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Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire Publisher: Zondervan Paperback – 2002
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Jim Cymbala became pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle in 1971 without any formal training other than a college sociology degree and a few years of business experience. The church was on the verge of collapse. It had fewer than twenty worshippers, few resources, and appeared unable to make its monthly mortgage payments. When this book was written in 1997, the Church had grown incredibly. The original church now has four Sunday meetings (each 2 ½ hours) at a facility that needed to be built to accommodate 1,600 attendees, plus BT has started another 6 churches in the greater New York area and another ten elsewhere. But Pastor Cymbala makes clear that the goals of his church have nothing to do with the dreaded modern ABC trinity (attendance, budget and cash) that others use to measure success of churches.
Pastor Cymbala shares the “secret” of how BT survived, thrived and transformed people’s lives. The secret comes down to one simple word: prayer. It is made clear that the Brooklyn Tabernacle and its members needed to be transformed, but are their issues any more urgent than my issues or the issues of other people in my congregation? Maybe, but it doesn’t matter! My church and I (and probably all of humanity) need to take seriously the Biblical examples of centering worship and life around prayer.
The Brooklyn Tabernacle has a strong music ministry. Pastor Cymbala’s wife Carol is the choir director and accompanist and writes some of the songs, even though she cannot read music. There are many examples on YouTube, iTunes and elsewhere of the remarkable music made by this choir; but, as the book makes clear, this wonderful music is much less a result of talent and training than it is of the choir’s ongoing commitment to and reliance on prayer.
This book contains some amazingly powerful examples of answered prayers. Perhaps the most poignant is the story of Pastor Cymbala’s daughter Chrissy, who rebelled against her earthly and heavenly fathers in her late teens. If there is anything missing from this book, it is explanations of how BT deals with unanswered prayers. I think I know the answer: pray with more focus, pray with more frequency, pray with more intensity, pray with more unity and listen for God’s answer more fervently!
"We must face the fact that for our churches and ministries to be all God wants them to be, they must be saturated with prayer. No new revelation or church-growth techniques will change the fact that spiritual power is always linked to communion with God. If you and I are prayerless, if our churches have no appetite for God’s presence, we will never reach our full potential in him."