"FIRST TUESDAYS" COMING
May I share a story with you. Last Sabbath afternoon our Board of Elders enjoyed a delectable Sabbath dinner with our friend, Joe Kidder (seminary professor here on campus). After our meal, Joe stood and told a story, a very personal story about a time he and his wife were pastoring a small congregation out west. Once a thriving large congregation, it had been shrinking over the years—a church tussle had led to families leaving until there were just 40 members left. When he moved to that congregation, Joe had high hopes that new church growth strategies would reverse the decline. Instead, after a year the number had dropped to 35.
Joe and his wife were discouraged. One evening he sat down at his computer to write a resignation letter. He had once been an engineer, and now his former career seemed a way out of this disappointment. The doorbell rang, and when Joe was at the door, his wife happened to walk by the computer and saw the letter of resignation. “Are you quitting?” she asked in surprise. Joe nodded. “Shouldn’t we talk to God about this?” He agreed, and so they determined to take the next day, Monday, and spend it in prayer and fasting.
Monday morning Joe went to the church. Knowing where each member was used to sitting, Joe began to move from place to place to pray. Worn down by fatigue and stress, however, he fell asleep on the floor of the church and slept for eight hours. He went home that evening. “How did it go?” He mumbled, “Fine.”
And so began a Monday journey into prayer and fasting for the Kidders. Fifty-two Mondays went by. Little appeared to change. What Joe later testified is that unbeknown to him the changes were transpiring inside his own soul, as day after day and week after week he cried out to God to do something to turn the story around.
One Sabbath some strangers were sitting near the front, parents with their young daughter. Turns out they lived down the street from the church. The wife had begun to sense her need for God and suggested to her husband that they attend church, specifically the Roman Catholic church, the church of her childhood. But the husband remembered his employer (not a Christian) once telling his employees that if they were ever looking for a church to join, it should be the Seventh-day Adventist church. And so the husband suggested the Adventist church down the block. She agreed.
After a series of Bible studies, Joe stood with the young couple in the baptistery. He told about how this couple was a godsend to his own spiritual struggle, how he and his wife had been fasting and praying every Monday for over a year. In tears, he testified that he now realized it was his own heart that had been changed through those weeks of praying. No sooner had he concluded his testimony, then a longtime church member walked to the front from the back of the sanctuary. “I need to be praying for my children away from Jesus and the church.” A woman up near the front rose and confessed her need for her kids and their salvation. Others stood. Before the morning was over, the small congregation covenanted to pray and fast one day a week for their families, their unreached community.
Today there is a vibrant congregation of 600 members. And it all began with “earnest prayer.” When Joe Kidder ended his testimony to the room full of Pioneer leaders last Sabbath afternoon, Bryan von Dorpowski, who with his wife Becky are Pioneer’s head elders, stood. And in a matter of minutes, the leaders agreed to set aside the first Tuesday of every month for a day of prayer and fasting. Sure, people have to work, students have to study, life goes on every Tuesday. But we covenanted to keep that Tuesday day of prayer special and sacred within our hearts, whatever each Tuesday may bring.
As it turned out, Andrea Luxton, Andrews University president, had been thinking since last Thursday about the need for our campus to pray. The challenges that face the church across this continent and around the world, the need to reach a secular culture with the gospel of Jesus and His soon-coming—our spiritual needs are many. And then, in one of those synchronicity moments that only the Holy Spirit can engineer, her conviction and the elder’s decision were joined. And now both the campus and the Pioneer congregation are being invited to set aside the first Tuesday of each month for a day of prayer (and fasting, for those who wish).
It is the right time for our congregation to join forces in prayer. Our own families and children, our mission to connect with campus students and community residents, our soon-to-be-launched “Renovate: Heart & House” initiative, our nation and world struggling through the headlines, our national church and our world church wrestling over God’s vision for the journey ahead—we as a people have every reason to join in calling on God. “Call upon Me in the day of trouble and I will deliver you; and you will glorify Me” (Psalm 50:15) is His promise.
“First Tuesdays”—I hope you will prayerfully consider joining this prayer force for the Kingdom of God. Be watching our eLetter and worship bulletins for specific themes and needs over the next 12 months. And in the power of the Holy Spirit, let’s move “forward on our knees” with Jesus.