MARIETTA, Ga. (BP)–Jan. 23, 2011, was a remarkable day of worship at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church as we experienced our first Solemn Assembly. Churchwide preparation began on Sunday, Jan. 16, with our adult Bible study classes studying the biblical foundations of Solemn Assemblies and the sermon focusing on “A Call to Restoration,” from Joel 1:2-12. We prepared and distributed age-appropriate devotional guides to our children, students and adults to help them in personal preparation for the solemn assembly.
Also in the week leading up to Jan. 23, our prayer ministry held two prayer meetings, asking God to bring revival to our people. Participants from our men’s ministry read the entire Bible from the sanctuary pulpit — straight through, cover-to-cover — from Wednesday evening until 2 a.m. on Sunday. Several of our ministers prayed over every seat in our two worship venues in the wee hours of Sunday morning.
The services on Jan. 23 were like none other in the history of Johnson Ferry. Kneeling benches were placed at the front of each worship venue, where intercessory prayer volunteers prayed silently throughout the services. Worship began with readings from Jeremiah 3:14-20 and Joel 2:12-13, as well as responsive readings. Music, preaching, prayers and responsive readings were alternated throughout the services. The message was from Mark 4, where Jesus taught on the four types of soils. Our people were called to commit their lives to Christ, to repent of anything that chokes out the Word in their lives, and to be the kind of Christians that bear Kingdom fruit.
The services ended with opportunities to respond at worship stations, where people could go to observe the Lord’s Supper, give their tithes and offerings, pray with a minister, meet with the Connection Team to share a decision, and write letters of commitment. The letters, which folks placed in self-addressed, self-sealed envelopes, will be mailed to them in a month as reminders of the commitments they made to God that day.
The Solemn Assembly was a meaningful and moving worship experience at Johnson Ferry. We were amazed at the record attendance in worship for a normal Sunday. I was reminded once again how powerfully God can move in our worship services when we are spiritually prepared — personally and corporately. If your church hasn’t already planned a solemn assembly, I urge you to do so in the days ahead. God can use it as a great step in returning to our first love of Jesus Christ.
Bryant Wright is president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga. To access the full collection of Baptist Press stories on the call for Southern Baptist churches to engage in a solemn assembly, go to http://www.bpnews.net/BPCollectionNews.asp?ID=179.