Burleson Churches Unite in Prayer for Weekend Celebration
May 29, 2008 - It is best known as the hometown of American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson and the birthplace of See You at the Pole. But after this weekend, Burleson, Texas, may have a new claim to fame.
by Janet Chismar
If the prayers of pastors are answered, this growing city that sits in the shadow of Fort Worth will be home to hundreds of new Christians.
The weekend brings a long-anticipated event to Burleson – the first ever Will Graham Celebration. Beginning Friday and running through Sunday, the grandson of Billy and son of Franklin will carry on the family legacy of sharing God's Word and stirring hearts for Christ.
Burleson is actually named for an evangelist — Dr. Rufus Burleson, one of the founders of Baylor University. A local pastor, Henry Renfro, invited Burleson to preach a revival here in the late 1800's because he hoped to establish a church in the little community. The preacher came and a town and church were born – First Baptist of Burleson.
Mike Milburn, the current pastor of First Baptist, took a few moments from his duties as chairman of the Celebration pastors committee to talk about how churches have united in prayer for this weekend and how hearts already are changing.
For 20 years, there have been pockets of believers who have been praying for revival, for a new evangelistic outreach, says Milburn. "It all came to fruition for us a couple of years ago when we were prompted by the Holy Spirit to invite the BGEA to hold an event in the area."
A casual observer might wonder why a community that sits in the Bible belt even needs an evangelistic outreach. Milburn explains that although the town is rooted in the Christian tradition, the population has grown very rapidly and many of the newcomers don’t know the Lord as savior.
"That has been the point of hosting a Celebration like this – to present the gospel to a broad spectrum of our growing and varied population,” Milburn adds.
He finds it remarkable to see how God has brought together some 118 churches to host this Celebration. "Our local ministerial alliance, where the idea was initially born, is composed of only 15 to 20 churches. We are awestruck."
Teens Lead the Way
In the months leading up to the Celebration, the teenagers and students in Burleson have really taken the lead in prayer and even witnessing, says Milburn. "Our teenagers have also led the way in many respects by providing much of the enthusiasm and fervor for this Celebration."
According to Milburn, scores of teenagers have already committed their lives to Christ, primarily through the Christian Life and Witness Class that was held especially for teenagers. "God has raised up students from the area who have led other students to become more convicted about their own personal roles, of the necessity of leading their peers toward Christ."
The Christian Life and Witness Classes have deepened faith among teens and adults alike in Burleson. Multiple commitments have been made to the Lord. "That kind of discipleship training will continue to benefit us in the years to come," Milburn adds.
United in Prayer
Another result of the CLWC, according to Milburn, is that prayer lives have been deepened. "People have prayed more fervently, more specifically, more pointedly for the salvation of people around them, as well as for an atmosphere where people in this area will be aware of the convicting power of the Holy Spirit."
Pastors across Burleson also are praying for transformed lives. "Our God is a personal God and He knows already who will come to faith in Jesus at this particular event," says Milburn. "They may not even know yet that they will be in the stands this weekend, but when they arrive there, God is going to meet them and their lives will be transformed forever."
Jamey Wooten, who serves as the Celebration Director in Burleson, agrees that the city has united in prayer. "We are believing the Lord for a mighty outpouring of His love and forgiveness during the Celebration. It is our prayer that many will surrender their lives to Christ and that the long-standing walls of division will crumble as the Gospel is preached."
Sounding the Shofar
Each night this week, the Celebration prayer team has gathered at 9 to "saturate" the stadium where this weekend’s event will be held. On Thursday, prayer warrior Janet Askins blew a shofar from the 50-yard line to dedicate the field to the Lord.
She explains the symbolism of her actions: "The shofar is used to proclaim liberty over the land. I blew to the north, south, east and west – gathering people to come and hear the truth of the Gospel. But it is also a proclamation and warning to the enemy that his territory has been invaded, that he cannot come and enter and disrupt.”
"We also are proclaiming that all the superficial walls that people have built up around themselves will come tumbling down, just like at Jericho."
The prayer team marched around the stadium seven times and proclaimed that every preconceived idea or anything that the enemy would throw at people to discourage them from coming "won’t happen," says Askins. "This is God’s field now."
Read about Will Graham's hopes for the Celebration.