E. K. Bailey has a big dream: He wants to see the nation evangelized by the turn of the millennium.
But Bailey, pastor of Concord Missionary Baptist Church in Dallas, believes the task begins by praying for neighbors. After sharing the vision with lay leaders in September, more than 1,500 of the church's 2,100 attenders agreed to pray for their neighbors.
Now, attendance at the church's Wednesday night prayer meeting has jumped from 200 to an average of 500. The youth group holds regular "prayer walks" through the church's economically diverse neighborhood of South Oak Cliff. Of the five neighbors Bailey has been praying for, three have begun attending his church. "It's really started a whole prayer wave in our congregation," Bailey says.
Bailey's church is one of 185,000 participating in Celebrate Jesus 2000 (CJ2K), a movement "to pray for and to share Christ with every person in our nation by year-end 2000." The effort is directed by Mission America, with collaborators AD 2000 and Beyond and the National Association of Evangelicals. More than 65 denominations and 200 parachurch organizations support the movement.
"We're not calling people to in-your-face evangelism, but to authentically loving their neighbors by praying for them," says Mission America chair Paul Cedar, who believes many Christians are intimidated by the idea of "doing evangelism."
CJ2K is mobilizing families to pray for 21 homes in their neighborhoods. Organizers estimate 3 million such families will be able to reach every person in the country.
"Prayer evangelism is speaking to God about your neighbors before you speak to your neighbors about God," says Dave Thompson, vice president of ministries for Harvest Evangelism and director of the City Reacher Schools, which train families to become "lighthouses of prayer."
City Reacher Schools, held in September and October in Minneapolis, Dallas, New York City, and Melbourne, Florida, each attracted 500 pastors and lay leaders. After daily evangelism training, participants met in homes to dedicate them as "embassies of heaven," sanctify them by tossing out "things you would not want Jesus to see if he came for dinner," and prayer-walking through the neighborhood, Thompson says. CJ2K events continue through 2000, including a national conference on prayer evangelism in San Francisco, January 18-20, 40 days of fasting and prayer leading to Easter, and celebrations at state capitols on January 1, 2000. "The goal is to change the spiritual climate from nominal Christianity to authentic Christianity," Cedar says.
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