NEW ORLEANS—Amidst a sea of chatter and conversations about ministry in the hours prior to the opening gavel of the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting, First Baptist Church Forney Senior Pastor Nathan Lino made it clear how churches from Texas to Taiwan will experience the movement of God they so desperately seek.
“You have to believe that leading the church to pray together is the activity of first importance,” Lino said during a panel discussion held Monday in the annual meeting’s exhibit hall. “We’re going to build our church on sound doctrine and the true gospel, but the activity of first importance has to be that we’re going to seek the presence of God. … Without the manifest presence of God, the rest we’re doing is in the flesh and is completely ineffective.”
The Power in the Prayer Meeting panel also included Todd Kaunitz, lead pastor of New Beginnings Baptist Church in Longview, and Robby Gallaty, senior pastor of Long Hollow Church in Hendersonville, Tenn. Kie Bowman, pastor emeritus of Hyde Park Baptist & The Quarries Church in Austin, moderated the panel aimed at helping pastors create a culture of prayer in their churches and design an effective prayer meeting.
Bowman—who is assisting the SBC Executive Committee in developing a national prayer strategy—explained that all three pastors have experienced “significant spiritual awakening like we only read about and dream about” in their churches. Those movements of God, he said, were precipitated by each pastor making prayer a priority in his personal life and church over the past couple of years.
Before that happened, Gallaty, Lino, and Kaunitz said they had to weather a personal season of brokenness that the Lord used to help them understand their need for Him at the center of their lives and ministries. Those seasons were marked by jealousy, arrogance, pride, joyless service, and desperation. Lino said he was so despondent at one point, “I was praying every day for God to bring me home.”
Said Gallaty: “Brokenness is the pathway to breakthrough.”
After personally turning their hearts back to the Lord in prayer and then leading their churches to do the same, the pastors testified about seeing God do things they had never seen. Gallaty said more than 1,000 people at Long Hollow were baptized within a 15-week period. Lino said since last Aug. 15, his church has seen 962 people saved. Kaunitz has previously said hundreds in his church have been saved, baptized, or experienced personal renewal and restoration.
So how, Bowman asked, can pastors lead their churches to begin a prayer meeting?
Lino said the weekly prayer meeting at his church includes three phases that follow the pattern of the Lord’s prayer. First, he leads those in attendance to seek the manifest presence of God (“Our Father in heaven … ”). Next, he asks the congregation to talk to God about what’s on His heart—not their own (“ … your kingdom come, your will be done …”). Only then does Lino lead his people to share with God what’s on their heart (“Give us this day, our daily bread …”).
“What we have found is that if you move through those three phases of the Lord’s prayer, something about it triggers the Holy Spirit,” Lino said.
Kaunitz recommended pastors who feel they have not been diligent in leading their churches in prayer confess that fact before their congregation. The next step, he said, would involve making prayer the primary activity of the church—even if that means other activities take a backseat. He also mentioned a pair of prayer retreats that will be held in partnership with the SBTC—one later this month at FBC Forney and another in the fall at New Beginnings—intended to help churches learn more about hosting a weekly prayer meeting.
He said the revival experienced at New Beginnings this past February started with the Holy Spirit saying to him, “I’m speaking to the people. You’ve asked me to move. Will you get out of my way?” Kaunitz said he shared that with his congregation and then walked out of the room—a moment that catalyzed a week of daily prayer meetings at the church where a “mighty move of God” happened.
“What I would say to a pastor is, be willing to trust your church to the Holy Spirit, recognizing He’s a better pastor, a better shepherd, and He can lead the church better than you can,” Kaunitz said. “When I’ve learned to relinquish control, submitting to the work of the Holy Spirit, He takes over and does things I can’t manufacture.”