Believers in Jesus can sometimes delude themselves into thinking they are honoring God through their actions, when God is more concerned with the heart that is performing those actions.
This is how many at First Baptist Albany later confessed finding themselves when the OneCry team arrived. It was a great privilege for our ministry team to witness the responsiveness and transformation of people’s hearts during the OneCry Conference.
Beginning with the first service, the spirit of the congregation seemed to be one of disengagement. Some would venture to say there wasn’t a “spirit” at all among the people for the first couple of services. Thankfully, the Lord had a journey planned for His people.
As the conference continued, the people’s freedom to respond to the Spirit’s leading became more evident. More arms were raised to physically express hearts desiring to worship the Lord. More knees were bent to offer humble requests to heaven.
The first dramatic signs of God’s work showed up in the children’s clubs, specifically in Base Camp. The first night, a boy’s mother gave the Base Camp leaders a prayer card, asking prayer for revival for her son. With tears in her eyes, she explained to one of the leaders that he had received Christ a couple years ago, but “because he ‘lives at the church,’ he’s become desensitized to the Holy Spirit.” The leaders committed to pray for him during their daily planning time.
On Tuesday night, one of the planned activities was an opportunity for the children to ask any question of the Base Camp leaders. The following two questions provided a great opportunity for teaching and discussion: “Do you know how the earth ends?” and “Why do we need God if He is not real?”
Most of the children attending had been churched and knew the right things to say, but they had become desensitized. The Base Camp leaders were able to answer their questions using Scripture.
Toward the end of this discussion, one of the Base Camp leaders felt a burden to pray for the children, and he proceeded to kneel and pray for them at that moment, asking God to show Himself to them and affirm that He is real and give them grace to believe. During this prayer prompted only by the Holy Spirit, the child they had been praying for and a friend of his were seen lying face down on the floor in humility before God.
On the last night, the children showed their appreciation for the teachers with hand-drawn pictures, notes, hugs, and pleas for their return. One mother shared with a Base Camp leader her family’s desire to attend Family Camp as a result of what God had done in their lives during the OneCry Conference. It is so encouraging to be reminded that God does not regard age; He just sees hearts He desires to work in.
On the last two nights, the focus was on uniting and praying as a body of believers. Ryan Loveing, the lead revivalist for this conference, gave a call for the church to first remove hindrances by dealing with past hurts between each other: “How can we ask the church to pray together if they are not united?”
The focus on prayer was most powerful on the final night. Toward the end of the service, Ryan called for a time of corporate prayer. As the people closed the time of praying for their church, community, and country, Ryan asked everyone to create a giant circle and join hands. Initially there was hesitancy, but soon people lined the entire sanctuary, no one left out.
Then Ryan asked for three volunteers to offer prayers for First Baptist Albany, for God’s continued guidance in the days to come. As these three voiced prayers, we could sense every heart in that room praying together in unity.
Pastor Butch Knight ended the evening with a surprising confession. In humility he shared how God had shown him that he had done a poor job leading his people to seek the face of the Lord, specifically in prayer. As he shared authentically, the people extended forgiveness. We could sense the significance of how God had worked in his heart, and it was powerful to watch such a tender and vulnerable moment among the people.
First Baptist Albany looked great from the outside. But now, through answered prayers and a move of the Holy Spirit, God has taken them deeper. Deeper in relationship with Himself. Deeper in the journey of discipleship. Deeper in loving God and loving each other, not only with actions but now with hearts that are becoming more and more like the heart of Jesus Himself.