Thousands of messengers at the 2015 Southern Baptist Convention knelt in prayer and raised their hands to heaven July 16 as they prayed for revival in the church and a great awakening across the United States. Spiritual leaders from Southern Baptist churches across America—including Hispanic, Korean, Native American, and African American pastors—prayed for an end to racism and prejudice as they pledged to work together “as one family.”
The SBC’s National Call to Prayer included participants around the world, connected by broadcasts from the Daystar worldwide television network and the Salem satellite radio network, as well as a live stream on the Internet.
“The only thing that can ultimately reshape America is a spiritual awakening and the next move of God,” Ronnie Floyd, president of the SBC, told messengers. “When you look at it historically, there is no great movement of God that is not first preceded by the extraordinary prayer of God’s people.
“When was the last time that you gathered with thousands of people on a Tuesday night in the summer and prayed for spiritual awakening in the United States? We have full confidence in God and God alone.”
Floyd, alongside other pastors on stage throughout the evening, said he had participated in prayer a few days ago with a group of spiritual leaders in Ohio’s capitol building. Underneath the seal of the state of Ohio that appears in front of the building are the words, “With God, all things are possible,” he noted.
“It is providential we’re here, because with God . . . all things are possible,” he said. “We pray that tonight will become a generational moment. Lord, open up the heavens and come down.”
Jack Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, called Southern Baptists to personal repentance.
“God is calling us to brokenness and humility,” he said. “The greatest sin is the sin of pride.”
Citing Nehemiah, who prayed for his own city when the walls were in ruins and the city was left unprotected, Graham said that is the spiritual condition of the United States: “God’s people, without protection.”
Nehemiah’s response was to pray for his nation, but to start with himself and his own family. He prayed and fasted to get right with God. Graham challenged Southern Baptists to pray in brokenness, humility, and repentance.
Surrounded by others of Asian descent, Paul Kim, pastor emeritus of Antioch Baptist Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts, said Asian American churches join him in asking God for “racial reconciliation and healing in our land.”
Recalling the Haystack Prayer Meeting in the nineteenth century that launched a great awakening, he asked, “Why can we not experience another spiritual awakening today?”
With 2.1 billion people who have never heard about salvation, J. D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, sought to personalize the number, reminding Southern Baptists they are “people like you and me.” But without Christ, they will suffer eternal death.
Reading Psalm 126:4, he urged Southern Baptists to reach the world through the hard work of evangelism, prayer, and patience, yearning for the heavens to open up to send a spiritual awakening.
Don’t always look back at what God has done, Greear said. He not only “moved yesterday”; He “will move today and tomorrow.”
Ken Whitten, pastor of Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, noted a litany of sins he sees being committed by Southern Baptists, including—among others—skepticism, distrust, and a lack of urgency to reach the world with the Gospel message of Jesus Christ.
“What if God heard us tonight confess our sins?” Whitten asked. “What if God said, ‘I’m going to bring a spiritual awakening?’ What if a discipleship movement took place all over the world?”
K. Marshall Williams, pastor of Nazarene Baptist Church in Philadelphia, prayed for racial harmony to draw the SBC together as one body.
“The Bible calls us to be in unity,” Williams exhorted prayer meeting participants. “The issue is not skin, but it’s sin. . . . Come together. Stand up and be the people of God. Rise up!” His next words were drowned out by the applause of the crowd.
In the call for racial reconciliation, Ted Traylor, pastor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, Florida, said some of the same people in his church who taught him as a boy to sing, “Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight,” left the worship service when a black man came to their church.
Indicating the men he was standing with on stage, Traylor said, “We’re the white guys in this crowd.” He commented that much had been given to them as a racial class in America and God expected much in return.
Borrowing from A. W. Tozer, James Merritt, pastor of Cross Pointe Church in Duluth, Georgia, said too many American churches are so busy doing church that if the Holy Spirit left their fellowship they would not realize it.
Christians today, he admonished, are not too different than the Pharisees and Sadducees that Jesus condemns in Scripture. He described Jesus’s words against them as one of the most “damning rebukes” because they misinterpreted Scripture and failed to believe in the power of God.
He said Christians need God’s power to work in them, witness through them, and walk before them.
Vance Pitman, pastor of Hope Church in Las Vegas, Nevada, said, “I have read about revival and awakening. I have heard about revival.” He cited the great revivals in America and Wales and the conversion of new believers in China and Iran. Pitman’s voice cracked with emotion when he said, “But I have never experienced that kind of an awakening where I live.”
Pitman said he was not content just to read about the outpouring of the Holy Spirit but wants the nation to experience it like never before. And the reason for God’s lack of activity in the church is not due to the lostness of the nation, but “the lack of desperation of the people of God.”
David Galvan, lead pastor of Primera Iglesia Bautista Nueva Vida (New Life Baptist Church) in Dallas, Texas, drew parallels between the Hellenistic widows being neglected in Acts 6 and modern day racism and discrimination.
“Even Peter, God had to interrupt his prayer time because there was still deep prejudice in his life,” Galvan said.
He admitted to making the same mistake himself, just like many in the church.
“Early in my ministry, I had to come to the realization that I had misunderstood the Great Commission,” he said. “I thought that I should only be reaching Hispanics for Christ. I had to come to the point of repentance and say, ‘God, forgive me for what I’ve done.’”
Timmy Chavis, senior pastor of Bear Swamp Baptist Church in Pembroke, North Carolina, and a Native American, said, “I am so glad . . . that God has brought our Convention to be the spearhead” of not just a national effort, but a “global effort, that we let all people know we stand together. We are God’s people. We have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. We have one Father. The Lord Jesus Christ has saved us. We are going to one heaven. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all.”
Steve Gaines, senior pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tennessee, called on the church to seek revival as a body. He spoke from Acts 4, when the early church prayed, sought after the Holy Spirit, and then proclaimed the Gospel.
“In three centuries, these Christians conquered the world’s greatest empire, the Roman Empire,” he said. “How in the world could a group of ragtag fisherman, tax collectors, zealots, commoners turn their world upside down in such a short time? They had a holy fire” burning in their souls “and they could not be extinguished.”
Robert Wilson, pastor of Light of the Word Church in Atlanta, asked God for real unity.
“[W]e want to ask God to take our hearts and really meld them together, so that when the world sees us as Southern Baptists—black, white, red, yellow, brown—they see us as one.”
Floyd reminded participants that revival across America must begin with churches.
“The heart of God is for His people to walk in light. That’s why the church needs revival. It’s time for revival in the church,” he said.
This story first appeared in Baptist Press. Compiled by Kathie Chute, director of communications for Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, with reporting from Diana Chandler, Barbara Denman, Keila Diaz, Brian Koonce, Bonnie Pritchett, and Karen L. Willoughby.