SBTC churches prioritizing prayer seeing spiritual movement like never before

Something is happening in churches across Texas.  

In many ways, what’s happening looks different depending on which church you’re looking at, but in other ways, it looks the same.

Regardless, there’s a common source that seems to be powering a gospel movement: a laser-focused, dead-serious, get-this-right-before-anything-else recommitment to prayer. 

Reports—no, testimonies—are being raised up from all corners of the state about God doing a work that hasn’t been seen by some in a long time, if ever. Marriages are being restored. Bonds are being broken. Lost causes are being found and falling into the arms of Jesus. 

Which is to say, lives are being transformed and, in turn, churches.

New Beginnings Baptist Church in Longview and First Baptist Church of Farwell—located nearly 600 miles apart in two very different geographical areas of the state—are only two of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention churches that are experiencing a fresh movement of God after a recommitment to corporate prayer. 

In each, you’ll find a similar backstory: a discouraged shepherd, a church struggling to see the hand of the Lord moving among them and then a realization that the solution is not a better strategy or outreach ideas, but an all-in approach to leading their congregations into the beautiful simplicity of corporate prayer.

Todd Kaunitz, lead pastor at New Beginnings and SBTC’s incoming president, instituted a prayer meeting at his church in January in the midst of a season of discouragement. Russ Ponder—who pastored FBC Farwell for a decade before recently answering a call to lead FBC Hamlin—remodeled his church’s existing prayer meeting in March. 

"I really, truly believe that God is bringing about an awakening that we have not seen in a very long time in our nation."

In implementing the meetings, both men took what some might call bold steps. Kaunitz prohibited any other adult ministry activities to coincide with their Wednesday night prayer meeting to keep his congregation focused on the main thing. Ponder changed the focus of their meeting from praying mainly for those who were sick to praying over the Scriptures, singing praise and worship songs and confessing their sins to one another and to the Lord.

“That’s not necessarily a comfortable thing to do,” Ponder said.

Uncomfortable, but obedient.

As a result, both pastors are reporting a movement of God that each said they have not seen prior. Kaunitz said New Beginnings has had nearly 230 people make professions of faith in 2021—with salvations and baptisms happening on an almost weekly basis. One woman, he said, even got saved at the prayer meeting who “literally almost ran to the front of the room to give her life to Jesus.

“I feel like we’re just now scratching the surface, but we’re seeing the heart of God’s people transformed and changed,” Kaunitz said. “I really, truly believe that God is bringing about an awakening that we have not seen in a very long time in our nation. I’m hearing story after story after story of pastors who feel empty and depleted. The programs in their churches are great but the power of God is missing and (because of that) their hearts are being returned to prayer.”

FBC Farwell, located in a panhandle town of 1,300 right across the border from Clovis, N.M., has seen 18 people make professions of faith in Christ (with 17 following up with baptism). Thirty-one new members have joined the church since March—with about half that number being people who were unchurched and many others who returned to church after being absent for many years. The church typically has around 110 in attendance during Sunday morning worship.

The numbers of those who have joined the church is noteworthy, Ponder said, because they represent nearly triple the number of people who join on average annually.

"Man, I don't know. God is just blessing."

“I can’t explain it any other way than to say God is moving in a new way we haven’t seen in a long time,” Ponder said. “Man, I don’t know. God is just blessing.”

Ponder said he has been encouraged by the prayer leadership of other SBTC pastors such as Nathan Lino (Northeast Houston Baptist Church), Danny Forshee (Great Hills Baptist Church in Austin) and Kie Bowman (Hyde Park Baptist Church in Austin). In fact, it was testimony on prayer given by Lino at the 2020 SBTC Annual Meeting that opened the door for the Lord to speak into Kaunitz’s heart about leading his own East Texas congregation to pray corporately.

The impact of those leaders, and the prayer efforts they are leading, is having a kingdom-shaking impact, Ponder said.

“I believe some of what we’re seeing at our church is an answer to their prayers,” Ponder said. “I believe we are directly benefitting from these pastors who are just calling out to God, crying out to God for a revival.”

LISTEN UP

Listen to Episode 16 of the Church Health & Leadership Podcast:Praying Churches are Powerful Churches

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Jayson Larson
Southern Baptist Texan
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