Prayer unifies pastors, cities

Spending hours of unhurried time with God is transforming pastors, their churches, and their communities.

...Four-day retreats called Prayer Summits (see link #1 below) are "exploding around the world," Terry Dirks told Religion Today. He runs the summits as president of International Renewal Ministries, part of Portland, Ore.-based Multnomah Bible College and Biblical Seminary (see link #2 below).

...Summits are being held in 130 cities and 13 nations this year, Dirks said. Most have been held in the United States, while others have taken place in Japan, Poland, Russia, Israel, Australia, Canada, and Mexico. Most participants are white evangelicals, but more are coming from mainline churches and minority communities, he said. Each summit includes participants from many different churches in the same geographical area.

...The only agenda at the retreats is to seek God. "No church business is allowed. No strategizing or networking," Joe Aldrich, founder of the Prayer Summits, said. "What we need is time in his presence, to worship him hour after hour."

...Participants may sing more than 100 songs a day. Scriptures are read and prayers are said spontaneously. "Often the presence of the Lord is so strong no one dares speak. We stand on holy ground," Aldrich said. "Men lie on the carpet prostrate before the King. Tears flow."

...When pastors spend time "with their common King" they feel safe and leave their differences behind, Aldrich said. They become humble and often are surprised by what they agree on and

...Changes remain after the summits conclude. "Denominational barriers that came down stay down," Aldrich said. Relationships develop as pastors hold joint church services and exchange
pulpits with "their rediscovered brothers -- who once viewed each other quite differently." The pastors "can't return to business as usual."

...Pastors become co-laborers in the gospel, those who run the summits say. They pray for and help each other rather than criticize and compete. Churches become unified. "The church becomes a vital, healthy community of faith," Dirks said. It's "the one church in the one body of Christ in that city."

...It is "not unity for unity's sake," Dirks said, but so that non-Christians will "believe that Jesus is who he said he is." Prayer Summits, which started in Portland in 1989, have resulted in nearly 1,000 ongoing pastors' prayer groups.

...After pastors have prayed together for four or five years, they begin to "ask what's next," Dirks said. Leaders who have emerged among the pastors then meet together. International Renewal Ministries helps them to discuss ways to cooperatively evangelize their city or region for Christ. About 20 such consultations have been held in the last few years.

...Other types of retreats have begun as an offshoot of the Prayer Summits. These include retreats tailored for pastors' wives, pastors and their wives, lay leaders, women in leadership positions, youth workers, missions executives, denominational leaders, church boards, business executives, and college students.

..."God is stirring in the hearts of his people, drawing them to him and to one another," Dirks said. International Renewal Ministries is at 8435 N.E. Gilsan St., Portland, OR 97220. The
telephone is (503) 251-6455, and the fax is (503) 251-6454.


(Religion Today, March 18, 1999)

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