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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Vision Tour - Part 2

Why The Northeast

Recently I read an article on the JHOP website that clearly makes a case for renewal efforts to reach the northeast. This is what it said...

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The academic institutions of the Northeast, including Harvard, Princeton, Yale, and several others, are "linchpins" in the American university system. Philosophies which are born and bred in the classrooms of these schools are later transferred to every other university in America - and often the world.

A brief survey of American history will show that the colleges and universities in the northeastern corridor of the United States have always been used of God to unlock the heart of the nation.

The spiritual darkness that presently characterizes the northeastern colleges and universities of our nation reflects the spiritual condition of the rest of our society. This should come as no surprise to those who are aware of America's Christian history. For good or for evil, for the past 370 years, the Northeast has been the spiritual focal point of America.

The politics and ethics of the United States were birthed in the Northeastern cities of Boston and Philadelphia. The spiritual climate of the United States has also been deeply affected by this area. The most significant event of 1700s, barring the revolution, was the Great Awakening - which began among young people in Northampton, Massachusetts. The World Missions Movement was begun at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts as the result of a prayer meeting held by three students.

In the early 1800s, the Northeast was a center for sporadic spiritual revivals on many of the college campuses. The spiritual, moral, social and political foundations of the United States had their beginnings in the Northeast.

Since the beginning of the 1800s, however, the Northeast has become a breeding ground for anti-Christian ideas. Humanism, in the form of Transcendentalism and Universalism, had its roots in Massachusetts. Social philosophers, such as Emerson and Thoreau, contributed to the destruction of the Christian foundations of America. These ideas found a haven in the colleges of the Northeast. In the 20th century, Marxism, humanism, existentialism, socialism, radical feminism, New Age philosophy and immorality of all types have also found refuge in the many colleges and universities of the Northeast.

Despite this growing tide of wickedness, a gleaming ray of hope appears. God has a destiny for the college campuses!

Harvard University - Reverend John Harvard gave half his property and his entire library to start this world renowned institution. Harvard's original motto was: "For Christ and the Church." The goal of a Harvard education was to establish Christian principles in the minds of students according to the Word of God. In addition to ministers, Harvard also produced some of the greatest statesmen of the 1700s, such as, John Hancock, John Adams, and Samuel Adams.

The schools of the Northeast are the hub on which the entire academic system of the nation turns. God himself is concerned with these schools; He had a hand in bringing them into being. He always honors His covenants with men and virtually every college in this area was founded with the purpose of bringing greater glory to God.

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While walking the Boston Commons, two of our pastors encountered young people from South Carolina. This youth group, on their spring break, was touring the northeast, visiting and praying over the great educational institutions of the area. Two hundred and fifty thousand students flock to Boston when school time rolls around to attend one of the sixty colleges and universities in this city.

Could it be that God is preparing another Great Awakening? As a district, are we prepared to pay the price to participate in the plans and purposes of God? Are there others who are reading this who feel challenged to join the team to multiply life-changing churches?

To read more from the JHOP website, follow the link I especially recommend Why Boston, Harvard Roots, and The Mandate.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Vision Tour

It all started as an idea:

If our goal is to plant five new churches in the next five years, wouldn’t it be helpful to take a few leaders on a vision/prayer tour of the most populous and untouched parts of our district!

At first it was to be a ‘car tour’—five men in a sedan. That plan was abandoned when it became obvious that a car wouldn’t hold all those who were interested. We moved to a ‘van tour’. One day in conversation with General Superintendent, Dr. Jo Anne Lyon, I mentioned our Northeast Prayer & Vision Tour. “Paul, that sounds exciting,” she replied. “I’d like to go.” That week, by faith, I made a $500. deposit on a fifty-five passenger bus. It was obvious that God had bigger plans than ours.

Dean Brown, our Evangelism and Church Growth Director E&CG, and Cam Engert, our Office Administrator, took hold of the logistics and things began to come together.

Soon, large-capacity, high-influence individuals from other organizations who care about our district and our vision began to sign on for the tour. They brought expertise, enthusiasm and faith, and were available to coach and mentor us as we traveled. What an amazing array of talent God put on that bus to encourage us. In addition to Dr. Lyon, we were joined by…

• Stan Hoover, District Superintendent, Chesapeake District, a district that encompasses the Washington, DC area. Stan is also the chairman of the Wesley Seminary Board.
• Wayne Wager, District Superintendent, Central New York District (CNY), our neighboring district to the west.
• Lynn Ensign, CNY District E&CG Director and pastor of Mt. Pisgah Wesleyan Church in Smithfield, PA.
• Chris Conrad, Director of Church Growth, E&CG Department of The Wesleyan Church, who has planted two churches.
• Phil Struckmeyer, church planter, West Michigan District. Phil has planted Impact Church in Lowell, MI, a church that now runs 900. He has daughtered two or three other churches out of Impact Church, and has been one of the influences that has helped West Michigan plant 21 churches over the past five years.
• Wayne & Amy Otto, a dynamic church-planting team from North Michigan District, who are filled with enthusiasm, have planted six churches and have a goal of planting five more in the next five years.
• Ryan Kozey, Founder of The Infinity Alliance, whose mission statement is… 'We exist to engage in God’s redemptive mission by reaching every man, woman, and child in America through starting and partnering with missional churches'. His five-year goals include networking with 1,000 like-minded leaders, to discover 50 places where God wants to initiate movements, and then to initiate training for those 50 places through Renovation Centers that are being established.

We left Albany, NY at 7:00 am Monday, March 8 and returned at 8:00 pm Tuesday, March 9. Forty-nine hours of vision, prayer, mentoring, coaching, encouraging, growing, seeing, feeling, experiencing… During our travels we saw…
• Poughkeepsie/Fishkill/Newburgh area of southern NY (pop. 290,000).
• White Plains, NY, Westchester County (pop. 941,000).
• Stamford, CT, Fairfield County (pop.883,000).
• Bridgeport, CT, Fairfield County.
• New Haven, CT, New Haven County (pop. 846,000). While in New Haven, we spent an hour on the campus of Yale University. Amazing! And we dined in Mystic, CT, a quaint seaport town, complete with draw bridge, seafood and shops. Mystic is very near the largest submarine base in the world.
• Providence, RI, Providence County (pop. 622,000), a beautiful downtown, where we over-nighted and then walked the campus of Brown University before leaving on Tuesday morning. We also prayed over the Capitol Building.

(I digress… What an awesome district we have! The diversity is amazing. Long Island Sound, Cape Cod, Adirondacks, Catskills, Berkshires, Greens and Whites. Seaside villages and world-class ski resorts. Tiny villages and great cities. Four distinct seasons. Off-the-charts fall color. Winter wonderland. Flowering springs and mild summers. Educational universities whose thoughts influence the entire globe. Wow!)

• Boston, MA, Middlesex County (pop. 1,500,000). We walked the Boston Commons, where Dr. Lyon talked her way into a tour of the Park Street Church. We rode through the campus of Harvard University, and went to the top of the Prudential Building, where we saw community after community in all directions, many inhabited by 100,000 or more souls. We looked down on Fenway Park and on the home of the Boston Pops. We saw mile after mile of the brownstones of South Boston and Beacon hill. We saw the Charles River, site of many regattas. And we saw the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
• Hartford, CT, Hartford County (pop. 860,000), where the vice-chairman of the Local Board of Administration of the Hartford Wesleyan Church prayed over us.
• Springfield, MA, Hampden County (pop. 456,000), then we continued across the Berkshires.

As the day darkened, we approached Albany, capitol of the fourth most populous state and one of the most influential. Passing by the State Capitol Building, we prayed for a revival of moral and spiritual values to take root there.

Exhausted but exhilarated, the 40 of us went our own separate ways. We had spied out the land, and found it to be a 'land flowing with milk and honey'—and opportunity!

To be continued…