Gathering Wednesday through Friday at The Church at Liberty Square, The Praying Church Conference 2013 features three days of workshops, keynote speakers and a community prayer service.
“The guys that are leading this thing are the premier guys in North America. ... Most of the time on a conference like this you’ve got to call and ask the guy to come and stuff like that, but in this case, we didn’t call him, he called us,” said David Franklin with the Bartow Baptist Association. “... Three years ago, we had the largest attendance in the nation on the National Day of Prayer, so when a guy asked national prayer leaders, ‘Where should we go to do this conference?’ And they say, ‘Go to Cartersville.’ ...
“If you are going to go to the Southeast, you go to Atlanta. It’s just kind of unusual that somebody would call and say, ‘Listen, can we come and do this conference in your town?’ Because it could have gone to Atlanta to some megachurch kind of thing and all that, but they didn’t. They chose to come to Cartersville.”
The desire of Bartow County’s faith-based community reached coordinators, prompting the decision.
“There seems to be in Cartersville a unique, cross-denominational dynamic occurring. Pastors are connecting across denominational lines,” Alive Ministries Founder Doug Small said. “There is a desire to serve the community — beyond the local church and its self-concerns. The numbers of people who have responded to the National Day of Prayer [and] events of Splash Bartow have sent a signal across the nation that something appears to be happening there that is quite dramatic.”
Small added that the openness of Franklin and The Church at Liberty Square Pastor Dr. Joe Edwards also was a major factor in the organization holding the conference in Bartow County.
Franklin said the decision speaks to the movement among the community’s churches and leaders.
“... I also think it’s a clear testimony about the unity that our community has, which is highly unusual. ... The government put the faith-based community on point in tornado disaster relief recovery, and so that’s one of those kinds of things that just doesn’t happen in other parts of the nation,” he said. “What it does is it really speaks well of the fact that this community works together and people recognize across the nation there is something different happening here.”
Beginning Wednesday at noon with a special pre-conference gathering, the conference focuses on pastors and prayer leaders. The public, however, is invited to attend.
“There are actually three conferences going on in one. The primary draw is probably the well-known author and pastor of Brooklyn Tabernacle, Jim Cymbala, and Daniel Henderson of Liberty University and Strategic Renewal Ministries,” Small said. “The two of them with others teamed up last year to challenge pastors, in accordance with Acts 6:4, to ‘give themselves to prayer and the word.’
“Sensing a drift in pastoral ministry to being professionalized and more, and losing its more spiritual soul, this movement is one the organizers of the conference felt that was critical to health of our churches and the nation.”
Cymbala and Henderson will speak Thursday, which begins with a prayer session at 7:30 a.m. and registration at 8:15. On Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., more than 30 workshops will take place, with sessions touching on topics such as “Women and Prayer,” “The Pastor’s PIT Crew” and “Pastor’s Personal Prayer Life” among others. The cost for the conference is $50.
“It’s across denominational lines — speakers will be coming from various ... denominations, which I think is something that is really a kind of fun thing to think about,” Franklin said.
Hosted by Project Pray, “The Praying Church” movement began as an attempt to identify and assist congregations that want to bring prayer to heart of the church and its members.
“We have produced a 700-page “Praying Church Resource Guide,” published the first of a four-volume, more substantive work on prayer, actually a collection of writings from some of the nation’s foremost prayer authors and experts,” Small said. “We are working on the development of a Prayer Trainer’s network and special approach for the small- to mid-sized congregation.
“We also work with some 6,500 Church of God congregations across the nation and have made some impact on the 40,000 Church of God congregations around the world, specifically in Europe, South America and Africa.”
Both Small and Franklin see the positive impact the conference possible in the community and nation.
“... I think it will help our local churches and our local ministers have a greater focus on prayer, so I think it has a benefit to our local community,” Franklin said. “There are people coming in from all over the Southeast for this thing. It’s going to be interesting because what it does is for us locally it does one thing, but it also sends a signal to the rest of the faith-based community across the Southeast that something good is happening in Bartow County.”
Small said he hopes those in attendance return to their homes better-equipped to become houses of prayer.
“Currently, most of our churches are houses of praise and preaching — and we do far too little praying, especially transformational, to-be-like-Jesus praying,” he said. “Coming out of the Friday post-conference gathering, we hope to identify a dozen cities that will be a part of a pilot project in forming a community prayer leadership network, churches and Christians collaborating and cooperating together on behalf of the city around prayer-driven renewal efforts.”
For more information on the conference, visit http://www.praycog.org/2013-Prayer-Conference/.