“I have always felt the Church of Jesus is bigger than any denomination,” says Durst, 72.
He sees the beauty of accomplishing the Great Commission more effectively by joining with other evangelical leaders. Even as a student at Central Bible College in Springfield, Missouri, as well as early in his pastoral ministry, Durst recognized the value of interdenominational fellowships.
About 12 years ago, Durst assembled a prayer team of evangelical denominational leaders in New York.
“We are all on the same team and needed to build relationships,” says Durst, a member of the 21-member AG Executive Presbytery, which serves as the board of directors for the Fellowship.
He offered a bold proposal: focus on revival via the next Great Awakening plus pray for each other’s needs and ministries.
Evangelical colleagues scheduled a regular monthly prayer time via conference calls, video conferencing, and in-person gatherings.
“It has been a concerted effort to break strongholds fighting against Christianity in the Northeast,” Durst says. “The Northeast is one of the greatest mission fields, with many cities hostile to Christianity.”
Andrew Binda, bishop and field director of Asia/Pacific for Church of God (COG) World Missions in Cleveland, Tennessee, joined the clergy prayer network in the beginning. He served as the COG’s New York superintendent for 10 years. While praying with colleagues for a harvest of souls, he also gained valuable relationships.
“As peers, we understood one another’s concerns and drew from one another,” Binda says. “I saw God intervening in impossible situations.”
“Our monthly prayer fellowship is a real source of well-being, without any hint of competition,” says Samuel Vassel, superintendent of the Metro New York District of the Church of the Nazarene.
Experiencing similar stresses from COVID-19, colleagues shared ideas and solutions.
“We were simply demonstrating the Christian norm of loving one another,” Vassel says.
Durst invited Major Charles Roberts, director of county operations for the Salvation Army in Syracuse to join the prayer team in 2017.
“It was a ready-made family of faith leaders for me,” Roberts recalls. “Prayer is essential to see the move of God in this nation.”
Terry M. Robertson, executive director-treasurer of the Baptist Convention of New York, is another original member of the prayer team.
“Praying together puts us on holy ground,” Robertson says. “We do not pray for our own territories, but for lost souls.”
He says the group’s combined effort has resulted in more people accepting Christ as Savior than would have otherwise.
In April, at Fountain of Life Center in Burlington, New Jersey, 250 pastors and church leaders from six AG ministry networks gathered with evangelical denominational leaders for a day of prayer for the next Great Awakening. They prayed for six hours without a break, focusing on revival and restoring godliness in society. AG leaders and denominational executives led prayer sessions that covered the Great Awakening theme, church planting, global missions, college campuses, next generation leaders, and renewal of the Holy Spirit.
AG General Superintendent Doug Clay encouraged participants to fully embrace and believe Ephesians 3:2, that God is able to do immeasurably more than humans can imagine. Clay expects to see spiritual awakening signs as a result of the prayer summit.
The AG participants included the New York Ministry Network, New Jersey Ministry Network, Potomac Ministry Network, PennDel Ministry Network, Southern New England Ministry Network, and Spanish Eastern District.
The New York prayer team is urging the denominational pastors they represent to set aside a minimum one-hour monthly prayer session in their churches to pray for the Holy Spirit moving in New York and the Northeast.
“Like the Fulton Street Prayer Revival in 1857 that grew exponentially and led to an estimated one million converts, we are believing for revival and a culture change in the Northeast,” Durst says. “It starts with just one spark that our Fellowship keeps fanning into a flame.”
PHOTO: Duane Durst, Terry Robertson, and PennDel Ministry Network Superintendent Don Immel pray for pastors.