The Beginning of a New Ministry
This is the second in a series of posts on my recent fasting experience in conjunction with revival.
In May of 2010 I became the Senior Pastor of Winterville First Baptist Church. Marsha and I had met several times with the pastor search committee and discussed of plethora, yet typical, issues related to becoming their Senior Pastor. Winterville First Baptist Church is a typical Georgia Baptist and Southern Baptist Church. According to Annual Church Profiles at the Georgia Baptist Convention it has been in decline for at least the last 10 years. Sunday School attendance was down approximately 25%. My two predecessors served no more than 3 years each because of health and personal issues beyond their control. Both men had great strengths and were much loved by a significant part of the church.
After the initial honeymoon stage of 12 months real ministry began in the church. I became convinced that yesterday’s victories weren’t sufficient for today’s battles. I knew that a Great Commission resurgence was necessary in our church. Church leaders had to take leadership seriously. We were seeing a few people join the church by baptism and transfer of membership but nothing to brag about. I began to see some patterns in our church that I knew we needed to break free off.
At the same time I was growing increasingly frustrated with myself. I was waking up in the middle of night worried about our church to the point it was keeping me awake for hours. I hated Mondays with a passion. I was worried about myself as well. Why was a significant amount of people at WFBC not connecting with me through my preaching? After all, preaching had been my major emphasis in my Master’s and Doctoral degrees. What was I doing to be perceived as unapproachable and unloving? Why could I not “shake off” the stress and pressure that comes from the pastoral ministry? How was our church going to change to do ministry in an effective manner in the 21st century? I knew that the church and I needed a fresh work of God’s grace for the task that was before us.
I couldn’t quit thinking about what Jesus said in Matthew 17:21: “However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.” He essentially said the same thing in Mark 9:29: So He said to them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.” Jesus told His disciples that there would be ministry that they could not accomplish apart from prayer and fasting. Was serious prayer and fasting what I was missing? Were there certain things that needed to happen in my life and the life of our church that could only be accomplished by God through prayer and fasting? I was becoming more convinced that these were the missing elements in my life, the life of our church and the lives of other churches too.
Around the fall of 2012 I scheduled my friend, evangelist Jon Reed, to preach a series of revival meetings beginning October 6, 2014. John wanted to come and preach in August for what he called “revival preparation.” We set the date for August 4 for his revival preparation messages on Sunday morning and Sunday night. We began praying on Wednesday nights about our revival. I continued to be discouraged and frustrated. What was wrong with me? What did I need to change? Were the people telling me the truth when I asked about our church? Were they telling me the truth when I asked about myself?
God was beginning to work.