Only on rare occasions do I use this column to reflect on past events, but if you will forgive me, I want to take this opportunity to share some thoughts about our recent convention. You will get the news through other pages of the Messenger, but I want to add my perspective.
Mention of the words “state convention” probably evokes an image of a two-day marathon church business meeting. That idea is comparable in some ways. Those present hear reports from convention staff and our affiliate organizations on their work. The annual meeting is also the time when messengers elect officers, approve the budget and take care of other important business. So, in those ways, the state convention is a business meeting.
I assure you, however, that the business side of the convention is not boring. Creative and informative reports share the victories of the past 12 months and many communicate the vision for the coming year of ministry.
The preaching, testimonies and music of our 2007 state convention, as always, provided a spiritual high mark. Our souls were stirred and our hearts were warmed as the larger family of Oklahoma Baptists worshiped together.
Something was powerfully different about our time together this year. There was an unusual sense of the presence of God. I believe this was directly related to the emphasis on prayer. In each session, Greg Frizzell led us in times of corporate prayer. We called out to God with praise, thanksgiving, confession and petition. Our God heard the cry of His people, and His presence was very evident.
We did something in this convention we had not done before. Our business concluded on Tuesday afternoon, and the last session was entirely devoted to an evening of prayer and praise. I admit to wondering, as we planned the convention, about the level of response we would see from the messengers. Would they return for a prayer meeting?
They did return. Indeed, a large crowd gathered for this historic event. It was one of the sweetest and most uplifting times in my 40 years of ministry. The night was filled with praise and thanksgiving to God for His blessings. Our hearts were broken as we confessed to Him our pride and carnality, the disunity and division in our churches and more. We prayed for our pastors and leaders.
As I sat on the platform and looked out over this large group of Baptist leaders, I saw tears of brokenness. This was an occasion when God came near. His Holy Spirit visited us.
The night of Nov. 13 was an unusual and blessed time. I am convinced that the majority of us went away from this convention with a sense of desperation and hope. Those are contrasting and opposing perspectives, but nonetheless right on target. We left hungry and desperate to see God send revival and spiritual awakening in our individual lives, our churches and our convention. We also left filled with hope because of God’s love, grace and mercy. We are well aware that any move of God is not because of our worthiness, but His grace.
I will not be surprised if there is a continued move of God in our churches borne on the wings of prayer. I sense a deep longing in the hearts of pastors and people to make prayer a centerpiece of ministry.
My sermon at the convention can be summed up in one word-pray. My challenge was to accept the invitation of the Lord in Jeremiah 33:3. It is an invitation to prayer with a promise attached that He will answer. My admonition to all who read this article is the same. Pray! God visited at the convention. He desires to visit you and your church with fresh wind and fresh power. Pray!