WINCHESTER, Tenn. (BP)–What began as a vision of a Baptist layman to undergird local teens has become a movement in behalf of teens across the nation.
Shortly after last year’s Columbine High School shootings in Colorado, Ken Jones, an assistant football coach at the University of the South in Sewanee, was on a recruiting trip. While driving he reflected on the evils of society and came to realize that not only was he “sick and tired” with what was going on in the country, but that God also must be upset with “Christians like me that sit back and allow this to go on.”
Jones, who has since taken a coaching job in North Carolina, returned from that trip and talked with his pastor, Alan Roggli of First Baptist Church, Winchester, Tenn., and other local ministers.
The result of that meeting was a “Shield of Faith” rally late last summer at Franklin County High School’s football stadium.
Roggli said the name, “Shield of Faith,” was taken from Ephesians 6:16, which states: “Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.”
The rally, held in a county of about 36,000 people, attracted 4,000 people from more than 40 churches and at least 13 denominations, Roggli said. A steering committee, which included representatives from Baptist, Methodist, Episcopal and other congregations, coordinated approximately 500 volunteers who put together the event, which included two speakers who were connected to the Columbine tragedy.
At the conclusion of the rally, youth lined up 10 deep stretching from the two 30-yard lines, Roggli said. The adults cheered the youth, then prayed for them. “It was a symbol of how we were placing God’s shield of protection over our schools and county,” the pastor said.
The rally was covered by Nashville-area news media, including The Tennessean and several TV stations. The story was picked up by Associated Press and was reported across the country.
Shield of Faith did not stop with the rally. County residents were encouraged to continue the shield by praying for their youth from 9:30-9:39 a.m. every day, Roggli said, noting that time was a natural break in the schedule at Franklin County High School.
The daily prayer at that time is continuing months later, Roggli said.
People in the area are convinced the prayer has made a difference.
“This was the best semester I have ever had in 30 years in the teaching profession,” said Joe Guess, principal at Franklin County High School, who gave a testimony recently at First Baptist Church.
“The credit belongs to God and Shield of Faith,” Guess said.
Dwayne Thames, a member of First Baptist Church and a teacher at H. Louis Scott Jr. High School, also noted, “We have had a great year so far. Shield of Faith has made a difference.”
The prayer concept, Roggli said, is based on 2 Chronicles 7:14 which says: “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”
“Revival can come if God’s people will do as we’re supposed to,” the pastor said.
Even before Jones came to him, Roggli said he had been praying with area pastors of other denominations for revival in the community. “I see Shield of Faith as an outgrowth of those prayers,” he said, noting people of all denominations were praying for the same thing.
“We need each other,” Roggli said. Acknowledging there are differences, the pastor stressed the need to focus “on our commonalities — prayer and belief in Christ.” If that is done, he predicted, “We will see communities changed.”
In addition to the daily prayer, Shield of Faith has registered as a nonprofit organization to assist other communities in beginning Shield of Faith ministries.
The organization has an Internet site which has had thousands of “hits” since opening in late January.
People have learned about Shield of Faith through the media and a letter which was mailed out to approximately 5,200 people in churches in all 50 states. The letter was paid for and sent out by a couple in Hendersonville, Tenn., wanting to remain anonymous, the pastor noted.
Churches or individuals wanting information on Shield of Faith can have a packet of information sent to them that includes rally information, a Shield T-shirt, a video of the rally, TV spots and general Shield information from Jones, the coach. There is also a computer disc with an abundance of information to help folks reproduce a Shield ministry, Roggli said.
The packet, available at a cost-recovery price of $25, can be obtained by calling First Baptist Church, Winchester, Tenn., at (931) 967-0622 or accessing the Shield of Faith website at www.shield-of-faith.org.