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First, Tuscaloosa, sponsors ‘spiritual renewal’comment (0)

November 9, 2000

By Sammie Jo Bairstow

It wasn’t called an old-time revival, but it had many of the same elements.
Rousing music and inspired preaching mixed with an atmosphere of excitement and expectation describes the recent “Raising the Standard” Spiritual Renewal Conference at First Baptist Church, Tuscaloosa.
According to associate pastor Rickey Michael, plans for the conference began more than a year ago. He gave credit to Scott Reynolds, youth pastor, for securing many of the speakers and musicians for the four-day conference, but said the entire staff worked to make the conference a reality.
Steve Farrar, author of “Point Man” and frequent Promise Keepers speaker, began the conference during the Sunday morning worship by challenging the congregation to discern the difference between authentic leaders and synthetic leaders.
He contends that instead of Christians raising the standing of leadership, we have settled for lowering the standard.
Farrar also spoke exclusively to the men of the church on Sunday evening, encouraging men to recognize and follow God’s plan for their lives. He also spoke forthrightly about politics, evolution, public education and other current issues.
Simultaneously with the Farrar conference for men, Jennifer Kennedy Dean — noted author and speaker on the topic of prayer — spoke to the women, urging them to develop a praying life. She described the praying life as “living a life that reflects continual interaction in the flow of prayer, not praying at a certain time of day.”
Dean encouraged the women to realize that “all of heaven is poised to respond to the prayers of God’s people.” She also said that when God desires to change the course of events, He looks for an intercessor, someone to “stand in the gap.”
Two concerts by recording artist Larnelle Harris rounded out the day. Free tickets were provided for a 7 p.m. concert, and when those tickets were distributed with overwhelming requests for more, a second concert was scheduled for 3 p.m.
Music by recording artists Charles Billingsley and the Stone Brothers throughout the conference ranged from hand-clapping favorites to prayerful worship. 
Noon and evening services Monday through Wednesday were led by guest evangelists including Fred Luter of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church, New Orleans; Rick Ousley, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham; and noted theologian and author John Phillips.
Luter challenged the congregation to run the race of life based on Hebrews 12:1-2. He said in this race there are two sides. On one side are the saints of God; on the other side are Satan and his followers.
Luter reminded the congregation that we know the outcome of the race because it was decided on Calvary, but Satan tries to destroy individual teammates.
To win the race, Luter declared, Christians must change our mentality about ministry from “got to” to “get to.” In other words, he said, instead of saying “I’ve got to do ministry,” we should say, “I get to do ministry.”
Ousley said Christians will spend time and energy on whatever is their passion and many times that is not the Lord Jesus Christ.
He believes today’s misplaced priorities are influenced by (1) affluence, saying we “worship stuff,” by (2) a low pain threshold, declaring that “we want what we want when we want it” and by (3) apathy. In describing apathy for spiritual matters, Ousley humorously contrasted allegiance to football and ministry. He related that even Christians will persevere through a thunderstorm to watch an outdoor football game, but those same people often use even milder weather as an excuse for not attending church services.
Although Ousley’s message brought gales of laughter from the congregation, his message was convicting to many fans in a city known for football.
Phillips described the confrontation of Jacob and his sons in Genesis 49 as an example of the judgment seat of Christ.
Phillips, who is well known for captivating and descriptive word pictures, brought this Old Testament passage alive for his listeners. Gil McKee is pastor of First Baptist Church, Tuscaloosa.

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