- - Wednesday, March 4, 2015

As I write, there is a huge fire burning in Ferguson, Missouri, but it’s not making headlines. The Rev. Al Sharpton and his divisive circus of opportunists blew in and out of town long enough to grab national attention, but those who truly care for the broken community and the long-term healing of the hearts of the people aren’t seeking headlines or shouting in a microphone. Today, the looting and destructive fire of the rioters has been replaced with the fire of spiritual renewal. There’s more than rebuilding going on in Ferguson, Missouri.

It is called the Ferguson Response and it is powerful!

It’s a direct answer to the “Prayer for Ferguson, Mo.,” I wrote last December and so much more! It is a movement of people turning to God for guidance and help and it is spreading across the Midwest at a fast pace!

When the conflict began, Franklin Graham’s crisis response team set up a mobile counseling center and brought in chaplains from all over the country who volunteered to stay for a week and minister to the people of Ferguson in every way possible. This team was on the ground for 90 days, just helping folks navigate the turmoil, confusion and destruction happening in their community and offering hope for healing as well. Many rioters were coming from out of town and helping to incite the violence. The small town was in disbelief at the chaos that ensued. They weren’t at all prepared for the influx of various groups stirring up anger and encouraging destruction.

I was privileged to meet one of the young men who led the effort to bring spiritual renewal to Ferguson last December. His name is J.T. Thomas, a new father and trained minister with a heart and passion for finding lasting solutions to the divisions our country faces. He was on the ground in Ferguson as the story unfolded and saw firsthand the pain and brokenness in the hearts of the people. He’s been working with Ferguson area pastors and churches ever since to rebuild and renew the community.

As soon as the conflict started, he felt called to go and just recently moved his family from Indiana to Missouri, to carry on the work. As I write this, 40 churches in the Ferguson area are taking part in a massive, voluntary community effort of personal fasting and prayer. According to those involved, they are specifically “acknowledging their corporate need for God’s help.” Pastors from all denominations are working together, implementing programs like Tony Evans’ “National Church Adopt A School Initiative” and others. They are communicating and working with their civic leaders and elected officials to find solutions and solve their conflicts in a peaceful, unified way.

Last December, I wrote “A Prayer for Ferguson, MO.” and in it, I said: “I pray that our neighbors in Missouri will take this chance to help change us for the better by choosing to overcome wrong with right, evil with good and hate with love.” Well, it’s happening, and it has been happening since Ferguson grabbed the national spotlight. A new generation of leaders is stepping forward in Ferguson, encouraged by the previous generation. The people themselves aren’t turning to the government for help, they’re turning to God. Neighbors are reaching neighbors, and isn’t that how it should be?

The amazing thing is that this spiritual renewal isn’t just happening in Ferguson, Missouri. Last December, a young man in an Amish community near Elkhart, Indiana, reachws out to a minister who travels the country organizing local revivals and neighborhood outreaches. It was originally supposed to be a short, preliminary meeting. The first night there were about 200 in attendance. The second night, attendance almost doubled. The third night tripled and it continued to grow in a huge way. The neighborhood outreach training was packed during the day, and soon other churches and area pastors were wanting to join the effort. Multiple denominations are now involved in providing the use of their facilities, breakfast for trainees, refreshments, vehicles, material and so much more.

I can’t remember the last time I saw congregations and pastors from Mennonite, Amish, Baptist, Bible, Church of Christ, and many others working together to reach their communities. Owners of factories are inviting those involved in the outreach into their facilities to speak. They are shutting down the assembly lines and inviting the workers to hear the message of hope and good news. High school young people are wearing Romans Road bracelets and attending outreach events almost daily. At area high school basketball games, after the game is played, the opposing teams (even though they might be huge rivals) will gather on the court with cheerleaders and other high school students to sing and pray together. It is the younger generation leading this effort. Teachers are in awe of the healing and unity they are seeing in the community. It is changing lives and changing the spirit in the schools. Some schools have even given their students excused absences in order to allow them to be part of this community outreach and renewal. You can see what is happening.

March 4 marked the 52nd day of this revival, after having thousands in attendance for the past few weeks, they plan to “March Forth” into the streets by the thousands to reach their community and sing in the streets to the glory of God. In a small community like Elkhart, they are expecting anywhere from 5,000 to 15,000 to come out for this event.

Many in the community are taking part in voluntary fasting and prayer efforts - not for their own community but for the nation. And so, I’m “Just Sayin’ ” I’d like to offer a second prayer. A prayer for our beloved nation. I pray that this might be a third Great Awakening in America. That we might come to the end of ourselves and realize our need for God’s mercy and help.

Our nightly news is filled with horrific beheadings and unthinkable threats to our nation. We are the most blessed nation on Earth, but only because we have realized our need for heavenly guidance and help from our founding. May we continue to acknowledge our desperate need for the leading of Divine Providence.

I invoke the prayer of the Father of Our Country, George Washington, when he prayed, “I now make it my earnest prayer that God would have you … in His holy protection; that He would incline the hearts of the citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to government, to entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another, for their fellow-citizens of the United States at large, and particularly for brethren who have served in the field; and finally that He would most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility, and pacific temper of mind, which were the characteristics of the Divine Author, and without an humble imitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy nation.”

May God find us humble enough to seek his blessing again.

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