Article #002 THE POWER OF CITY-WIDE PASTORS’ PRAYER GROUPS By Francis Frangipane
For a great many years the church has had books and articles on unity on a local church level. However, until just a few years ago, it had been nearly impossible to find information on unifying the larger, citywide body of Christ. Today, there are numerous books and articles being written, as well as organizations that have been established, whose sole purpose is to facilitate oneness of spirit within the larger, more diverse church.
Here in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, over the past 10 years, we have done a number of things to serve this wonderful rebuilding of the Lord’s House: We’ve had citywide prayer twice weekly, we’ve prayer walked and marched annually for Jesus; pastors have exchanged pulpits and given offerings to other pastors and congregations.
As churches, together with our mayor, police chief and other city officials, we’ve even covenanted with God at the Cedar Rapids city hall. Our vision was that our city would be a "city of refugee," free from racial injustice, a place where an interceding spiritual priesthood of believers would bring redemption and reversal to every satanic assault; where the peace and authority of Christ would prevail. Then the Lord opened doors so that our covenant of peace was proclaimed in the media over one hundred miles in every direction.
Additionally, for the last two years we’ve enjoyed monthly, citywide racial reconciliation services, and over the years we celebrated several concerts of prayer. During one 18 month period we prayed weekly with the mayor, other pastors and city officials, in his office. The results of our ten years of action has been that Cedar Rapids became the safest city over 100,000 people in 1989 and there is an ever-increasing blessedness between churches. Our prayer at the mayor’s office led to over thirty months without a murder. Most recently, as churches cooperated, over 5000 souls came to Christ last fall.
There is also the simple, yet profound effect of possessing loving relationships among pastors. As the Lord promised, where the brethren dwell together in unity, there the Lord commands His blessing: life forevermore. We certainly are not perfected yet, however, in very real and tangible ways, we’ve enjoyed God’s "commanded blessing."
What I want to communicate, though, is a hidden thing that I believe has kept the ball rolling toward citywide unity and, hopefully, greater revival. That thing has been the cross. When I refer to the cross, I am not speaking of Jesus’ cross where He died, but my individual cross, where Christ calls me to lay down my life and preferences for His will.
It has taken us ten years to get where we are and there have been many legitimate opportunities to give up. I have been slandered, attacked by satanists, received death threats and called the "antichrist" himself for my stand on unity. Yet, the Lord has never let me stop believing or working toward seeing His John:17 prayer for unity fulfilled. If there is going to be progress in your city, it is because someone is willing to pay the price. That is what the cross does; before breakthroughs come, the cross positions us to pay a price that no one else sees. The consequence is, in a more functional way, the old self is forced to die and Christ lives in us.
The cross doesn’t only crucify what is wrong in me. It crucifies me. I love exceedingly our local church, River of Life Ministries. But I’m going to confess that, as the pastor of a local church, I have been self-centered in my service to the Lord. What I mean is that I’ve wanted my church to be blessed more than other churches. This desire is not pure. For, when a breakthrough might be occurring in another congregation, I have had to die to my own self-centeredness. Otherwise, envy, or my personal insecurities, would create divisions between us and others.
So, when God blesses other churches, I promote them from our pulpit. When special services are going on elsewhere, we advertise it and encourage our congregation to go. In so doing, self in me dies, but Christ in me moves forward in ever-increasing freedom.
The issues that divide churches are not so much doctrinal as personal. As leaders we are too insecure. We teach "eternal security" yet live with insecurity when another church succeeds. Jesus said that unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and die, it abides by itself alone, but if it dies, it will bear much fruit. He was not only speaking of His own death, but ours. For in the very next verse He adds, "he who seeks to save his life will lose it, but he who loses his life will find it."
But what is true on a personal level, is also true on a church-wide level. As churches, if we do not die to self, we will abide by ourselves alone. If we die to self-centeredness, we will bear much fruit. That doesn’t mean we abandon our individual programs or unique congregational concerns, but our vision and direction is bigger. We begin to receive Christ’s perspective of the church.
Selfishness, envy, jealousy, pride and ambition will always, in some measure, be obstacles we must overcome because they are elements of the flesh nature. These are dimensions of our old life that we must crucify along the way to revival. As we do, more of the person of Christ will be revealed through us. Where Christ is revealed, heaven accompanies our efforts to turn our cities to God.
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"The Power of Citywide Pastors’ Prayer Groups"
By Francis Frangipane