Prayer unifies pastors, cities
Spending hours of unhurried time with God is
transforming pastors, their churches, and their
...Four-day retreats called Prayer Summits (see link #1
below) are "exploding around the world," Terry
Dirks told Religion Today. He runs the summits as
president of International Renewal Ministries, part of
Portland, Ore.-based Multnomah Bible College and Biblical
Seminary (see link #2 below).
...Summits are being held in 130 cities and 13 nations
this year, Dirks said. Most have been held in the United
States, while others have taken place in Japan, Poland,
Russia, Israel, Australia, Canada, and Mexico. Most
participants are white evangelicals, but more are coming
from mainline churches and minority communities, he said.
Each summit includes participants from many different
churches in the same geographical area.
...The only agenda at the retreats is to seek God.
"No church business is allowed. No strategizing or
networking," Joe Aldrich, founder of the Prayer
Summits, said. "What we need is time in his
presence, to worship him hour after hour."
...Participants may sing more than 100 songs a day.
Scriptures are read and prayers are said spontaneously.
"Often the presence of the Lord is so strong no one
dares speak. We stand on holy ground," Aldrich said.
"Men lie on the carpet prostrate before the King.
...When pastors spend time "with their common
King" they feel safe and leave their differences
behind, Aldrich said. They become humble and often are
surprised by what they agree on and
...Changes remain after the summits conclude.
"Denominational barriers that came down stay
down," Aldrich said. Relationships develop as
pastors hold joint church services and exchange
pulpits with "their rediscovered brothers -- who
once viewed each other quite differently." The
pastors "can't return to business as usual."
...Pastors become co-laborers in the gospel, those who
run the summits say. They pray for and help each other
rather than criticize and compete. Churches become
unified. "The church becomes a vital, healthy
community of faith," Dirks said. It's "the one
church in the one body of Christ in that city."
...It is "not unity for unity's sake," Dirks
said, but so that non-Christians will "believe that
Jesus is who he said he is." Prayer Summits, which
started in Portland in 1989, have resulted in nearly
1,000 ongoing pastors' prayer groups.
...After pastors have prayed together for four or five
years, they begin to "ask what's next," Dirks
said. Leaders who have emerged among the pastors then
meet together. International Renewal Ministries helps
them to discuss ways to cooperatively evangelize their
city or region for Christ. About 20 such consultations
have been held in the last few years.
...Other types of retreats have begun as an offshoot of
the Prayer Summits. These include retreats tailored for
pastors' wives, pastors and their wives, lay leaders,
women in leadership positions, youth workers, missions
executives, denominational leaders, church boards,
business executives, and college students.
..."God is stirring in the hearts of his people,
drawing them to him and to one another," Dirks said.
International Renewal Ministries is at 8435 N.E. Gilsan
St., Portland, OR 97220. The
telephone is (503) 251-6455, and the fax is (503)
(Religion Today, March 18, 1999)
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