Houston Miles, pastor of Evangel Cathedral, Spartanburg, South Carolina writes:
Renewal in our church came in 1971. It was a traditional Pentecostal church named First Assembly of God. It had run the same attendance for about fifteen years prior to my coming, and after 1968, when I took the church, there was still about the same number on Sunday morning–about 175. After three years I was beginning to get discouraged. I wasn’t seeing any growth in the church, and I gave serious consideration to quitting the ministry. But I thought that before I did, I should at least pray about it and wait a while and see what the Lord would do.
On January 1, 1971, I committed myself to prayer. I did everything I could think of to get the people in my church praying. We had prayer cells. We had an around-the-clock prayer chain on Tuesdays. On Sunday I asked for a show of hands: How many would get up thirty minutes early and pray? About 60 percent raised their hands. I organized prayer partners in the church; I instructed the people to get with a partner once a week. “Don’t gossip, but pray for the church, pray for the pastor, pray for your own needs.” So we prayed for about six months.
The first indication I had that God was doing anything was when people began to come in on Sunday nights. Our crowds on Sunday nights were larger than on Sunday morning, which is unheard of.
From there it just began to explode. We had hundreds of people pouring into our church. We didn’t anticipate it–even though we’d been praying for it. The Lord sneaked up on our blind side.
There was no way we could have organized what happened. Before we knew what was going on, the whole thing was just right off the launching pad. There we were with this revival on our hands. It lasted about four months. Almost every night from August to December we had church till about midnight.
After a month or so, I tried to close it down. One Sunday night I got up and said, “Well, we’ve been going about a month now. Everybody’s pretty tired. We’ve been to church every night till midnight. That’s enough. Let’s close it down.” But we came back Wednesday night for the mid-week service, and the place was packed out. We started up every night again!
Looking back on it, I believe we probably could have gone right through 1972. The momentum was there. During those months we saw hundreds of people won to Christ….
We have never been the same since. Today we have about twelve hundred people. (Excerpted from Power House by Glen Martin & Dian Ginter, p. 17-18.)
If someone asks you to tell them about Grace Church, what is the first thing you bring up? We have a good pastor? The music is inspiring? The friendly people? Our heart for missions? These are all good qualities, but they are not the defining qualities of a great church. Jesus said, “my house will be called a house a prayer.” (Matt. 21:13). Let’s not strive to be just a great church…let’s strive to be an extraordinary church. Let’s strive to be a house of prayer.