Michigan Church Prioritizes Prayer, Community Impact
By Jacey Crawford
“If you get married, and you don’t talk to your spouse at all, except for maybe on Christmas and Easter, do you think you’re going to have a good marriage?” asked Veronica Roesly, co-pastor of Barryton Church of God in Barryton, Michigan. As anyone with a spouse knows, the answer to her mostly-rhetorical question is a big, fat no.
In the same way, Roesly continued, how good can one’s relationship with God be if their only conversation with him occurs twice a year—or even once a week? For Roesly and her congregation, this is a principle taken to heart. In May, the members of the church participated in twenty-one days of prayer and fasting, which was followed by twelve hours of non-stop prayer. The church then organized a prayer walk that prepared the congregation for its June revival.
Although prayer meetings are common among churches, prayer walks are less common. For Barryton Church of God, a church of about sixty people, the walk began with fifteen minutes of corporate prayer. This was followed by a quiet walk-through of the town, with people joining however they could—some even riding golf carts.
Roesly explained that Barryton, a small town about 100 miles north of Lansing, has not been immune to the drug crisis plaguing the nation, and the community also struggles with poverty. She described the town’s collective attitude towards God as “lethargic.”
“To penetrate [the community], we not only have to be willing to go out and live what we believe to be true, but also battle in the face of the enemy, and that is when we physically go out and do these prayer walks,” she said. “So, it’s very uncomfortable for people to be able to do that because they’re doing it in a dark area that doesn’t want anything to do with God.”
Although the walk may have been out of many people’s comfort zones, Roesly reported that many of the attendees felt “enlightened” by the experience. “In order to be able to impact the city, we have to be a congregation willing to be on her knees for the city,” said Roesly.
Roesly hopes that this walk is the first of what will become an annual—or quarterly—tradition in which her church participates.
“A church that does not pray, and does not hold that as a priority as a church, is setting itself up to die,” Roesly said, explaining just how vital prayer is to the life of the church. “Because what you’re doing is you’re walking yourself and your flock out of the covering of Father God. So, prayer has to be of utmost importance.”
Roesly explained that when a church refuses to put a strong emphasis on prayer, they are falling short of what God has called them to do and to be.
“He says, ‘My church shall be called a house of prayer,’” she said. “He doesn’t say, ‘My church shall be a country club.’ He says it’s a house of prayer.”
Beyond the church, individual Christians should prioritize prayer in their personal lives, Roesly explained. Prayer is necessary for building, strengthening, and maintaining a relationship with the heavenly Father.
“Not only are we called to be a house of prayer, we are called to pray,” she said, citing a verse from the Old Testament.
The passage, 2 Chronicles 7:14, reads, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (NIV).
“That’s a promise,” she said.
Roesly encouraged Christians—from brand new believers to the most mature followers of Christ—to pray continually.
“We’re talking to Jesus,” she remarked. “We get the one who raised Lazarus from the dead, we get the one who heals the lame, who heals the sick, who walked on water—we get to talk to that person who is in our hearts on a constant daily basis.”
But Roesly understands that prayer can be intimidating for some—especially newer Christians. Many who struggle with prayer explain that they simply don’t know what to say. And Roesly gets it—listening to die-hard prayer warriors offering up eloquently-worded prayers can be intimidating, to say the least.
The good news, she explained, is that God doesn’t require every prayer to be straight out of a poetry book—he wants prayer to be genuine conversation, laying everything before him in conversation.
“His shoulders are big enough for our pain. They’re big enough for our sorrows. They’re big enough for joy,” she said. “They’re big enough for anything that we have on our hearts.”
Jacey Crawford is an Anderson University student majoring in journalism and criminal justice with minors in cinema and media arts and in writing.
Learn more about the Church of God movement at www.JesusIsTheSubject.org.
Feature (top) collage: Church of God Ministries’ Bob Moss preaches at their June revival (left); baptism at the revival.