Vaughn Forest, Montgomery, builds church on a foundation of prayercomment (0)
August 12, 2004
By Sarah E. Pavlik
Lawrence Phipps openly admits that if his church, Vaughn Forest Baptist of Montgomery, stopped praying tomorrow it would fall apart. And that’s just the way it’s supposed to be, Phipps, founder and senior pastor of one of the fastest-growing congregations in the state, said.
“The only thing that makes this church work is staying on our faces before a holy God and asking Him to hold us together,” said Phipps, author of the book “Praying in Faith.”
“We don’t need to have churches that if the Holy Spirit leaves they’re so organized that they continue to function,” he explained. “We don’t succeed if we don’t pray.”
From its humble beginning as little more than a couple of double-wide trailers situated on 23 acres of swampland on Montgomery’s east side, prayer has been paramount for the members and leadership at Vaughn Forest.
After 17 years as a pastor, Phipps realized the importance of undergirding his ministry with prayer. So when they broke ground to build the permanent sanctuary, the first thing to go up was a 24-hour accessible prayer room. Phipps wanted it to stand at the front of the church as a testimony to their commitment to prayer.
He established the church on seven pillars, the first and foundational pillar being prayer. The ministry leaders — spiritual life team (the pastoral staff) and team leaders (liaisons between the people and pastoral staff) are of the same mind.
From the first day of the work week when they all meet to pray at 8 a.m. to the week’s end, everything they do is bathed in prayer. In addition, one weekend of the month is dedicated to 24 hours of focused prayer.
In June church members spent the weekend praying for the nation, its leaders and the military.
“By and large if I’m not willing to give up corporate time to pray, if our leaders aren’t going to pray then our people won’t go home and give up personal time to pray,” he said. “But if they see their pastor do it then they go home and do it.
“But goodness it took me a long time to figure that out.”
Phipps said a balanced ministry with prayer at the center of it makes the body healthy. “Everything flows from our prayer life,” he explained.
“People are sharing their faith at the workplace, ballfield and at school because they have been taught what God’s Word says and how to apply it.”
“We have a tremendous sense of fellowship because we spend so much time praying together and for one another,” he added. “You can’t manufacture that.”
And while George Barna (Christian researcher) reports that 17 percent of most church members do 80 percent of the work, nearly every member of Vaughn Forest is serving in some capacity.
“This gives them a sense of belonging,” Phipps said. “The number 1 comment we get from other people is how kind our members are.
“The truth is church growth is not our goal, it’s a gauge,” he said. “If we are doing the right kinds of things it will grow supernaturally.”
And it has grown. Since 1994, Vaughn Forest has increased from 36 founding members to more than 1,600.
Last year Vaughn Forest was third in the state for number of baptisms, baptizing 196 people.
Buddy McGohon, former director of missions for Montgomery Baptist Association, said Vaughn Forest’s growth came from firm foundations.
“Vaughn Forest had an exceptionally good beginning,” McGohon said. “[It’s] sponsor — First Baptist of Montgomery — gave them a tremendous amount of support.”
McGohon explained that a mission team of 25 First, Montgomery, members helped start Vaughn Forest.
“The year they spent figuring out what kind of church they ought to be and how they could reach people also pushed them in the right direction.”
To commemorate its dedication to prayer, Vaughn Forest dedicates a day of 24-hour prayer for each year they’ve been a church. This February the church celebrated its 10th anniversary, which included setting aside 10 days for continual prayer. “We set up stations with a cross and shredder so the people can write their sins on pieces of paper and then shred them, just as God does, remembering them no more,” he said.
At the intercessory station hung numerous sheets of white paper with the names of people in the church in need of prayer. Someone was praying in the prayer room every hour of the 10-day period.
This is what makes Vaughn Forest strong. “A pastor can’t orchestrate a church like ours. What’s happening here is happening because God is building the church,” Phipps said.