Growing up in a Gospel Movement, my eyes are captured by a larger story. Last week, I had the opportunity to retell one of my very favorites. I thought I’d share it here.
BUT FIRST A QUICK INTRO
Paul wrote letters to the Church at Corinth. And Ephesus. Philippi circulated his letters too. He penned God’s heart to all the followers of Jesus in each city – the Church in a whole region. Populations of 300,000, 250,000, and 15,000, etc. Cities like ours. They met in homes and basements and upper rooms all over town. In a Gospel Movement, the Church is not bound by buildings or denominations. The Early Church is the definition of a Gospel Movement.
Each letter brought instructions and encouragement, as unique as the city’s people and the story God was writing there.
Growing up in a Gospel Movement makes me curious. Paul’s letters, and those found in the first few chapters of Revelation (“To the angel of the Church in Ephesus”), make me wonder. . .
What is the Spirit of God saying to the Church – in our community – today?
Our Great God, the Divine Communicator, is alive and well. Could He have specific things to say to the Church of a whole valley – our valley? And could His unified people hear the same message and respond together? (!!!)
Read the story below. I think you’ll come to your own conclusion. 🙂
Our Story | A Community-Wide Answer to Prayer
THE EARLY DAYS | DECADES OF PRAYER + FRIENDSHIP
Local pastors & leaders have gathered to pray together for more than 25 years. Their gatherings have taken many forms, but their humble consistency laid the groundwork for a greater work of unity & community transformation. We call it a “Gospel Movement.”
Years ago they established a healthy tradition – one that pastors & leaders still honor today. Every January they retreat together to the Oregon Coast for three days of worship, prayer and fellowship. The Pastors’ & Leaders’ Prayer Summit started with ten pastors, grew to twenty, and then expanded to women & other ministry leaders. Now nearly 50 leaders attend the summit annually. The trust & relationships God created through the Prayer Summit led to the friendships that carry collaborations forward today.
PASTORS PRAYER SUMMIT 2014
On the last night of the summit in 2014, leaders took a rather unprecedented step together. Typically, they use those hours to pray for our community. This time, the facilitators sensed something different. They invited the pastors, with all their different practices & theologies, to simply listen to see if the Lord had anything to share with them.
After their time of silence, they regrouped and shared what God had spoken. Two major themes emerged: prayer and proclamation of the gospel. Two different people believed the Lord highlighted Colossians 4:2-6.
COLOSSIANS 4: CHURCHES PRAY TOWARD EASTER 2014
It was clear something unique happened that evening. When was the last time so many unified, God-appointed, spiritual leaders listened to Him together? True to His nature, He spoke. True to His Word, He gave wisdom. And they resolved to be faithful with what He shared.
Easter was coming, and they took the opportunity to turn Colossians 4 into a community-wide prayer. In the weeks leading to Resurrection Day, they led their churches in focused prayer, asking for favor in their Gospel proclamations. They made bookmarks and distributed white bracelets with Colossians 4:2-6 printed on them, as specific prayer points & tangible reminders of God’s direction. People from more than forty churches joined in faith-filled agreement for an increase of prayer & a bold witness.*
“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful & thankful. Pray that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”- Colossians 4:2-6
What followed in the months and years after the Colossians prayer emphasis can only be viewed as a God-sized answer to the prayers He authored. Not long after the prayer focus in the spring of 2014, a new community-wide prayer strategy emerged. . .
ONE CHURCH – ONE DAY
By the end of 2014, One Church – One Day, a new strategic prayer initiative was in the works. Pastors were eager to lead their churches in around-the-clock “together-prayers.” Each church signed up to cover one day of the month in prayer, recruiting people to take shifts to cover their 24 hours, praying for their congregation & the community we share.
What makes it “strategic” is the community prayer guide; it features requests from teams of Christ-followers who work throughout the community. Teachers gather to discuss needs for the education sector. Government leaders share how to pray for our cities. Firemen & police officers formulate prayers too. Coaches meet to discuss prayer for athletics.*
Soon, we had relevant prayer points for ten sectors that shape our culture. Before long, people were praying around the clock in agreement for our community, seeking its peace and prosperity (Jeremiah 29:7).
The last day of May in 2015 was set to be the official launch of One Church – One Day. Nearly the whole calendar month was filled with praying churches. In a community-wide gathering, we dedicated the new season of prayer to the Lord. We knew God would honor it – He always does when we gather in unity – but we never could’ve predicted His response.
THE GOD WHO THUNDERS | HIS THUNDERING AGREEMENT
Hundreds gathered on the sunny May evening. The sanctuary overflowed & people raised their voices in song. Pastors led the room in prayers for God’s power to enable us to pray together unceasingly. After the crowd dedicated the prayer initiative to the Lord, the fellowship continued in the lobby. As people returned to their homes, the skies turned dark and the rumble of thunder grew louder in the distance.
The thunder & lightning continued through the night, waking some & stirring others to remember “Operation Rolling Thunder!” You see, the original name for One Church – One Day in other cities, was Operation Rolling Thunder, named after Psalm 18. Its founder has documented multiple, unusual shows of lightning & thunder after the strategy’s presentation to other cities.
“I called to the Lord who is worthy of praise. The Lord thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded, He shot his arrow & scattered the enemy, with great bolts of LIGHTNING He routed them.” – Psalm 18
On May 31st, 2015, the national weather service documented 225 lightning strikes in Lane County, calling it “a very rare occurrence.” We cried out to Him, and He thundered His agreement. Since then, God has answered our prayers in many ways, and He proves to be transforming our community. Though in light of Colossians 4, we see greater answers ahead.
TOGETHER SHARING THE GOSPEL | CITYFEST IN 2017 + 2018
Remember the second way we prayed from Colossians 4? A bold proclamation of the Gospel throughout our region. The prayers of God’s people have prepared the way & new chapter is coming. Local churches are partnering with the Luis Palau Association in CityFest to present the Good News to our community.
We’ll share the Gospel as we serve in collaborative ways, touching real community needs. We’ll share with our friends along the way, and we’ll celebrate with a festival in July of 2018 where the Gospel is presented to all. We won’t be the same.
It’s a door of opportunity for the Church of our valley: to walk in the prayers we’ve prayed; to believe God is giving a new grace of evangelism to all who follow Him; and to see the harvest is ripe. Could it be that God had this season in mind that predestined-night at the Prayer Summit in 2014?
Praise the Lord! He is authoring a story for His glory & our collective good. Be encouraged to pray, share & do your part – the God who Thunders & the prayers of the together-saints stand behind us & lead us forward.
*A few excerpts from Jason Hague’s One Hope blog are included in the story above. Gotta give credit where it’s due. 🙂