HEARTLAND | Eric Reed
First Baptist Church of Paxton has a newfound calling as prayer intercessors. “Christ’s church in America is in desperate need of spiritual revival and renewal,” said Pastor Bob Stilwell. “We need to be awakened from our comfort and complacency in our salvation. We need to be shaken from our evangelistic lethargy.”
In January, Stilwell led his congregation in a concert of prayer similar to the prayer for spiritual awakening at the IBSA Annual Meeting in November. The Paxton church is one of many in Illinois joining a national call to prayer, including more than 30 in metro Chicago.
“As I prayed in preparation of God’s message to our congregation for the week focusing on interceding, the Lord revealed His vision for us as an intercessory church,” Stilwell said. “God has begun the process of renewing hearts, changing attitudes and giving new life to our church.”
The call to prayer comes ahead of the 2015 Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Columbus, June 10-11. SBC President Ronnie Floyd picked up past president Fred Luter’s call for revival. “Our greatest need is a mighty awakening in the nation. This has to be preceded with a strong sense of personal revival and church revival,” Floyd said.
At a meeting of SBC leaders and editors in Orange Beach, Alabama, last week, Floyd said registration for the Ohio convention is up 5% compared to this time last year. That is significant, especially for a meeting held outside the Deep South, and Floyd is encouraged. But, he said commitments to attend, made in the next 30 days, “are critical.”
“Are (Southern Baptists) really in agreement that the number one need in America is spiritual awakening?” Paraphrasing the theme of the annual meeting, he said, “We need visible union, we need to lock our arms together, and we need to extraordinarily pray for spiritual awakening.”
In metro Chicago, more than 75 people gathered at Lighthouse Fellowship Baptist Church in Frankfort for an all-day prayer and equipping conference in late January. The prayer coordinator for Chicago Metro Baptist Association, Cheryl Dorsey, urged attenders to seek God’s direction.
“I used to tell God what I wanted and needed until I had a time when I didn’t know what to pray. I learned to pray, ‘God, how am I going to pray about this?’” Dorsey said. “It was as if God said, ‘When are you going to find out what I want you to pray?’”
IBSA’s Dennis Conner, church planting director for the Northeast region, told one breakout session, “We say with our mouth that we trust God, but in our hearts, we trust ourselves. Our churches need a sense of desperation.”
That feeling of great need is common to people responding to the call to prayer. “We need to be filled with a sense of urgency in sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ—the unfailing hope that only he offers to a hopeless world,” Stilwell said. “At FBC Paxton, we’re praying for the Holy Spirit to
bring about such a renewal in our own hearts and the hearts of all of believers throughout Illinois, across the nation and throughout the world.”
And from Floyd: “Why don’t we call on God to do…what we wring our hands about because it hasn’t happened?”