Returning to holiness at the Prayer Conferenceby Marty Simpkins
The 16th Annual Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (Convention) Statewide Prayer Conference was held on March 14 and 15 at Aversboro Road Baptist Church in Garner, N.C. The theme for this year’s conference was “Awaken: Returning to Holiness” and was taken from Revelation 3:1-3. In this passage, the Church of Sardis was charged to awaken, repent and strengthen “that which remains” before the Lord comes against them. The Convention’s Office of Prayer for Evangelization and Spiritual Awakening sponsored the conference.
Devon Griffin, senior consultant at the Convention’s Office of Great Commission Partnerships, opened the conference with a session of prayer focused on specific communities in Hawaii, New York and the country of Moldova. He asked the participants to pray for revival in existing churches and for church planting efforts throughout each location. Participants were directed to pray specifically for the Lord to send church planters and other witnesses to these areas to impact lostness.
Chuck Lawless spoke first at the conference. He is the dean of graduate studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Lawless focused on the story of Abraham and Lot from Genesis 18 and 19. Lawless called attention to Abraham’s prayer for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. He specifically prayed that his nephew Lot – a righteous man in God’s eyes who lived in Sodom – would be spared.
Lawless declared to the congregation that Abraham prayed for Lot because Abraham loved his nephew. God responded to that love and that prayer by sparing Lot and his family from Sodom and Gomorrah’s destruction. Lawless addressed the need to pray proactively – he challenged a common approach to prayer, which so often is focused only on people who are in the midst of trouble. He challenged the participants to think about what could happen if they prayed biblically and personally for others before something tragic or some crisis comes in their lives. Lawless encouraged believers to let the Scripture direct their prayers so that they can be proactive as they pray for one another.
John Franklin, senior pastor at Post Oak Baptist Church in Russellville, Ky., spoke from James 4:1-10. Franklin focused on revival and spiritual awakening. He asked the question, “What would it look like if God resisted you?”
Franklin declared that the Church and its people are unable to further the Kingdom of God because their hearts are too proud; he stated that the Church needs to be less proud and less arrogant by humbling itself before God. Franklin added that God gives grace to the humble. He spoke to the hearts of the people as he challenged believers to humble themselves before God if they desired to receive His grace and mercy.
Gordon Fort, who serves at the International Mission Board (IMB) as senior vice president of prayer mobilization and training, also spoke at the conference. Fort grew up in the mission field, as his parents were missionaries. He addressed the spiritual drought in churches and how God has left their presence. He compared today’s struggles in the Church to the various kings of Israel who did what was evil in the Lord’s sight. Fort asked the congregation, “How far will we fall until we become desperate for God?”
Fort used an analogy in his message concerning the need to return to holiness. When an individual purchases an item but needs to return that item, a receipt is required. The receipt is proof of purchase and that is what churches need in order to return to holiness. Fort also addressed the dilemma of many churches where false doctrines have been substituted for the biblical doctrine of God. He prayed that the Church would repent and return to holiness.
Robert Smith, a professor of Christian preaching at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Ala., concluded the conference with a message focused on holiness. His sermon came from Exodus 3 and Moses’ burning bush experience. Smith noted that if God can make the dust on the ground holy, then surely He could make people holy. Smith reminded the congregation that for every New Testament doctrine, there is an Old Testament picture to go along with it.
Smith proclaimed, “Holiness is what God makes us to be. It produces good works, but good works cannot produce holiness.” He challenged those listening to let God take a hold of them, and he prayed that God would make them more holy so that they can be more like Christ.
For more information on prayer strategies that can assist you and your congregation in returning to holiness, please contact J. Chris Schofield, team leader of the Office of Prayer for Evangelization and Spiritual Awakening, at 800-395-5102, or visit www.praync.org.