Most Gracious Heavenly Father,
You have blessed me with the privilege of serving in Your church as a minister and as a part of this congregation. I have often prayed for a God-sized task, one so big that we absolutely must rely on You to accomplish it. I believe You have set that out before us. You said in Your Word that we are to “Go…and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that [Jesus] commanded.” We desire to that now like never before, to renew our commitment to carrying out that Great Commission. Few churches ever really seem to do that. I pray that You would do something so great through TSBC that it would inspire others to renew their commitment to You commission as well, not at all for our glory, but for Yours. I pray that the name of Jesus would be made great in TSBC, Etowah County, Alabama, the USA, and in all those peoples to whom You send us to throughout the world.
But this is a big task, so we cannot really live out the Great Commission without You. What we are asking is to be a part of storming the gates of Hell. We know that means there will be a battle. The enemy will not likely let us follow You without a fight. But You are vastly greater than the enemy. So Lord, please protect us from evil from the world, from Satan, and even that within ourselves. May we be one in our passion and mission and action as You are One. Unlike You, we will not always agree on strategy or terminology, or a multitude of lesser important things. But unite us in mission and vision. When we disagree, make us humble. God, may we be servants first, putting You first, others next, and ourselves last. May we seek to honor and glorify You above self or church and be more concerned with Your mission than our own comfort.
May Your Spirit unify us by the gifts He has given each of us. I pray that we would not be at peace as individuals until we are serving and using those gifts You have given for the edification of Your Church. I pray that those of us who are called to lead would serve this congregation by helping them to know and use their gifts. Guide us in that. I pray also that those You have chosen to lead this congregation in various ways would be servant-leaders. Where we attempt to lead in a human way, boasting in and abusing authority, humble us. If we refuse to submit to You, remove us. When we fail, may we receive grace, restoration, encouragement, exhortation, and accountability in love from You (which is a given) and from this church.
Father, I pray that You would use Twelfth Street Baptist Church to make You known in this county, state, nation, and world. I pray that people would know Your love by the work You accomplish in and through us. I pray that we would praise You passionately as You are proclaimed to us. I pray that Your love would grow in each of us and that we would grow, being transformed as individuals and as a congregation into the image of Jesus Christ. I pray that as we grow that we would guide others in growth as well. Father, I beg that You would use us to show Your Love, Your very essence, all of You to those we encounter every day at work, at school, in the marketplace, in our neighborhoods, and wherever You may take us. May we see every aspect of life as an opportunity sent by You to show our Savior to the lost.
Father, I pray that You would bless the work You have for us locally. As we seek to initiate a partnership with our brothers and sisters in Cincinnati seeking to plant new churches, I pray You would bless their work and use us to be a blessing to them as we pray for them, encourage them, give to them, and serve them. May we do so with joy. I pray also that You would bless for Your glory the work we desire to do in Haiti and Cameroon and in those missionaries around the world that are close to our hearts for various reasons. May we be a blessing to them by encouraging them, giving, serving, and loving them. May they never feel alone. I pray that You would work through our church as a whole, but also through Your Sunday School classes to accomplish these tasks. May they be passionate about those You will give them to love. I pray each class would love missionaries and church planters that you give us, even if they have not yet met, as if they were their own.
God, this is a big task, but I believe it is what You have called us to. We cannot accomplish this without You. I pray You would provide for us miraculously in passion, unity, humility, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self control. I pray also that You would proved the resources necessary to accomplish this. I pray for a building that is a beautiful place designed to welcome Your followers and the lost at all times with love, joy, and care. I pray that it would be used for Your glory to serve You and those to whom You send us. I pray that You would be worshiped in spirit and truth inside of it. I pray also that the cost of such a place would not be a burden to the work You desire to accomplish through us. I pray that it would never become a source of arrogance and that it would be a monument to Your glory and generosity rather than ourselves. I pray that the building and the people who call it home would be used a hub for ministry, inspiring other churches and serving and leading them so they may accomplish the same work.
May You unite the churches of this county in vision. With so many churches in Etowah County, I pray that You would use TSBC to revive them by inspiration as well as partnership in reaching their surrounding neighborhoods. As You transform the hearts of this congregation, make it contagious throughout this county and beyond. May we be a congregation that other congregations come to seeking to join the work You are accomplishing. I pray that Twelfth Street Baptist Church, the Church in Etowah County would be known for loving and serving the community, the schools, the poor, the outcast, the burdened, the sick, the leaders, and all we meet for Your glory. I pray that it would be impossible to enter this county without encountering the love of Jesus Christ.
I am overwhelmed and excited by what I am asking. I believe I am not alone in these requests. I also believe this is what You desire to do in Your church. Therefore, I believe I can truly ask this in the name of Jesus Christ. So, in the name of our Savior Jesus Christ we ask this.
There has been quite a buzz around 12th Street Baptist Church and the Gadsden community about the local libraries pulling banned books, including the Bible, from the shelves. And, yes, that should cause a serious reaction. About a month ago, the librarian posted that books that have been banned at any time would be pulled from circulation, although the Gadsden State Library would allow them to be checked out by request. Cards would be left in place of those books. Now they are actually going through with it. They have pulled those books from the shelves as reported in the Gadsden Times. They will remain that way until September 23, banned books week. It is a demonstration of what has happened throughout history and how tragic that can be. I think most people get the point, but the outrage comes from the fact that the Bible will not be available in the Library, that it should never be removed. Agreed. I personally asked the LIbrary to keep those books on a separate ‘banned books’ shelf for a similar impact without losing the Scriptures from the Library. Now, Bibles are not hard to come by for anyone who is looking in this city, but that doesn’t mean it is ok to remove it.
Here are some questions for personal reflection. If you are outraged that the Bible is being removed from circulation for one month, just in the libraries, in this town, are you outraged that it is banned in many places throughout the world? If you’re willing to petition the local community leaders to keep this from happening here on a temporary basis, what are you doing about the permanent bans worldwide? Granted, sending letters and emails to foreign leaders really doesn’t have the same effect, but are you praying? What if you did send a letter or email to a foreign leader? Are you willing to supply Bibles to people who take them into those closed countries? Are you praying for those missionaries and giving so that the Word of God can be taken into new hands? God gets His Word to places and people in miraculous ways. I walked into a Communist country where I had to smuggle in Bibles. Those Bibles and Gospel tracts were in my suitcase and those of several others traveling with me. As we moved to security, a guard motioned for us and fast-tracked all of us through all protocols to get out of the airport quickly. not one bag was searched. No questions asked. Dozens of Bibles and hundreds of tracts entered the country without a hint of trouble. Pray for that and provide the Bibles worldwide. Find someone in your neighborhood, workplace, or school who does not have a Bible and take one to them today.
Should you protest the temporary removal of Scripture from Library circulation? Sure. Should you take this local opportunity to remind you of the global need? Absolutely.
I spent the last few days at the Send North America Conference put on by the North American Mission Board (NAM. This was probably the best conference I have been to for several reasons. The conference was done with excellence in every way. It was organized, had clear communication, excellent worship, top-notch speakers, and even included good food…all for a third of the cost of most conferences. The speakers, although well-known names in Southern Baptist life and highly sought-after, were humble and approachable. I got the real impression that each speaker cared about those in attendance, but even more so, they cared about advancing the Kingdom of Christ, carrying out the Great Commission. They were not concerned with building their own churches or their own reputation. There was no bragging about how big a church had gotten or what any of these leaders had been used to accomplish. In fact, one of the men who is a key player in leading about one third of the NAMB strategy is a pastor of a church of about 200. That church is providing the example that NAMB wants to use for struggling churches across the country.
There were church planters all over the place, missionaries, pastors, and others all with the goal of reaching people for Christ in ways we have not seen in decades. I was sent to Send to focus on the Church Revitalization track. There is a growing number of churches in this nation with a heart not just for planting new churches, but for breathing new life into struggling congregations. We have nearly 100 Southern Baptist congregations in Etowah county. Can you imagine what would happen if those struggling churches that are unable to reach the neighborhoods around them became vibrant congregations serving their communities? What if all of these churches gained the reputation in their communities as being churches that love their neighborhoods? What if they were all reaching the lost just in the 1 mile radius surrounding their buildings? And what if 12th Street Baptist Church, a church that is now growing in every way and has the eye of the community, was able to lead other churches in Etowah County to Show Love in their own neighborhoods? This place would be transformed for Christ. The community would change around us. Most importantly, God would be glorified. Brother Craig has a passion for TSBC to be a church that shows love in our daily lives everywhere we go, in our community, in our nation, and across the globe. He also desires to that happen in other churches in this area. He is not alone. Send was full of people with the same passion. Although there have been some concerning statistics about churches in America this century, Southern Baptists included, I have never been more excited about the direction and future of the Southern Baptist Convention and the glory of God being shown throughout the world! I believe revival is coming to this nation. Be ready. Be a part of it.