I have been the pastor at Altoona Alliance Church in Altoona, PA, for 21 years. When I moved here decades ago, I was told not to expect the churches or pastors to work together on anything. The statement was clear and consistent: “Churches don’t do things together in this city.” We didn’t even have a ministerium!
History shows that this has been on ongoing problem in Altoona for decades. Altoona is mentioned in Billy Graham’s biography, Just As I Am, but not in a positive way. In 1949 Billy Graham came to Altoona for one of his earliest evangelistic crusades, and it didn’t go well. He called it the “Altoona fiasco” and left with burning embers in his eyes and a doubt if he should continue to pursue gospel ministry (pp. 133–140 Just As I Am). What was the problem? Ongoing squabbling, competition, and dissension among the pastors and churches. In fact, pastors would not even sit on stage together during the crusade.
If you have ever lived in Altoona for any time, you know THAT story. In fact, some of us pastors have felt for some time it is like a curse over our city.
But the reality is that not much has changed in 70 years … that is, until April 2018.
In April 2018, seven city pastors got together to pray. We couldn’t settle on a day of the week to do this, so we decided to try Sunday at 6:30 AM.
At that first meeting, one pastor publicly apologized for any offense he or his church may have caused the other pastors or churches through pride, arrogance, and a “better than you” attitude. We were off and praying.
Over the past year, those seven pastors and four churches have grown to as many as 40 pastors and leaders, and 25 to 27 churches praying every Sunday at 6:30 AM … and now working together on ministry and events.
These prayer times resemble a huddle in football. Wikepedia says a huddle is for three reasons: to strategize, mobilize, and encourage. At these weekly prayer time huddles, we see these three happen nearly every week…