Phil Migliarotti of the National Pastors’ Prayer Network (NPPN) – interviews Eddie Smith of the US Prayer Center
NPPN: Eddie, explain the ministry of prayer that is connected to the “Get Motivated” seminars … In fact, explain the purpose and scope of the seminars, too!
Well, Phil, first of all let me thank you for your longtime friendship, your wonderful international ministry, and for this opportunity to discuss marketplace ministry. Each year, the Get Motivated Seminars, featuring speakers like legendary Christian businessman, Zig Ziglar, “America’s Mayor” Rudi Giuliani, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, businessman Steve Forbes, former U.S. presidents and sports heroes like former heavy-weight boxing champion and pastor, George Foreman, fill the largest arenas in America. These seminars, designed to encourage and inspire business people in areas of sales, investing, and leadership were created and are produced by noted Christian businessman Peter Lowe. I describe Peter and his wife, Tamara, as evangelists who operate a business; rather than business people who do evangelism, because although billed as “motivational seminars,” without question their heart is evangelism. In fact, during each seminar Peter follows his personal development presentation with a clear presentation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In these marketplace seminars he invites tens of thousands of the nation’s “up-and-outers” to repent of their sins and to receive Christ as their Savior and Lord. And each year thousands of American business people register first-time decisions for Christ.
NPPN: You are a pioneer in the prayer movement – Have you seen anything that comes close to this partnership of marketplace ministry and prayer?
Of the many wonderful and effective marketplace evangelism ministries I see today, this most likely the largest expression of marketplace evangelism in history. I know of none who on a week-to-week basis compares. It’s remarkable to see 15,000-20,000 (sometimes more) business people in a marketplace setting listen intently to a presentation of Gospel.
NPPN: What have you learned in the prayer room about united prayer across denominational and stylistic differences? Has the Church made progress in the last 15-20 years at being better able to unite in prayer for a common Kingdom cause?
As you know, Phil, in each of these events we set aside a room we call The Power Center where we (Alice or I) facilitate all-day onsite worship and intercession (Harp and Bowl) with approximately 25 local pastors and other praying people. The seminar company provides the room, a keyboard and other necessary worship equipment, free passes, staff badges for the day, their breakfast and lunch, and a couple of free books. I call it a hands-on, marketplace, prayer/evangelism workshop. It’s an opportunity to be engaged in prayer “in the trenches” to extend the Kingdom.
As far as Peter and Tamara Lowe and their Get Motivated staff are concerned, those who serve in The Power Center are VIPs in every way. The Lowe’s attribute their remarkable business and ministry success to the Lord’s response to the prayer-investment of these wonderful teams. Sometimes the speakers visit the prayer room for prayer. And there have been verifiable miracles occur in direct connection with our prayers. Our teams are not “pre-selected.” Via email we announce upcoming events and our need for praying people. We encourage folks to register to serve using an Internet registration form at www.usprayercenter.org/seminars . The first 25 who register, first-come first-served, comprise our team.
As you might imagine, the teams are always unique and distinctly different. Each is a blend of races, ages, and denominational and nondenominational backgrounds. There are different prayer-styles, expectations, and approaches in prayer. One of our roles is to welcome them, clearly explain to them the purpose for the day, outline to them the procedure we will be using and why. It’s not unlike becoming “pastor-for-a-day.” It involves setting the course, encouraging, instruction, coaching, and yes, sometimes (though rarely) correction.
It all begins by praying through the arena prior to the opening of the doors. We’ve managed these prayer rooms for the past three years, which represents more than 100 events. I can certainly tell you that in the past three years I’ve witnessed a growing maturity in intercession, prayer and spiritual warfare. Clearly, praying Christians are…
more accepting and affirming of one another,
more specific and strategic in their praying,
less committed to the latest “techniques” and fads, and
more understanding of the purpose of prayer.
“Maturity.” That’s the word that comes to mind. And, as you suggest, 15-20 years ago prayer rooms like these would have been much more difficult. For one thing it would have been harder to find people willing to serve in this capacity. They wouldn’t have known the value of prayer back then. Sadly, prayer and evangelism were “divorced” at that time. There were so many approaches then, and everyone consider their approach the right one. Personal liberty was elevated over corporate unity (in conflict with 1 Cor. 14). And, as a rule, corporate prayer wasn’t corporate prayer at all. At best it was “individual prayer in a corporate setting.” True corporate prayer is today a colorful bud, beginning to bloom into a beautiful flower that must certainly bless the Father.
NPPN: You are also an evangelist – What are you learning about the role of prayer toward impacting the marketplace with the Gospel?
Perhaps our “prayerwalking friend” Steve Hawthorne is the one who suggests that we pray where we want to see the answer come. I know that when Alice and I were pastors of a local church in Houston we didn’t just pray for God to close the “gentlemen’s clubs” (strip joints). We literally divided the congregation into teams, piled into vans (four to six people in a van) and drove to those clubs. We parked on the outer edges of the parking lots and prayed. Our ladies took Christmas gifts to the exotic dancers and blessed them. Then the following week we scoured newspapers, radio and television broadcasts, Etc. for any evidence that we had “hit the target.” It was strategic, productive prayer. When there was no indication of our success we were honest enough to gather and admit that we had missed. But there was great excitement and celebration when there was measurable, discernable evidence that we had been heard in heaven. As there was the week 27 clubs closed! We celebrated the Lord for his faithfulness to hear and respond to us.
One morning an exotic dancer called from the parking lot of the gentleman’s club for which she worked. Alice and her prayer team led the girl to Christ over the phone. She quit her job at the club, and the last we heard she was attending Oxford University in England completely her degree.
We witnessed to one successful businessman. He was so moved (though unsaved) that he invited our church to come and pray through his place of business. We did. God moved in powerful ways that night. In the days that followed his business literally exploded. He became a popular radio personality on one of the most powerful stations in Houston. And one night, sitting on his patio with him and his wife, we had the privilege of leading him to Christ! Due to his “radio pulpit” his Christian testimony touches the entire city of Houston today.
I believe prayer is the key to impacting the marketplace with the Gospel. For too long we have overlooked the evangelistic opportunities there. And when we did present Christ, we presented the spiritual truths of the Gospel to spiritually blind people. Presenting Christ is “Step Two;” effective, strategic, targeted prayer is “Step One.” I’m pleased to say that recently I’ve learned of a mayor of one of the nation’s largest cities; one of Hollywood’s most successful movie producers; and one who could quite likely be a presidential candidate in the future have all come to Christ in the marketplace!
If I were a pastor today I would spend three Saturday mornings teaching my business people how to minister in the marketplace. Then I would have an “ordination” service and ordain them to the “marketplace ministry.” I would give them forms to report monthly how many times they shared the Gospel, how many prayer meetings and Bible studies they conducted, how many converts they had and any other things related to their ministry, including business successes. I would “do what I see the Father doing.”
NPPN: What fruit is resulting from these boiler rooms of prayer?
Phil, until I was 40 years old the churches I grew up in and served as pastor or a pastoral staff member had three or more weeks of intense church-centered evangelism each year. These week-long (which later degraded to three-day) crusades included sermons on “the second coming,” “the cross,” “the blood,” “hell,” and Etc. The purpose? To make sure every church member was truly saved, and that every child nine-years old or older knew Christ. In addition, we conducted spring and fall city-wide evangelistic crusades in football stadiums. Alice and I ministered in more than 800 of these events in the 60s and 70s.
Suddenly, overnight it seemed, it became “un-cool” for pastors to offer salvation invitations on Sunday morning following their messages. In fact, the preaching of the gospel was replaced with sermons on marriage, parenting, business ethics, and such. Even in our prayer conferences and seminars Alice and I preach the gospel. We are finding that many church folks have never truly been born again. They talk the talk, but Christ isn’t alive in them! This very morning more than 30 adults in the congregation where I preached came forward to trust Christ as their Savior. A couple of years ago I spoke to one of the world’s premiere youth ministries. That night 75 of those young people who had committed themselves to Christian ministry wept their way to Christ. Their testimonies were almost all the same: “I’ve made a decision for Christ in the past, but until tonight I’d never encountered his transforming power. Now I know He’s alive in me!”
Alice and I have led pastors, ministers of worship, deacons and their wives, and missionaries to Christ. One evangelist we led to Christ wept and said, “I’ve seen thousands of people come to Christ during my 19 years in evangelism. Every time I watched one of them receive Christ and saw their transformation I wished it were me.
Phil, the long answer to your question is: the average church isn’t even engaged in evangelism among their own congregation, much less their neighborhood, and city. Thank God for the exceptions. And thank God he is beginning to move out of the church building and into the marketplace. People are being led to Christ by their bosses and work associates. At the Get Motivated Seminars, when Christians see Peter Lowe’s bold and effective presentation of Christ in a public, business environment, they are convicted and challenged to “come out of the closet” and be who God designed them to be. And the nameless and faceless prayer-servants, worshiping and praying in that hidden room we call “The Power Center” at each seminar Peter and Tamara’s ministry-partners. As they often say, “For years we did it without you. We wouldn’t want to ever do what we do again without people praying onsite.”
NPPN: Anything else prayer leaders and evangelists ought to know…?
Perhaps you’ve heard it said that in the 1950s God’s spotlight fell on the evangelist. Remember, Billy Graham was discovered in 1948 in Los Angeles, California. Every young preacher boy in the 1950s wanted to be an evangelist.
God’s spotlight shifted to the pastor in the 1960s. It was in the 1960s that many of today’s “mega churches” and “mega church pastors” planted their roots. In fact, in the 1960s I saw many evangelists leave evangelism to pastor churches. They couldn’t have absolutely known why they felt the impulse to do it. But looking back, it was clear that God’s focus was on the role of the pastor.
In the 1970s heaven’s spotlight moved again; this time to the teacher. The decade of the 70s was the decade of radio teachers and cassette tapes. Christians woke up each morning with two or three radio preachers they would listen to that day. If they were Charismatic/Pentecostal their list included people like Oral Roberts, Charles Capps, Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, and others. If they were Evangelical their list included Chuck Swindoll, John McArthur, J. Vernon McGee, and others. It was in the 70s that an amazing teacher appeared, so it seemed, from nowhere. Without music he filled the largest stadiums in the nation to capacity. With a microphone and an overhead projector, Bill Gothard, anointed by the Holy Spirit changed the course of American Christianity.
Then with the 1980s God’s spotlight moved to the prophet. Suddenly I had a problem. I thought prophets were consigned to the Old Testament. I suppose I had concluded that God had written a “Best-seller” and retired, having nothing else to say. I had conveniently overlooked what he said in his “Best-seller,” “he that hath an ear to hear, let him hear what the Lord is saying to the churches.” I discovered that he hadn’t stopped speaking, I had stopped listening; or at least I’d relegated him to three subjects: who to marry; what college to attend; and how much to put in the offering.
I had no more adjusted to the idea that God was still speaking when the spotlight moved in the 90s to the apostle. That was the biggest shock of all. I thought there were twelve and they were all dead. It had never dawned on me that there were still “fathers” (pastors of the pastors) in the church and that their would be until the church attains to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Last time I checked, we’re not even close! However, I do believe in God’s “suddenlies.” I believe God has his church in the fast lane toward maturity. PTL!
WHAT IS THIS DECADE? There is only one thing left in Ephesians 4:11-13. It is for the saints equipped for the work of the ministry to come out of the closet in the marketplace. Clearly there are signs around the world that this has begun. The first six years, now entering the seventh, we have seen remarkable, historic transformations!
NPPN: Eddie, please write a prayer that we can all pray with you that takes praying out of the church building and expands it beyond the sick and tired prayer lists . . .
“Father God, we love you, your heart, and your intentions toward us and toward all mankind. We repent for our failure to take you into every area of our lives. We repent for not taking you to the nations as we should have, and for being one-hour Christians who say hello to you at eleven o’clock each Sunday and says goodbye precisely at noon.
Today we commit ourselves to be 24/7 believers, engaged with you in every part of our lives. Forgive us for considering prayer to be little more than a tool to get what we need, a way to solve problems, rather than an instrument with which to extend your kingdom.
We’ve been problem-centered, not purpose-driven in our praying. We have focused on ‘these things’ that you said would be added, rather than focusing on ‘the thing’– your kingdom. We see it! When we pray in your kingdom, our needs are met! When we make ‘your thing’ our thing, you will make ‘our things’ your thing. We are getting the picture. It’s not about us, it’s about you and about your kingdom.
We accept your challenge to carry your message into the marketplace. We say ‘yes’ to your challenge to present Christ to the cab drive, the delivery boy, our employees, fellow workers, and employers.
We ask you to once again light the ‘fire of evangelism’ in the belly of the American church and pastor. We ask you to make your church a blazing torch to which those who are wandering in darkness can come and find life. And make us light-bearers that we may be torches in the marketplace who bring light to those held captive in darkness. We give you all glory, in Christ’s name. Amen.”