protestors breached the Capitol Building.
“It’s sad. And Congress is split, it’s very much two partisan camps. There’s a lot of bitterness from the election and a lot of suspicion,” Tapscott said. “It’s the kind of atmosphere where our Lord’s message of peace and forgiveness and changing of hearts and perspectives is most needed. I cannot think of a more important time for the Gospel to be on Capitol Hill than now.”
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