Prayer: A leader's point of view

Interview covering aspects of the North American Division Spiritual Emphasis Committee initiative

George E. Rice, Ph.D., is the pastor of the Triadelphia Seventh-day Adventist Church, Clarksville, Maryland, United States.
Neville Harcombe is president of the Chesapeake Conference in Columbia, Maryland.

Do you want to see tangible evidence of God's power in your life? Pray. Do you want to see resolutions of knotty problems in the churches? Get down on your knees."

So says Neville Harcombe, president of the Chesapeake Conference. Because Elder Harcombe is a conference president who has enthusiastically supported and promoted the North American Division's (NAD) call to prayer and revival in his conference, the Spiritual Emphasis Committee of NAD asked him to share with the readers of Ministry what he has experienced.

George Rice: Please share with us how you introduced the book, Getting Ready to Meet Jesus, the covenant card, and NAD's call to prayer and revival.

Neville Harcombe: When I looked through the little book, Getting Ready to Meet Jesus, I saw something that could be used by the Holy Spirit to direct the minds of our pastors and church members to the important work of preparing our hearts for the latter rain. I was ex cited by the vision of leading our pastors into a commitment to the covenant found at the front of the book, and then by the idea of them, in turn, leading their members into accepting and signing the covenant. I realize, of course, that the conference leadership must set the pace in spiritual renewal. But our pastors are the key to the spiritual condition of the churches. If we have pastors who are spiritually strong, we will have congregations that are committed to the third angel's message. So the Chesapeake Conference immediately bought enough books to give to the pastors and to their members who regularly attend church.

At the pastors' meeting in January 1999, the book and the covenant were introduced. We spent time talking about the responsibility of church leaders to guide the people into a deeper relation ship with Jesus. We spent time in prayer over this covenant and what God expects us to do. When it came time to call for a commitment, and the pastors were asked to sign the covenant and to move to the front of the room where we were meeting to acknowledge their commitment, not one stayed in their seats. It was a moving thing to witness.

GR: You and Rob Vandeman, secretary of the conference, set the example for the pastors by signing your covenant cards first. As you have followed through on your commitment over the past eighteen months, have you noticed or felt any difference in your spiritual life?

NH: Definitely. I blocked off time in the mornings for private study and prayer. I began rereading Acts of the Apostlesby Ellen White, and, believe me, it was moving. There are two powerful chapters at the beginning of the book dealing with the Day of Pentecost and the work of the Holy Spirit. I realized as never before how dependent we are on the power and efficiency of the Spirit and what God wants to do with and through His people. And you know, I experienced some unusual things. First of all, I felt a spiritual renewal within myself. Then I began to realize that I was being helped with administrative responsibilities. It seemed to me that my leadership style was being strengthened and solutions to problems were coming more easily. The whole experience is exciting.

GR: Since Getting Ready to Meet Jesus and the covenant card were introduced to the pastors in January 1999 and then introduced to the churches of the Chesapeake Conference in March of that year, what has your administration done to help keep the focus on the renewal experience?

NH: Several things. The emphasis of our 1999 camp meeting was on get ting ready to meet Jesus. Peoples' attention was directed to the book repeatedly, and the importance of entering into the covenant was emphasized over and over again. The pastors are encouraged at workers' meetings to be loyal to the covenant that they have signed, to keep praying and studying.

Letters have been sent to the pas tors and church elders stressing the need for revival and encouraging all to stay focused. There is a strong emphasis on prayer ministry, seminars for prayer coordinators are being conducted, and a strong emphasis on daily prayer sessions is a part of our camp meeting. Rob Vandeman is preparing a daily Bible reading schedule for our conference members, and Rick Remmers, our conference prayer coordinator, is preparing a Spirit of Prophecy reading plan that will be used in 2001.

GR: Have you detected any changes in the congregations that make up the conference constituency?

NH: Within a number of congregations, there is a growing interest in developing prayer groups that meet on various days of the week. And where there is an emphasis on prayer, there is spiritual growth, and conflict is minimized. As with my responsibilities in the office, it seems that solutions to knotty problems within church families are re solved much more easily. Another thing that I have noticed and find quite interesting, prayer helps people correct distorted pictures of God. There is no question in my mind that prayer helps the saints to be saints, and a strong emphasis on prayer in churches helps churches to be a loving family.

GR: I understand that you have been asked to be the prayer coordinator for the Columbia Union. What will that responsibility involve?

NH: This is something new for me and for the Union, so I am entering uncharted waters. This responsibility opens up many doors of opportunity. The various conferences are being encouraged to select a prayer coordinator for the entire conference. In Chesapeake, we have asked Rick Remmers, pastor of our Atholton Church, to assume this responsibility. The prayer coordinator of the conference will facilitate and help organize the program of the prayer coordinators of individual churches.

I see the focus of my responsibilities as Union Prayer Coordinator to be on the administration of the Columbia Union conferences. As conference leaders throughout the union gather for various meetings, opportunities can be given for special times of prayer. This is where I can give some guidance and make a contribution. Between meetings, I will have opportunities by letters and by phone to encourage our leaders to make prayer and revival a top priority. I am sure that a strong emphasis on prayer, revival, and reformation will continue to grow in the Columbia Union as we prepare our hearts to receive the latter rain.

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George E. Rice, Ph.D., is the pastor of the Triadelphia Seventh-day Adventist Church, Clarksville, Maryland, United States.
Neville Harcombe is president of the Chesapeake Conference in Columbia, Maryland.

August 2000

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