One week ago, Aug. 10, a crowd of up to 1,500 from all denominations and backgrounds, socioeconomic levels and races, came together for prayer on the steps of the Coffee County Courthouse. The meeting wasn’t a culmination, say organizers, but a sign of something that’s ongoing and an answer to prayer that started long ago.
“A few years back there was an event across denominations called ‘Send the Rain,'” explains John Butler, associate pastor at First Baptist Douglas. “It was a weeklong crusade that resulted in the Coffee County Ministerial Association and area pastors meeting every Wednesday to pray.”
The camaraderie built each week in those prayer gatherings became something palpable in area churches. After the June Supreme Court decision on gay marriage, what had been building in prayer among pastors became something else with laypeople. A community-wide prayer meeting was called for the following Monday in First Baptist’s chapel.
Christians from area churches – regardless of background and denomination – showed up. That first meeting on June 29 went an hour-and-a-half and consisted of reading Scripture and praying. At the end they decided to meet the next night as well. At the end of that one it was agreed to meet the following Monday, a practice that has continued ever since.
The time together has brought prayer for the country and elected officials, but also repentance of racism, backbiting among Christians, and other sins. On average, 65 attendees have arrived at First Baptist’s chapel every Monday evening. “A lot of people come by right after work and grab dinner on the way,” explains Butler. “People will being their kids. We’ve had young people and youth involved; it’s become kind of a family event and definitely a unique experience.
“We hope this allows us to cross some racial and denominational lines with others to work together. When people see the Church in isolated pockets rather than the Bride of Christ it takes away from our effectiveness.”
The aforementioned Coffee County Ministerial Association has drown up five items outlining the growing sense of unity in the community:
- United we stand in Christ to declare America’s only hope is Jesus Christ.
- United we stand in Christ to pray for revival in America’s churches.
- United we stand in Christ to defend biblical marriage.
- United we stand in Christ to build biblical families.
- United we stand in Christ to protect our First Amendment rights.
“Whatever our background, those were things we could agree on,” explains Shep Douglas, First Baptist’s pastor.
Given the context of the Supreme Court decision, it could be assumed the prayer meeting Aug. 10 was over one issue. That would be incorrect, Douglas added.
“We didn’t gather because we’re mad at anybody, but to pray for our elected officials. All we did was pray, read Scripture, and sing. Then we had a person carry the cross along with a candlelit procession around the courthouse before the final prayer.”
That said, the Court ruling played a part in awakening the community.
“We kind of knew [the ruling] had been coming and prepared,” Butler says. “The next day (June 27) we had a wedding scheduled at our church, where Shep and I saw each other for the first time since the court’s decision. We talked and felt we needed to do something, so we called for a community prayer meeting that Monday night. I asked our music guy to post it to Facebook and on Monday night there were 75 people scattered across denominations meeting to pray.”
Facebook has been a big help, but a lot of the publicity has been by word of mouth through another form of social media – the local church. Butler says support from congregations such as The Lighthouse Church, Greater Destiny International Ministries, First Congregational Church, First United Methodist Church, and Westward Church of God has been instrumental.
Hopes are for a larger crowd to join them at Liberty Plaza across from the state capitol in Atlanta Oct. 8. “We’d like to have 2,000-3,000 people there,” says Butler. “If God continues to move, our next step would be Washington, D.C.”