By Jose Urbina
I first heard about the conference while visiting some friends from Tucson. They raved about the meetings and glowed from the awesome way they had experienced God at the gatherings in Prescott.
My curiosity was piqued. I was attending an evangelical church in San Diego in those days, but none of the churches I ever attended had challenged me in that manner!
The Prescott church, the gathering of the fellowship which is the ministry of Pastor Mitchell, is unlike anything I had experienced then or have experienced since, in terms of church or of living for God.
My wife, Maria, and I are indebted to our pastor of almost 40 years, and to those who made it possible for us to attend this year. The question that pops into my mind is: What did God do in you? In answer, let me share what makes Prescott conference significant to me:
Prescott conference is a place of remembrance. Maria and I had the privilege of pastoring the church in Blythe, California, for a time. It was there that God saved Rick and Cecilia Martinez. We had lunch with them during this year’s conference, and Rick reminded me of a get-together we had at their house for a visiting evangelist.
It was a turning point in Rick’s life, as the evangelist spoke of the future ministry of Rick Martinez when he was as yet a green convert with many struggles. When I asked the evangelist if this was simply a word of encouragement, or if he felt that God was speaking this to Ricky, he affirmed the latter.
This January, Rick’s church launched two works from the Prescott conference, making a total of fifteen churches from Rick’s ministry!
Prescott conference sets the pace. My first impression at this year’s conference was quite unexpected. The image of Evangelist Kris Hart in working man’s attire, driving a golf cart to humbly fill a transportation need, was something to behold. What was even more impressive was the joy I detected on his face, like a jolly ole Santa.
That joy was apparent on the faces of all who served at the conference, from the glamorous aspects right down to those on parking lot duty. It’s the joy of God’s spirit resting on those people.
The Prescott church is a trend setter in its joyful service, and this is where our fellowship gets its cues.
Prescott conference is a place of decision. On Thursday night of my first conference, after new foreign works were announced, Pastor Mitchell’s challenge went out to all the young men to obey the call of God, to submit to the conviction of the Holy Ghost, and to discipline their lives through discipleship.
That day I relinquished all that I thought had value, moved to Tucson, and started my pursuit of the Lord. That was thirty-eight years ago, and He has done wonderful things.
It was also at a Prescott Conference that God gave me clarity as to who to marry. Young man, as you seek God, you too may find your future spouse in the most unlikely place: a prayer meeting!
Prescott conference is, above all, a place of challenge. While we can secure the sermons preached in conference on CD or other media, nothing beats being there. Two messages in particular challenged me profoundly and personally.
First, Mark Aulson’s remarkable exposition of how the Lord Jesus came back to restore a very forlorn and despondent Peter to ministry after his futile night of fishing. That the Lord would go out of His way to restore Peter gives me hope that I may also enter into that grace to find new fruitfulness.
The other message was the capstone sermon at the end of the week, in which Pastor Mitchell reiterated the challenge that has rung for decades: Who will go? Take a chance! Make the sacrifice…for the clock is ticking! The ambience was electric.
God spoke to me that the merit is not in seniority or works of righteousness, but by His might. I feel an obligation to my children in the Lord to continue to be a vessel unto honor that God can use.
This dynamic can only come to pass when the church allows the Word that proceeds out of the mouth of God to go forth without gimmicks and fanfare. When it comes to church, the model our Lord left us has sadly morphed into a well-intentioned but hit-and-miss situation where sincere men and women often turn this matter of the heart into a career.
Some folks who obtain a divinity degree may wind up very savvy business-wise, but lack the anointing to win souls and make converts to Jesus Christ. They see preaching as a job that just happens to be religious.
But in the beginning of the Early Church, the power of the Holy Ghost was upon them in such a way that anyone who came within earshot of those Gospel pioneers got saved in throngs (Acts 4:4).
What made the difference was God’s Word preached with the kind of power and anointing that brings life and change to a bound soul, coupled with a physical manifestation of what the Lord Jesus called “fishers of men” (Mark 1:17).
What makes it all work is the little phrase Jesus used in that call: “Come ye after Me” (emphasis mine).
What happened to me this year at conference cannot be attributed to the work of polished, educated sages with a long pedigree based on some famous preacher factory. I attribute it to the ministry of men who follow the Lord Jesus as the Apostle Mark notes, thus becoming fishers of men.
Consider the four elements in which the church must prevail: Worship, praying, loving, laboring.
Worship is the act of making a habitation where God can come down and join us. We do this when we lose ourselves in joyful and thankful adoration.
Prayer is when we speak what God speaks, forming a dialogue with our Father. I remember my mother teaching me the Lord’s Prayer from Matthew 6:9-13. Remarkably, I learned it quite fast. I did not know then that it was part of the Beatitudes. Neither did I realize that it points to a pattern of spiritual priorities in which relationship is central. It starts with our vertical relationship, “Our Father which art in Heaven” and what matters to Him. It ends with what pertains to both our physical and spiritual needs.
Loving is a challenge with all the tests that come along with it. Aside from all the notions of love we may have, the one that should resonate most to the church is in Jesus’ words to Peter: “Lovest thou Me? Feed my sheep” (John 21:15-18).
How do we do this? Glad you asked. We do it by serving with a grateful heart, just like Kris Hart and others did at Prescott conference.
Laboring is the physical manifestation of God’s love to and through us. James asked his readers how can one prove he or she has faith? By works. Living faith will manifest itself in actions, and very particular ones, at that! Otherwise the faith we boast of is dead.
The first three concepts are of a non-physical nature; the last one is physical. They are intertwined, the physical and the spiritual. They both must be present.
A church without the spirit is a monument. The Spirit without the body returns to God who gave it.
A prevailing church must have God’s Spirit. She must also have anointed disciples, fishers of men who will transmit this Spirit unto a decaying generation.
I thank God that I am a part of that.