Ed Yount has been in ministry a long time but nothing in his experience tops the prayer renewal weekend Aug 14-16 at Woodlawn Baptist Church in Conover where he has been pastor 17 years.
In fact, when Yount first saw the crowd of church members pouring into the opening fellowship dinner, he was so overwhelmed that he had to step out and compose himself, according to his planning chairman Alvin Benge.
“It was a wonderful experience,” Yount said of the weekend. “It’s really what a lot of churches and individuals pray for. It was one of those experiences that you hear people talk about and you really hope you can be part of someday.”
“The presence of the Lord was so powerful and so real,” Yount said.
“We saw things like families at the altar praying together, weeping together. On Sunday night there was a testimony service, a celebration service for people to come and share what the Lord had done in their lives over that weekend. It started at six and went until nine and no one spoke more than once.”
Yount said people shared how broken relationships were healed and bitterness was replaced by love.
The prayer renewal weekend is one of five lay-led renewal weekends in the Church Renewal Journey, in which dozens of volunteers swarm a church to lead cell groups, breakouts, workshops, testimony sessions and outreach. All of the elements were present in this event, but with a special emphasis on prayer.
“I just don’t believe a church can pray too much,” Yount said
He wanted a special prayer emphasis at Woodlawn and engaged Lowell Snow from Arkansas, author of Journey into the Presence of God, to lead the teaching.
Bob and Phyllis Foy, North American Mission Board missionaries on the staff of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, learned of the emphasis and knew this would be fertile ground to try their prayer renewal weekend idea. They enlisted the volunteers.
Mix and match
Benge’s steering committee worked six months to be ready for a special outpouring of God’s Spirit. He assigned members to prayer groups, intentionally grouping families that did not know each other well – and they loved it.
“One of the things I heard over and over again is people say ‘We just didn’t know each other until this event,’” Yount said. “This helped us as a church to get to know each other.”
Practically, the weekend included an opening fellowship dinner and a large group session on Friday night, after which volunteers facilitated the first small groups.
Saturday started with a large group session and then participants went to “coffees” at members’ houses.
They prayer walked their communities, then returned to church for lunch. Men, women and youth had separate sessions in the afternoon.
Saturday night they repeated the Friday night experience with large group, small groups and return to large group for prayer. Sunday morning was a typical service functionally, but Woodlawn’s three services each hummed with a new air of expectancy.
“There was a renewed spirit and enthusiasm,” Yount said. “This is a great church to start with but this was like icing on the cake.”
Yount said Snow taught Christians to be “in a spirit of continual prayer” and to look for opportunities to pray for people. He helped Woodlawn members visualize themselves in scripture scenes, coming into the presence of God.
“This is just the beginning,” Yount said. Forty people volunteered to open their homes for small groups.
Yount and Benge complimented the Foys, who secured the volunteers and organized the weekend. “Bob and Phyllis did a wonderful job,” Benge said.
“The way they had this parceled out it wasn’t a burden on anyone. We’re tickled with what we’ve seen.
“I wish every church could experience what we experienced that weekend because those opportunities are few and far between.”
Benge’s father was one of the original N.C. Baptists involved in the Baptist Lay Witness Foundation. Church response gratified Benge.
Woodlawn typically enjoys 1,000 attendance spread over three Sunday worship services and Benge hoped for 200 at the prayer renewal weekend.
When more than 400 showed up Friday, he was almost as overwhelmed as Yount. Now, he says people who participated are inclined to share with their small groups and classes about what happened and people are asking if the church is going to do it again.
“I see the experience carrying over because it’s made us more aware of the power of prayer and how we need to engage people,” Benge said.
He enjoyed the preparation, organization, prayer and excitement that exude among committed Christians working together for a common, spiritual goal.
“This has got to be what it was like in the early New Testament church when people met in homes and shared their vision and talked and shared together,” he said.
He expects great things to grow at Woodlawn, stemming from the renewal weekend.
“When a church begins to pray, they’re going to begin to see things happen,” Benge said.
Special series — Body parts
Did you know you have a large church staff? Your gifts through the
Cooperative Program support a staff resource at the Baptist State
Convention of North Carolina that exists to serve your church.
The Biblical Recorder continues a series — Body Parts —
featuring one of your Convention staff members, and churches which has
grown through that staff member’s ministry. Body Parts is inspired by 1
Cor. 12:12 — “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts;
and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with
Christ” (NIV). The parts of the Baptist State Convention exist to serve
Visit Body Parts, a Biblical Recorder special series.