News Articles

Prayer, alongside missions & evangelism, fuels Ark. church

CABOT, Ark. (BP)–“Mom, I want to come home.”

It was about 2 p.m. one recent Sunday afternoon. At First Baptist Church in Cabot, Ark., that morning, one woman was impressed to go a fellow member and pray with her about the member’s teenage daughter who had left home months before, vowing never to return.

“In both our services that day, someone felt impressed to pray for this woman, to intercede on behalf of this family,” said Dennis Phelps, pastor since May of the church where about 1,000 people gather for worship on Sunday mornings. “You can imagine the encouragement it brings to God’s people when they hear God’s answers.”

First Cabot, in a Little Rock suburb, was stop No. 31 Sept. 23 on SBC President Bobby Welch’s bus tour of Southern Baptist churches across the nation to generate a sense of urgency for evangelism. The bus tour is a kickoff for “The Everyone Can Kingdom Challenge for Evangelism” campaign which has the goal of “Witness, Win and Baptize … ONE MILLION!” by SBC churches in one year.

At First Cabot, as part of the church’s $250,000 a year in total missions giving, 10 percent of undesignated offerings is forwarded through the Cooperative Program for SBC missions and ministries worldwide and nationally. Meanwhile, members give of their time as volunteers for construction, disaster relief and other short-term mission projects.

In evangelism and discipleship, at least 30 people have been baptized since Phelps was called in May.

But it’s in prayer that First Cabot has been learning another way to make a difference.

“As people have poured out their hearts to God, God has heard and responded,” Phelps said. “We’re praying for our church, other churches in the area, for our cities and for our nation.”

First Cabot undertook 40 days of prayer and praise in July, an intentional emphasis to broaden and deepen the practice of prayer as a Christian discipline.

“It was just something we believed was the right emphasis at the right time,” Phelps said. “In my coming here, one of the things we talked about is the value of prayer – it’s often the neglected discipline.”

The church-designed prayer training ended Aug. 22, and First Cabot’s members now are beginning to come together in prayer teams for the church’s worship services. Men of the church also gather 30 minutes before the first Sunday worship service for prayer.

“We have begun creating space in our worship experiences for prayer, for people to be prayed for, for people to pray,” Phelps said. “Perhaps they want to kneel and pray, to bow their heads, to have someone pray with them.

“It’s really amazing to see what God is doing,” the pastor added. “They were praying for that daughter, and clear out of the blue she called her mother that afternoon. …

“This last month we had something happen I’ve never seen happen in 31 years of ministry: a monthly business meeting turned into a prayer meeting,” Phelps continued. “At the end of the meeting we have a time of prayer and praise; this one turned into a thrilling time of people praying.”

Several times recently during services – and it’s becoming more usual, the pastor said – someone is encircled by a band of prayer warriors.

“It’s allowing people to pour their hearts out to God, and reminding us what Jesus did, what He taught His disciples, that prayer is the work,” Phelps said. “If we are able to defeat the enemy in prayer, then evangelism is going and picking up the reward.

“Only God can change a person’s life,” the pastor noted. “Only God can convict someone of their need for Christ. It’s a spiritual work and it’s prayer that allows us to see God’s Spirit moving and active in people’s lives.”

Along with prayer, First Cabot is in partnerships with churches in Bulgaria and Brazil, and the pastor is praying about possible opportunities in India. First Cabot’s construction volunteers – Constructors for Christ – and disaster relief volunteers are joined in outreach by other members who work in a growing Hispanic ministry, crisis pregnancy center, Habitat for Humanity, among students at Arkansas Baptist University and at the Arkansas Children’s Home and in other local initiatives.

“This is a very missions-minded congregation,” Phelps said. “In the next several years we will have direct hands-on missions involvement on all five major continents. We built a parsonage for a young pastor in Arkansas this summer. And we have folks who just got back from Florida; they’ll be going back Sunday or Monday.

“It’s just exciting to see folks directly involved in hands-on missions and outreach,” the pastor said. “We are on the threshold of God displaying Himself in an amazing way. I think the challenge for us is to remain focused on Christ, be obedient to His leadership, unselfish in our attitudes and undistracted by less important matters.”

On most any Tuesday night, when First Cabot members go out on organized visitation, at least 100 people are expecting a visit.

“We try to let people know that if God is leading you to First Baptist Church, we believe God is looking for actively engaged, participating members of the body of Christ,” Phelps said. “Membership implies service. We are saved to serve. Everybody can do something.”