FLINT—It’s noteworthy when some of the most recognizable pastors and leaders in the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention gather on the same stage to talk.
But when several admit publicly that after years – decades – of following Christ and leading churches that they’re only recently learning how to truly pray, it’s compelling.
Such was the case when men like Todd Kaunitz, elected as SBTC’s president only hours earlier, and Nathan Lino, who pastors a church located in one of the fastest-growing regions in America, said they’ve seen their ministries and lives transformed by a laser-focused commitment to prayer. Their comments came during a panel discussion, “Keeping the Basic: Evangelism and Prayer” at the SBTC annual meeting Tuesday.
The topic of prayer took center stage during the discussion – underscoring the growing importance it seems to be having among SBTC leaders. As SBTC Executive Director Nathan Lorick, one of the panelists, said, “Once you pray, evangelism takes care of itself.”
Panelist Jason Paredes, pastor of Fielder Church in Arlington, said God began to do something in his heart regarding prayer about seven months ago. Describing himself as a driven “doer” who found himself pushing himself and his staff with far more intensity than he was seeking the Lord in prayer, Paredes said he began to realize he was creating a culture that was damaging to his church, his staff and himself.
Damon Halliday, pastor of The Key Church in Fort Worth, said he was a “drive-by pray-er” until falling under conviction at a conference on prayer. As a result, he went back to his church and apologized to the congregation for “trying to pastor without praying.” He encouraged pastors who currently feel like they’re falling short in prayer by saying God will do miraculous things if they just begin praying in simplicity.
“What can we ever do for the kingdom if we never have a conversation with the king?” he asked.
Kaunitz said his church, New Beginnings Baptist Church in Longview, recently emerged from a 21-day period of prayer and fasting. In the two weeks or so since, he said the church has seen 78 people make professions of faith in Christ – a large number of which are longtime members of the church and even several church leaders. Kaunitz said one of those leaders told him, “I’ve been leading Bible study for 45 years, but I’ve never met Jesus.”
“I don’t know what to tell you,” Kaunitz said. “All I can tell you is we have seen a manifestation of God that I can’t explain.”
Lino said his church, Northeast Houston Baptist Church in Humble, likewise has seen hundreds saved and experienced medically-verified healings after making prayer its central focus.
“I’m literally pastoring a different church now,” he said. “I literally have a different marriage, a different family.”