By Susan Mires
HANNIBAL–-Pastors in Northeast Missouri are committed for the long haul – including a commitment to prayer.
Every Tuesday morning for the last 10 years, the pastors of Bethel Baptist Association gather to pray for each other, for their churches and for revival.
“We understand that we can’t do anything of kingdom value without God’s spirit,” said Jeff Anderson, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, Hannibal.
The group includes men who have served their churches for more than 15 years. Anderson, who has been at Calvary for 10 years, said that by praying for revival in the region, the pastors have developed deep friendships. They don’t feel they are in competition, but encourage growth in each of their churches.
“We are committed to letting prayer be a tool. It’s not an empty practice,” said Milton Baumgardner, pastor of First Baptist Church, Monroe City. “There is a commitment to a deeper understanding and use of prayer in this association.”
And those prayers are beginning to yield a harvest.
“There are rumblings that God is up to something,” Baumgardner said.
Bethel Association participated in GPS (God’s Plan for Sharing) around Easter this year. Church members distributed information packets to about 10,000 houses.
Anderson said Calvary has seen evidence of God working in the hearts of people. While the church has grown in numbers, Anderson said he has learned to place the greatest emphasis not on generating large numbers of converts, but on seeing lost people discover genuine salvation.
“I hope what God’s doing at Calvary is a deep work of repentance and people who are truly saved,” he said. “We need to be more careful about plowing deep in salvation and talk about change and warning people that if they fall away, they’ve only made an emotional decision.”
In March, Bob Loggins, prayer and spiritual awakening specialist with the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC), led a revival at Calvary.
“It was personal and very powerful. The altar was filled. There is a lot of desire for revival to happen,” Anderson said.
Loggins had also led a revival at First Monroe City last year and the church went through Loggins’ book guiding 40 days of prayer and fasting.
“It had a profound effect on our church when we did it,” Baumgardner said. “There’s a continued awareness, a cognizance of the fact that prayer is more than a perfunctory thing. It is a powerful tool God has made available.”
The church has a vibrant prayer chain that has become recognized in the community as powerful and effective, he noted.
But even as they reflect on the move of God in Northeast Missouri, the pastors recognize the need to grow deeper.
“When you’re seeking God it seems obvious that it’s more than a casual awareness. It’s something that demands focus, energy, and a willingness to stretch,” Baumgardner said.
Churches tend to pray, then do what they consider the work, Anderson said, but prayer is the greatest work the church body can do together. For a pastor, deacon, or lay leader desiring revival, he offers a word of encouragement.
“Resist doing another evangelism program and get on your knees and pray. Pray for spiritual things, for the things God wants to be doing spiritually,” he said.
Believers become discouraged when they don’t see results right away from their prayers. Baumgardner said the pastors’ group has provided the support to persevere. The association hosted the regional Prayer Summit led by Loggins on May 27 at Calvary Baptist Church here.
“We need prayer summits because we need to be awakened to the power of prayer,” Baumgardner said.
No matter the results, the pastors say they will continue their commitment.