Prayer Summits, Seeking God's Agenda for Your Community
By Joe Aldrich
Reviewed by Dr. James Rosscup
4.1 (Spring 1993) : 95-96
This book is provocative in many ways, especially in its examples of Christian leaders with doctrinal convictions who work humbly together in an overall unity with Christians of other denominations.
Aldrich, president at Multnomah School of the Bible, Portland, writes about approximately sixty leaders in the state of Washington at a "Prayer Summit" in 1990. They came from churches of Baptist, Church of Christ, and Episcopalian denominations. They prayed, confessed sins, and interceded for each other, while gaining victories over lusts, marital strains, and the sinful judgment of others. They agreed to weekly and monthly area-meetings for purposes of prayer, seeking revival, and drawing their wives into the same experience.
Chapter 2 tells how churches can hinder their corporate Christian impact by fostering disunity. Aldrich decries the practice of non-charismatics bad-mouthing the ministries of charismatics and of independents looking down on mainline churches. He furnishes some explanation of how to foster cooperation, but some readers will wish he were more definitive. His solution is in an analogy: Nehemiah wept, fasted, prayed, confessed Israel's sins, and sought to rebuild Jerusalem's wall (Neh 1:4-6; 2:17). Likewise, God's people need to seek unity. Aldrich needs to grapple more with how to balance contending for doctrinal purity and maintaining Christian love by clarifying specific challenges encountered in seeking this balance. How, for instance, can unity flourish in an environment where faulty exegesis of God's Word prevails, circulating concepts that can wound the church?
The author regards Hezekiah's call to Jerusalem as a prototype for revival (2 Chronicles 29-30). Zeal for holiness led to house cleaning, humbling, confessing, and unifying around God. "Lectures wouldn't have produced this unity," but worship did (52). Proclaiming God's Word rightly, though, can be itself a true expression of worship. Aldrich probably did not mean for this "either/or" to apply in every case, but some may get the impression he does. Other passages are explicit that preaching and teaching are crucial aspects in a worship that expresses and stimulates unity. Aldrich spells out good principles drawn from Hezekiah's "prayer summit" (54-57).
To the author, unity is not unanimity or uniformity (69), but he needs to clarify this more. He deals with issues later, yet only briefly. He cites two examples, one of a person who may drive a Ford while another drives a Chevrolet and another of a person who prefers the KJV in contrast with another who chooses the NIV (70).
It is puzzling why Aldrich speaks of God as asking a man of prayer why he was not praying for a city's economy to fail, for corruption to win, for law and order to fall apart, for division and strife to run rampant, and for the godly to be persecuted, yet to show a godly victory in this (77). He needs to explain this better. True, God wants His people to be holy, however bad the situation. But does this carry with it an indication that God wants the godly to pray that ungodliness will prevail?
The book makes the point that unity does not pour all believers into the same mold -e.g., that all must give altar calls or use the same mode of baptism. Unity does mean agreeing on such essentials as Christ's deity and humanity, Scripture's inspiration, the Trinity, substitutionary atonement, salvation by faith, holiness, and Jesus' bodily resurrection from the grave. Unity is invalid among people who deny these (pp. 106-7).
In chap. 12 pastors describe how "prayer summits" work. They note the twelve components that go into a summit. Then Aldrich provides eleven suggestions for starting a summit and fourteen details to tend to at a summit. The closing challenge is, "May God enable us to get John 17 out of mothballs and into the mainstream of the life of the church" (218). The book will stimulate readers to consider the viability of "prayer summits." It also will provoke questions for thoughtful readers, some of whom will disagree with certain positions recommended in the book. It will help Christians analyze what their response should be to this type of prayer ministry.