With the increasing opposition to the new administration and ongoing threats against conservative values, how do believers face the uphill battle to rebuild America? With the leftist agenda continuing its assault and the likelihood of increased spiritual warfare in the public arena, what is our best strategy for gaining ground and keeping it? Is there any model we can learn from that will give us clues for success?
Thankfully, there is a small community in Kentucky that went through an amazingly similar journey to what we are now going through as a nation. Not only did they face years of government corruption and control, but they faced decades of generational addictions, crime and outright hatred towards one another. Their story of breakthrough and transformation should not only inspire but give some insights into how to approach this battle from a kingdom perspective.
The incredible transformation story of Manchester, Kentucky, has been seen by thousands in Sentinel Group's documentary film, An Appalachian Dawn (2010). The story unfolds of a drug-infested, crime-ridden community steeped in cycles of hopelessness and despair due to corrupt governmental control. It was only when the "good folks" in town started to lose their kids to drug overdoses and suicide that people got desperate enough to pray. Following months of crying out to the Lord and pleading for heaven's intervention, they marched through town to take a stand against the corruption and control.
When 63 pastors openly repented of their apathy and lack of leadership in the public park, something broke. The fear of the Lord fell upon the 3,500 people gathered, and the tangible presence of God moved in. Everyone present knew something had changed. What followed is an amazing testimony of how the fear of the Lord and the supernatural grace of God enabled the citizens to rise up and take back their county—little by little. Though it would take almost three years for all the corruption to be uncovered and crooked officials brought to justice, their community saw tangible results that drew international attention. Their process of transformation is something our nation can learn from. Their responses to the ongoing threats and their fearless actions against impossible odds is proof of God's power to change and transform, not only a community, but a nation.
Doug Abner (Appalachian Center for Transformation) was a local pastor who helped lead the charge throughout Manchester's transformation. He tells of how unbelief and fear had crippled the church prior to the march in 2004. Due to the years of corruption of local officials and the rigged election system, believers felt helpless in making any changes. The lack of unity among churches only strengthened the resolve of corrupt officials to intimidate and threaten anyone who challenged their agenda. Even so, Abner shares that the day after the march, these same believers, now emboldened in their faith, came together to do something radical.
Instead of launching campaigns against the officials or publicly decrying their unlawful deeds, these believers went to the offices of these city officials with gifts of potted plants and asked if they could pray for them. One of these corrupt officials had previously threatened a pastor and his church. To their amazement, this official called in his staff and allowed Abner to lead them in prayer. Years later, this same official would confess Jesus as Lord and ask for forgiveness. The fear of the Lord was so prevalent that those involved in illegal activities began to turn on each other. As believers continued to pray and work together, God battled on their behalf. Even as the opposition continued, churches in the community began to see a dramatic increase of salvations, and the favor of God came upon the local church. Their unified stand and resolve to do things God's way was paying off.
Abner shares that the book of Nehemiah became their blueprint for how to rebuild their community. It started by not being swayed by the criticism of their opponents or giving in to the threats and insults (Neh. 4:7-9). Instead, they sought the Lord's strategies, worked together and got involved. With permission from the state attorney general, Abner's church began to televise previously closed-door courtroom proceedings for accountability to the public. In 2006, they championed a "Promote the Vote" campaign to encourage local citizens to run for office. The event ran all day as 130 ordinary citizens, many of them believers, ran for office. In 2007, a Christian woman was voted in as mayor, and the community saw even more dramatic changes as she, along with other newly elected officials, began to lead the city with godly wisdom and creative strategies for growth. Churches began to offer recovery programs for drug addicts and a Teen Challenge Center was established, where lifelong destructive cycles were broken.
Abner said it was not always easy. The first few years were a challenge, as many illegal activities continued even in the midst of revival. Even so, God's tangible presence gave the people a fearlessness to confront the challenges. They didn't get caught up in opinions and avoided any negative statements about their city. Realizing the power of their declarations and the impact of their witness, they chose their battles carefully. Pastors agreed to focus on the non-negotiables—"heaven and hell issues"—and let the other stuff go. They were intentional in seeking the Lord together, knowing the true power of unity in defeating their enemies.
Within a few years, Manchester became known as a "city of hope" and a testimony to the world of a transformed community. Not only were the people changed, but even the land began to produce again. Animals returned to the forests, and the water became drinkable. Crime went down, and jobs came back. The downtown landscape was beautified, and tourism began to flourish.
Manchester's testimony should be a lesson for us in this nation. We are at a similar place of opportunity. We have seen God work on our behalf in this last election, and now, we must get involved. Rather than simply criticizing the opposition through social media, we need to act. God's favor is already at work, and we must seize the opportunity to demonstrate the power of the kingdom through our witness and our work. It starts at the community level, where everyone can participate and make a difference.
The challenges before us are bigger than the White House. The engrained belief systems and mindsets of rebellion and godlessness must be shifted and displaced by a people of God's power and presence. It is only as we step up and actively engage in our fields of influence that we can make any lasting difference for the kingdom.
The process of transformation for Manchester, as well as for America, is just as the Lord says in Exodus 23:30: "Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have become fruitful and inherit the land."
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