By KAREN L. WILLOUGHBY, Managing Editor
WEST MONROE – The members of Cedar Crest Baptist Church were serious about prayer even before Pastor Greg Clark arrived in December 1997.
A small group met after Wednesday evening prayer meeting to pray first for direction in calling together a pastor search committee, and then to pray for that committee’s wisdom and discernment. Those involved with those prayers feel confident today the pastor search committee made the right choice.
“Greg Clark is not just a great pastor; he’s a great citizen,” said John Russell. “He just reaches out all the time. It’s kind of like having a jewel in your community who is also your pastor.”
Clark has led Cedar Crest to even greater involvement with prayer, and he has led in the effort to join with other churches in prayer for issues in West Monroe/Monroe.
“On May 12, 2000, God clearly gave our pastor a word that Cedar Crest is to be a house of prayer,” according to the church’s website, www.ccbchurch.org. “Since then we have made it our top priority to keep prayer the central focus of all that we do.”
The church added three prayer rooms when it built a new worship center. Two are assigned; a third is kept open for those who stop by for prayer.
Wednesday evening prayer meeting is a worship service that focuses on prayer, the pastor said.
“We pray for all the schools in our parish every week,” Clark said. “We pray for area churches once a month, and elected officials, and the entire church family. We send out prayer cards every week.
“We’re praying now for revival,” Clark continued. “The service is not all prayer – we also share good news and answers to prayer – but the focal point is prayer. We’re there to pray, and we pray. It’s the best service of the week for me. It lasts 55 minutes and it’s gone before you know it.”
About 120 people participate in the Wednesday evening service, the pastor said. More than 600 participate in the Sunday morning service, up from about 350 when Clark was called as pastor.
“We just try to do what God says to do,” Clark said. “Church growth is God’s business. It’s His church, not mine.”
Clark organized in 1999 the group now known as Community Prayer Partners, which consists of people from a core group of about 15 churches in West Monroe and Monroe.
“It started as a result of an ACLU lawsuit at West Monroe High School,” Clark said. “The students would pray over the PA system every Monday morning, and ACLU objected. We had a rally in January 1999 that 15,000 people came to at the high school football stadium, to support our students’ desire to pray in school.
“ACLU won that one,” Clark continued. “Legally they can no longer pray over the PA system, but we actually were the winners because it brought together a group of pastors who have worked together ever since that time, sponsoring prayer events, campus prayer journey.”
Since then, ACLU has successfully sued the school district seven more times, and lost once.
People from about 50 churches now prayerwalk every school in Ouachita Parish, and they host the National Day of Prayer in May. Plus, about 25 people participate in a monthly Community Prayer Partners prayer meeting.
“The idea that became Community Prayer Partners came from local businessmen who said we should do something to support our students,” Clark said. “Most of your mainline denominations are involved – Methodist, Baptist, Pentecostal, Church of Christ, non-denominational.
“About two years ago, we [Community Prayer Partners] said if we can find a common path toward revival, we will walk it together,” Clark continued. “God alone determines where He sends revival, but we believe it’s important to prepare ourselves for it.”
Later in the spring of 2009, Community Prayer Partners decided to follow the material in Fresh Encounter: Experiencing God in revival and spiritual awakening by Henry Blackaby. By fall 2009, a date had been secured when Henry Blackaby and his firstborn son Richard Blackaby would lead in a Fresh Encounter weekend, with expenses paid by Community Prayer Partners. See page one article.
The basic ingredients for revival are found in 2 Chronicles 7:14, the pastor explained. [If] My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, pray and seek My face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from Heaven, forgive their sin and heal their land.
“There is no revival without repentance – personal repentance of allowing anything in your life that comes before your love relationship with the Lord,” Clark said.
He led Cedar Crest Baptist Church in a 12-week study of Fresh Encounter over the summer, and the church began June 19 a six-month daily prayer emphasis that more than 300 people participated in, for the Nov. 19-20 instructional visit of the Blackabys.
“People are already experiencing revival,” Clark said in late summer. “Cedar Crest is a great place normally, but there is a different sense of excitement than we have seen before.
“When God sends revival, the result always is spiritual awakening – a greater excitement in worship, people walking more closely with the Lord than they have in a long time,” Clark said. “We were created … to join Him on His mission of redemption.”
The condition of the church and the condition of America will not change unless God sends revival, and He doesn’t send revival until people repent, the pastor said.
“Politics is not going to fix the mess we’re in,” Clark said. “Political corruption, divorce epidemic, homosexual marriages, a national debt that will cripple the next generation – the list is endless. … Historically, God changes the hearts of His people and then that change is reflected in society.
“Most people want to correct things politically, but the biblical model says God’s people need to repent,” the pastor continued. “God will do through His people what we can never do alone. America’s only hope is revival. The church’s only hope is revival.”