By Mark H. Hunter, Regional Reporter
BATON ROUGE – More than 500 pastors and their wives from across the state and theological spectrum prayed for spiritual revival at the Louisiana Renewal Project held Sept. 26-27 at the downtown Crowne Plaza hotel.
The two-day event, part of the nationwide American Renewal Project, founded by former Baton Rouge resident David Lane, featured rousing patriotic and praise music, inspirational speakers such as former Congressman Bob McEwen and Gov. Bobby Jindal, good food and, of course, excellent fellowship in the diverse crowd.
Gary Miller, director of “Talk Less! Pray More! Conferences,” began the event by explaining the intent was non-partisan and opened with a prayer for President Obama, the Congress and the nation.
“We must pray for this man with a genuine authenticity and for his wife, his beautiful children and the leadership of this country,” Miller said. Before and after each session, everyone was encouraged to pray out loud for several minutes, creating a sea of voices, and then the entire group was led in a prayer by a speaker.
Former U.S. Rep. Bob McEwen (R-Ohio), who spoke several times, declared that America is engaged in a spiritual battle and he cited three sources of power; economic, political and spiritual.
“Economically, Wall Street is not going to save America. Politicians are not going to save America,” McEwen said. “Spiritually, if for the first time in America’s history the pulpits abandon the field, America and our freedom of worship will not be saved. You are vital in saving this country!”
Lane led a large group of pastors in prayer while they laid hands on Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council in Washington D.C., and a member of Greenwell Springs Baptist Church in Central.
“Restore America to her Judeo-Christian heritage,” Lane prayed. “For Tony Perkins and his family – we pray you surround him with your strong arms.”
Perkins told the pastors how Louisiana has moved away from its history of political corruption and is now the most family-friendly, pro-life state in America. “If a state can be changed, a nation can be changed.”
Gov. Bobby Jindal gave his personal testimony how as a teenager his best friend gave him a Bible and he saw “a joy” in him and other Christian friends that he wanted. For seven years he read the Bible without understanding it, attended youth events and asked questions but nothing sunk in – then he saw a film about Jesus at a youth event.
“When I saw the actor playing Jesus hanging up on that cross – all my doubts, all my questions melted away and I realized the Son of God was there because of me,” Jindal said. “I realized how arrogant it is for me to do anything other than get on my knees and worship Him.”
He prayed with a youth leader that night. From then on, “the words in my Bible just jumped off the page,” Jindal said.
He encouraged the pastors to keep preaching the Word. “Jesus told us we would be persecuted. Keep planting those seeds!”
As many of the pastors lifted their hands toward Jindal, Lane and Perkins laid hands on him while Baptist Message Editor Kelly Boggs led the group in a fervent prayer.
McEwen explained his formula of “politics equals integrity plus economics.” Integrity is doing what is right and he rated economics on a sliding scale between capitalism and socialism. “The greater the freedom the greater the wealth,” McEwen said. “The greater the government, the greater the poverty.”
He also explained why secularists are so adamant about separating America from its historic, Judeo-Christian moorings. Why do they care, he asked, about displays of the 10 Commandments and the Boy Scouts’ code of conduct?
“Because they know this is a spiritual battle,” McEwen said. “There is a term – it is called – sin – it is anything that separates us from God. The wages of sin is death – abortion, right to die legislation, drugs, alcohol…”
Dr. Laurence White, senior pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church of Houston, Texas, put an even broader perspective on the issues than just American politics.
“This isn’t about patriotism or a political ideology, nor does it pertain to the outcome of the next election or a particular candidate,” White said. “For us as pastors the challenge that confronts everyone of us is about the integrity of the church and the authenticity of the Lord Jesus Christ – and there is nothing more important than that.”
George Guillory, pastor of Glen Oaks Baptist in north Baton Rouge, said he’d never heard Gov. Jindal’s testimony and was encouraged by it and the other speakers.
“When I go back to my church I will be more committed to preaching the truth and not be afraid of what people say,” Guillory said. “I’ll preach about where our society is going if we don’t stand up to be the church of Jesus Christ.”
Jeff Meyers, who recently came from Atlanta, Georgia to become senior pastor of Greenwell Springs Baptist Church in Central, said he was encouraged by White’s appeal to “rouse the remnant.”
“Every pastor needs to hear what we heard today,” Meyers said. “You find out you are not the only guy out there – we are not lone voices.”
Jason Taylor, pastor of the Bar None Cowboy Church in Tatum, Texas, brought a powerful message on Friday morning, calling on pastors to humble themselves and pray. At the conclusion of his message Taylor dropped to his knees in front of the podium.
Participants joined Taylor at the make-shift altar and called out to God for the next Great Awakening. It was a special moment.
Following Taylor was Gail McWilliams, inspirational speaker from Dallas, Texas. McWilliams had a history of complicated pregnancies that caused her eyes to hemorrhage. A turning point came when she was pregnant with her second child.
The doctor told her that she had to choose that day between her eye sight and her unborn child. McWilliams told the doctor she was going to choose her child. McWilliams went on to give birth to that child as well as three others, five in total.
McWilliams insists her decision to choose life over vision was the right choice. She said someone once asked her how she could have joy and be unable to see. She replied, “How can you see and not have joy.”
Tears were evident throughout the crowd as McWilliams shared her struggles and how the Lord brought her through.
Burl Cain, Warden of Angola State Penitentiary, told the story of how God transformed him, and Angola, through the power of the Word of God. He exhorted those present, “You preachers need to reach them, before they get to me!”
Bill Federer, businessman and historian, put a spotlight on the dark side of militant Islam.
He used excerpts from his book, What Every American Needs to Know About the Qur’an: A history of Islam and the United States, to relay the pattern Muslims follow in taking over a nation.
“Mohammed was first a religious leader, then a political leader and then, finally a military leader,” Federer pointed out. “The militant Islamists establish themselves religiously, they gain influence and power politically and then, in militaristic fashion, they do away with those who disagree with them – those who will not convert to Islam.
“What an amazing opportunity we, as pastors have. We need to realize how humble we need to be and how we need to move forward in God’s work,” said Dennis Hensley, pastor of Ouachita Baptist in West Monroe.
“It was just overwhelming. The information, the history lesson of where we have come from as a nation and where we are headed was sobering,” said Kevin Billiot, pastor of Northside Baptist in Montgomery. “At one point I felt a sense of desperation and what do we do and at the same time I had a sense of hope that God is in control and he can bring revival.”
In an e-mail follow-up report on the event, Miller wrote, “Having witnessed and participated in over 30 (Renewal Project events), I can honestly say, I have never been a part of anything like the one we just experienced in Baton Rouge.”
Miller added, “The representation of African-American pastors was huge. We didn’t make a special appeal, or arrangements. We simply sent invitations, and God brought them through the door.”
“It was an inspiring time, said Michael Hawley, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist in Ruston, “but more importantly it opened my eyes to what we must do to engage the political arena here if we are to make a difference.”
McEwen explained a strategy called “Stand Up, Sundays” slated for January in Louisiana. McEwen indicated it is a call to pastors to have all the people in their pews to stand up, if they are registered to vote, and prepared to defend religious liberty, with their vote.
He said those who are seated are provided with a voter registration cards.
The cards are completed, collected and prayed over, during the service. It is an effective, straight-forward, and completely legal way to conduct voter registration.
“During a time in our country where the spiritual stakes are at such a pinnacle, it was so encouraging to be in the presence of so many pastors, from many faith backgrounds, as well as my own, worshiping the Lord, being challenged by great men and women of God, and learning how to impact the spiritual and political arenas for Christ,” said Joshua Eubanks, pastor of Springhill Baptist Church of Ringgold summing up the conference