From the desk of Steve Shultz:
It is always good to gather over cities and regions as a Body of Believers to intercede and even repent over the land when necessary.
Let this word by Al Warner encourage you to gather and pray over your own area, and watch how God moves on YOUR behalf! As Al shares in his article: "It is time for the Church of your city to arise and shine!"
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Can Your City Be Saved? It is time for the Church of Your City to Arise and Shine!
City of Buffalo
On behalf of those who serve the regional Church in Western New York:
For there is hope for a tree, if it is cut down, that it will sprout again, and that its shoots will not cease. Though its root grows old in the earth, and its stump dies in the ground, yet at the scent of water it will bud and put forth branches like a young plant. Job 14:7-9 (NRSV)
Earlier this year, international evangelist Reinhard Bonnke declared, "All America shall be saved." What? Does Bonnke not know the condition of our country, the advance of evil, and the scepter of impending judgment? Or could it be that it is easier for me to recognize the work of the enemy than to celebrate the work of the Father?
Take Buffalo, New York – our city. Can Buffalo be saved? Last summer, we wrote an article for Breaking Christian News reflecting on Nik Wallenda's high-wire walk across Niagara Falls, our sister city to the north. We said, "As is the case for Christians across the world, our region (which includes Western New York and Southern Ontario) has been believing for a move of God of epic proportions to come in our midst. We have fasted, we have prayed, we have repented, we have prophesied, we have come together."
Good Friday 2013 was a game changer for our city. History was made and atmosphere shifted as between 11,000 and 13,000 congregants came together to lift high one name – Jesus Christ!
First, a look back... For fifty years, Buffalo has been in a death dive. Our population has dropped from 580,000 to 260,000. Jobs were lost, housing values plummeted, poverty and crime increased – an all too familiar story in our urban hubs. As the verses from Job 14 state: a dead stump.
But God sometimes does His best work in the darkness. Respected prophetic voices – Bishop Joseph Garlington, Chuck Pierce, Cindy Jacobs, Bonnie Chavda, Rick Joyner, Barbara Yoder – all have declared a supernatural revival coming to Buffalo/Niagara. These were not "generic" words but specific. For example, Chuck Pierce prophesied the following on May 16, 2009, "You will see Buffalo some way be saved in days ahead instead of being controlled, being an outpost center of Hell. It will be one of the most glorious places where the Spirit of God moves, and it will be known all over our nation that Buffalo and the waters of Niagara Falls are a sign of the River of God that has come into Buffalo."
November 2011, Julie Meyer from International House of Prayer was leading worship at an Eagles Wings' Conference. As she sang, God gave her a prophetic song. "Unity, unity, unity, unity (she repeated this about 20 times), the wall between the races is coming down. It won't be black, it won't be white, it will be two becoming one... I'm gonna start to move. I'm gonna start now. I'm gonna start to move in Buffalo. Buffalo, Buffalo... I'm gonna tame this Buffalo. It's gonna eat right out of my hand. And something greater than just football is gonna be known in Buffalo. Unity, unity, unity, unity and Jesus Christ lifted high."
For years we have brought together regional pastors and intercessors to intercede, worship, pray Scripture, as well as to steward these prophetic words.
Our prayers were answered and history was made at Good Friday Together when 11,000+ people gathered in the arena where the Sabres, our NHL team, play. No famous speakers or singers flew in, just some of the best and brightest from our region. Black, White, Hispanic, Asian, city, suburbs, male, female, young, old – it looked like the Body of Christ. Each speaker and singer introduced his or her flavor to the melting pot, and the flavor was HEAVENLY!
Even though this was a unity event, the decision was made to have an altar call. Why? Because Jesus promises, "...May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that You sent Me and that You love them as much as You love Me" (John 17:23b). More than 100 people came to faith in Christ!
In addition, a significant offering was taken to bless the city in the areas of sustainable housing, education, health care, and teen mentoring. The Church came together to "seek the peace and prosperity of the city..." (Jeremiah 29:7). The offering is our gift that will keep on giving.
My wife Deb and I have been working to connect the regional church since 1997, leading dozens of gatherings in which we declared "revival" and "transformation" over the Buffalo/Niagara region. However, the genesis of Good Friday Together was four local church pastors who went to Israel together. Since returning home, they have developed friendships, golfed together, and began exchanging pulpits each December. They wanted to do something much larger and approached us about helping to promote a region-wide Good Friday service.
What was the secular media's reporting of our event? Overwhelmingly positive!
1) Buffalo News (newspaper)
Christians gather en masse
"First Niagara Center was transformed into a cathedral Friday..."
2) CBS affiliate
Christians come together in Buffalo
"In Buffalo, thousands of Christians packed First Niagara Center for a lively, first-of-its kind service Friday night..."
3) ABC affiliate
Thousands Celebrate Good Friday at First Niagara Center
Here's a three minute recap of Good Friday Together.
We estimate that at least 200 churches participated. In previous years, each of the churches would have had its own Good Friday service. If they averaged 50 people, 10,000 people would have been in separate worship services. But television cameras came to witness this watershed moment because we gathered together. Once again, we proved we are better TOGETHER.
Earlier we mentioned the number of people who received Christ that night. Even better, words of testimony continue to pour in as to the number of regional churches that have experienced an increase in people accepting Christ in their services. As one pastor wrote, "Crazy good – on Easter Sunday we had 53 people profess Christ for the first time." That same Sunday, two more churches recorded 10 first time professions, while a church that was unable to participate in Good Friday Together had eight. The river of God has risen, and all ships are being lifted. We believe a shift happened in the heavenlies, a dark cloud was lifted, and unity, unity, unity is preparing the way for evangelism.
So what's next? Did we witness a tipping point for our city? It would seem so. The spirit of hope is taking root, and the service continues to generate quite a buzz. One of my favorite backstories comes from my role as Chaplain for Buffalo's chief legislative body. The Majority Leader told me that this event impacted him both personally and professionally. Visually witnessing the arena filled with fellow Believers filled him with new courage to lead boldly for Christ in his office.
What about your city? Are you a gatekeeper, wall-watcher, gap-stander for a city? Can it be saved? It is a new season. Dust off those prophetic words. Let God renew your hope and vision. In this season of acceleration, what was impossible a short time ago may be possible now. It is time for the Church of your city to arise and shine!
Let's declare the words Reinhard Bonnke declared, "All America shall be saved."
So there was great joy in that city. Acts 8:8
Al and Deb Warner
Set Free Inc.
Reverends Al and Deb Warner are the founders and directors of Set Free Inc. Set Free is a networking ministry connecting business, governmental and church leaders for a Nehemiah-like rebuilding and transformation of their city. Al and Deb have over 30 years experience pastoring local churches and working as missionaries in Hong Kong. In 1997, God laid a burden on their heart to bring the regional Church of greater Buffalo, New York, together. As they obeyed, God birthed their ministry, Set Free Inc. The Warners have led multiple prayer and training events over the years, including National Day of Prayer.