Rev. Andy StanleyPresident Barack Obama began the day on which he publicly assumed the oath of office for the second time with a special sermon from a prominent Georgian evangelical.

From the pulpit of St. John’s Episcopal Church, the 1816-built yellow church adjacent to the White House, the Rev. Andy Stanley charged President Obama to “leverage” his identity as the most powerful person in the room for the benefit of others.

Stanley, whose collection of metro Atlanta churches number a congregation of 33,000, recalled the life of Jesus and said it was the president’s responsibility to act in the same tradition.

“What do you do when it dawns on you that you’re the most powerful person in the room? You leverage that power for the benefit of other people in the room,” Stanley said. “Mr. President, you have an awfully big room.”

The call to serve others has become a common refrain in his own church, where members raised $1.5 million for 24 charities in a single day last year, but the trappings of Stanley’s Inauguration Day sermon effected an altogether unusual scene for a pastor whose Sunday best regularly includes blue jeans.

Stanley was included in President Obama’s first inaugural festivities, though in a lesser capacity at an interfaith prayer service at the National Cathedral.

White House aides had originally intended the inaugural ceremonies to include another Georgian, Louie Giglio, who had been tapped to deliver the benediction at the president’s public swearing-in ceremony.

But Giglio withdrew within a day amid questions from gay rights groups over a years-old sermon in which he promoted controversial “ex-gay” conversion therapy.

– James Richardson