Ohio Southern Baptists are praying publicly outside all 88 county headquarters across the state through May 29, proclaiming scripture, praising Jesus and pleading for county officials, businesses and community concerns, organizer Cathy Pound told Baptist Press.
“Most of the counties have specific concerns,” said Pound, Women’s Missions and Ministries Resource Group leader with the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio. “Maybe it’s single moms, maybe it’s drug addiction, maybe it’s sex trafficking; whatever their specific concerns are, we’ve been lifting those concerns up.”
At least 65 team leaders including pastors and lay leaders across the state are participating, with individual county teams varying in size. On average, seven people have prayed at each county seat, and 81 counties will have been reached through May 21, Pound said. The outreach is designed to unite and energize Baptists across the state in prayer.
Ohio Baptists from Orrville Baptist Church in Orrville, Lighthouse Baptist Fellowship in Medina and other congregations pray outside government offices in Wayne County, Ohio, May 21, as part of a county-wide prayer emphasis.
“The short-term goal is that Ohio Baptists literally would be purified and unified as one, and cry out as one voice for Jesus to draw the lost to Him in every single county,” Pound said. “And of course we, along with (Southern Baptist Convention President) Ronnie Floyd, we are praying that awakening will happen in Christ followers here in Ohio.
“We’re seeing long-term goals that church plants would come from this. We’re believing that as our people really seek the Lord for their county, there’s going to be some significant changes in the lives of the officials in the county, and there’s going to be changes in the lostness. We’re believing that.”
Churches in various counties have made plans to schedule prayer outreaches at county seats weekly, monthly or quarterly, Pound said.
“One of the goals that we had for long-term was that this would not just be a one-time thing, but that these prayer leaders would really believe in the Lord that this is the beginning of something that they will pick up and carry on,” Pound said. “What we do want to do is encourage that there’s a prayer champion in every county and it’s coming from the Holy Spirit through them. These people live in these counties and it’s their heart, and it needs to be between them and the Holy Spirit how they move forward.”
The county seat outreach was divinely inspired, Jack Kwok, executive director/treasurer of the Ohio Baptist convention, told Baptist Press.
“A number of years ago, God just kept putting it on my heart to go to our county seats. We’re not protesting, we’re not marching, we’re not obtaining permits to have a public gathering,” Kwok said. “We just wanted to gather, whoever would come, in smaller groups, and pray at that county seat and pray for the lostness in that county, pray for the spiritual conditions – the difficulties families are facing … the elected officials, and the service people, the police force, the fire and emergency people, and most of all just pray for a movement of God all across our state in every county.”
The county prayer gatherings are part of Ohio Baptists’ Pray Ohio Call to Prayer initiative that began in 2014 and is scheduled to continue at least through December, with a unique emphasis each month. The prayer gatherings at county seats began May 5, in addition to a May 12 prayer gathering held at Genoa Baptist Church of Westerville and prayer and fasting on the first Friday in May across the state.
Gerry Clevenger, pastor of Lighthouse Baptist Fellowship in Medina, Ohio, prays with his daughter Rachel outside government offices in Wayne County, Ohio May 21.
“We believe in prayer and we’ve been praying that the Father would bless in Ohio,” Kwok said. “We have 11 and a half million people and we believe God could use Southern Baptists to reach at least a million of those.
“We figure it would take 2,020 congregations to disciple and care for that many people. So that’s our 2020 vision,” he noted. “All along, we’ve had a five-core strategy that fits in the hand analogy quite well, with the thumb being prayer and spiritual renewal. And then, more and better disciples, more healthy congregations, discovering and developing leaders and working with associational church plants.”
Other Pray Ohio events have included prayer drives around and across the state and prayer targeting the causes of pastors, church planters, Woman’s Missionary Union and North American and international missions.
“This has been a long emphasis of ours. We think it’s very providential Ronnie (Floyd) came along with a similar vision and heartbeat in praying for awakening, and it just fit real well,” Kwok said. “Prayer at the end of the day is surrender to the Lordship of Christ and aligning our lives with God’s purposes and God’s will in our lives. We’re seeing an increased awareness and participation, and various other prayer emphases that have come alongside of that, some of them perhaps have branched off from it. But I rather think it was just God bringing that awareness to our folk all across the state.”
In June, Ohio Baptists will pray for Crossover Columbus and the city of Columbus in advance of the June 16–17 SBC Annual Meeting there.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)