Over the past year, we’ve been privileged to take our ReFRESH® Conference around the country. In 2017, we’ve been in Nevada, Alaska, Pennsylvania, and at home base in Albany, Georgia. We’ve met hundreds of pastors and church leaders who have engaged in these conferences on a scale we’ve not seen in the past.
The diversity in ages and ethnicity is encouraging. We are seeing more and more church planters and young pastors attending these conferences. God is allowing us to speak into the lives of these men on the front lines of ministry, many of them in difficult situations. We’ve had pastors from over twenty states attend in 2017 alone.
In September, I was able to attend a prayer conference in Austin and met leaders across denominational lines. We talked about movements of God, praying for our cities, and prayer strategies that are working and impacting major cities in our nation. To follow that with a Night of Prayer with Jim Cymbala was just icing on the cake for me.
In addition, God is opening up opportunities for investing in pastors such as the recent Upper Room Prayer Conference I was a part of in Baltimore. The time spent in Baltimore was amazing as we literally prayed more than we preached. To see how God is moving and the hunger for God among many of the church planters blessed me on multiple levels. It was an honor to meet pastors in Baltimore who were on the front lines in their city when the rioting was at its worse. They were showing the love of Jesus in a city that was tearing apart. These men have not embraced the easy calling of a county seat church. They’ve walked into the darkness of our inner cities and started lighting candles in the name of Jesus. They long to turn back the darkness. That encourages me. They’ve not asked for an easy task, but they have asked for prayer that they won’t grow weary in the battle.
Over the next few months, I’ll have the privilege of speaking to pastors in New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Mississippi. One thing I’ve noticed in the last few years is a growing hunger for something more than methods and systems. Church leaders, in growing numbers, realize we can’t fix our problems with another program. They are hungry to see what God can do.
A few months ago, a church planter in a northern state was in my office and asked if I would be willing to come to another area of the north and talk to Church planters and pastors seeking to revitalize churches on the subject of prayer, revival, and the Spirit-filled life.
Part of what I see happening reminds me of the early to mid-’70s when the Deeper Life Conferences with Jack Taylor, Manley Beasley, Ron Dunn, Ms. Bertha Smith, and others were being used in a powerful way across the land. There was a hunger for something more than business as usual. There was a desire for more. Walls came down. People’s hearts were stirred. Churches began to be Christ-centered and others-centered.
With the chaos, pain, anger, confusion, fear, and uncertainty gripping our land, we should be encouraged that God is using the very things we can’t control to turn our hearts to the One who is in control.
In my latest book in the ReFRESH® series, I deal with the idea of purpose. What’s my purpose? Why am I here? Am I fulfilling my calling in life? Paul wrote to the Philippians, a church that encouraged him and brought great joy to his heart. They weren’t a perfect church, but seeing what God was doing in them encouraged him.
In The Power of Purpose, I write about my friend, Ron Dunn. Ron was one of the greatest Bible teachers I’ve ever known, yet he suffered terribly. He was a walking witness of knowing God in dark times and through dark days. His messages refreshed many because they knew he was speaking of the victory God offers, even in the toughest of circumstances. Ron said that as he struggled physically, he was deepened spiritually. He made a list of things he was thankful for, even in the midst of his pain and suffering: 1) Our friends in the faith, 2) Our fellowship in the gospel, 3) Our future in Christ. (I deal with these in detail on pages 43-48.)
What does this have to do with where I am today? How does this apply to all I’ve just mentioned at the beginning of this article? I’m encouraged by people in hard places, doing hard things, who long for more of Jesus. They aren’t quitters. They have their hands to the plow. I could give multiple examples of those serving in the far reaches of Alaska or in the pre-Christian western United States or in the post-Christian Northeastern states. What do they all have in common? They’ve found encouragement in Christ. They’ve discovered there is strength in friendship and fellowship. They need each other. They have found the power of the gospel to change people in the hardest and darkest places. These men and women know that, no matter what happens, there is hope in Christ. This world, our circumstances, our health, our finances, or the responses of others do not have the last word.
After all, why shouldn’t we be encouraged? Jesus said, “I am with you always.” That’s a promise. Be encouraged. He’s here right now. With you. In you. Working on your behalf. Praying for you. Sustaining you. Sanctifying you. Preparing a place for you so that one day you’ll be with Him.