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FIRST-PERSON: Reflections from W.Va.

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. (BP)–In recent years a West Virginia Southern Baptist pastor longed to see believers from diverse areas of the world gather to prevail in prayer for the revival of God’s people.

Dan Biser, pastor of two churches in northeast West Virginia, saw his dream somewhat fulfilled during a prayer conference with the theme “Broken Before the Throne” Nov. 3-11.

About 500 believers from churches in 18 states and two other countries convened in the facilities of Westview Baptist Church in Martinsburg for the nine-day conference. They participated in one or more of 23 sessions, which were three hours in length and were generally characterized by two hours of worship and teaching followed by one hour of prayer.

Midway through the schedule, Biser pointed out to participants that many of them had already been in worship and prayer for more hours since the beginning of the conference than the average Christian experiences in 12 months. He was quick to warn them not to develop spiritual pride but to consider themselves fortunate to have had the opportunity to meet with God for such an extended period of time.

Skeptics of the conference pointed out that it was too long and required sacrifices of participants that they would be unwilling to make. In fact, the length and variety of presenters may have been a key reason for its success. There were many who actually participated in the entire event. They were able to clear their calendars from other responsibilities and had the financial means to secure housing for the extended time. Others attended all the sessions they could and encountered God each time they were there.

Members of the host congregation were doubly blessed. They found themselves revived by the presence of God and by the opportunity to serve in such a vital ministry. Their commitment and support were exemplary, and their friends in West Virginia should be very proud of them for their service of love.

Pastor Johnny Kelly and his staff at Westview Baptist Church served with joy throughout the event. They were joined by the churches in the Tri-County Baptist Association in a hospitality ministry that would compare favorably with any SBC meeting in the land. They provided refreshments, snacks and most meals for participants throughout much of the conference, and they provided childcare during the entire conference.

The host church has 464 resident members and will average about half that number in morning worship services. That’s not a large group to tackle hosting a national conference of this magnitude. Their new auditorium would have been packed had all 501 participants attended at the same time. The Tri-County Association has around a half-dozen member congregations. By cooperating and giving a generous offering of their time and energy, they exceeded all expectations for quality care of their guests.

One constant in all prayer sessions was the clear presence of the Holy Spirit and a deeply emotional response on the part of participants. While many of the participants quietly wept in the presence of God, the sound of sobbing was common across the beautiful auditorium.

This manifestation did not cease when a session was dismissed. During meal and break times, individuals and small groups kept their focus on the spiritual business that gripped the hearts of almost all persons who attended.

Ample time was allowed for testimonies which were frequent and deeply moving, at times voiced aloud to the entire group during times of corporate prayer. Perhaps most touching were the times when the sin of spiritual neglect was confessed, accompanied by emotions consistent with genuine repentance and public confession.

Conference participants seemed to agree that the greatest desire they took away from the event was the need for God to change them permanently. Thus the long-term outcome of this event looks positive for the churches from which the participants came.

Since the overarching theme or reason for being “Broken Before the Throne” was to “prevail in prayer for revival,” the dream of Dan Biser will not be fully realized until a great awakening of the people of God sweeps across this nation, a nation that appears on the brink of disaster because of its neglect of God.
John Adams is associate executive director of the West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists and editor of the West Virginia Southern Baptist.

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  • John Adams