Taking Prayer Requests: Outreach from Hudson Valley Family Church
“If everyone would rescue one person from hell a year, the church will double.”
– Pastor Jack Yurus
Hudson Valley Family Church
Last year when Pastors Jack and Marilyn Yurus moved their congregation, Hudson Valley Family Church, from rented rooms at a local college to assist a nearby community church, Pastor Jack knew it was ordained by God. Fixing up the church building took a tremendous amount of heavy cleaning, repairing, building, painting and patience. Yet, even as things took shape inside the building, life outside the church remained unchanged.
Week after week, Pastor Jack would ask, “Are there any visitors?” No one raised a hand. No one came forward to the newly finished altar. Over a decade later, the size of the congregation remains about the same. Pastor Jack knew he had to go out to the people in the neighborhood. If you like to fish, you can’t simply talk about getting your tackle, rods, and driving the boat to your favorite fishing spots, you’ll never get there. You have to get in the boat, get out on the water and drive to your favorite hole. “We may not have the time to go on all day fishing trips but we must fish all day,” said Pastor Jack. “At work, baseball games, school, the grocery store, the DMV…”
Prior to founding Hudson Valley Family Church in 2002, Pastor Jack was the youth pastor at Calvary Center Church in Yonkers, New York for seven years and assistant pastor for nine years. Pastor Jack was radically saved 29 years ago. He didn’t sleep much for the first two weeks, he’d be out all night long telling folks about Jesus. He’d take short naps and take off again—he felt compelled to go out and tell somebody. It was after that that he did the work of an evangelist. He had few bills, was living at his parents home and had a flexible job. So, for the next five or six years, he went fishing. “I have food to eat that you know nothing about…” (John 4:32). “It was the most fulfilling time,” Pastor Jack said.
Pastor Jack never lost the heart of an evangelist. He really never stopped fishing; he never stopped evangelizing. “It was my desire to duplicate myself,” said Pastor Jack. “I instilled in people the love of God and even a heart for the lost.” But once again the cares of life creeped in and choked out opportunities to reach out—marriage, children, his own business—life got really busy. The many job (s) of a pastor: preparing sermons, banking, paying rent, setting up every week, children’s church, taking care of the problems of your spiritual children in addition to his own marriage and children. Plus, he always worked during his 28 years of ministry.
With a full plate of real responsibilities, Pastor Jack could see that, after a decade, not much was happening in his church. In his spirit, he sensed Jesus asking him: ‘What are you doing?’ He knew he had to lead by example and asked himself, ‘So, are you or are you not going? He realized he had to make a change. Back in the ‘80s it was easy to evangelism, then the ‘90s, no one would listen to you and now it has come around again. So Pastor Jack appointed others to handle more church business and once again went after the lost.
Where We Were
Meanwhile, HVFC members worked tirelessly to get the physical aspects of the church ready for new people. Two members of the outreach team, Ralph and Stan, realized they had become distracted by multiple maintenance projects. One Saturday night, while cleaning the church for Sunday’s service, they saw the real priority should be focused on reaching the lost. ‘What good is it to have a well-kept church and no one in it?’ Stan thought.
“We saw we were missing it,” said Ralph. “We had to go out there and share His love.” That Sunday, Pastor Jack preached a word God gave him: “What good would it be for a man if he gains the whole world yet forfeits his soul? (Matthew 16:26). It was one of the times God spoke to Pastor Jack and said, ‘What would it profit a man if he gained the whole world and his neighbor went to hell?’ Pastor Jack knew what he meant by his neighbor, it wasn’t just your neighbor but everybody.
As though a knife had been driven through the hearts of Ralph and Stan, they responded immediately. It was confirmation. They went out to the streets the following week.
The outreach team knew their job was to bring new life to the church by reaching the lost. In prayer, they asked the Lord, ‘How can we approach people and get the maximum effect?’ God gave them an idea: ”Take Prayer Requests.” So they printed that in white letters on black T-shirts. The t-shirt served as an evangelistic tool. Even fellow Christians would approach them commenting, ‘What a great idea’ or ‘How do I get one of those t-shirts?’
Keith Moore said that fancy marketing and flyers won’t get people to God but prayer will. The first time the team took to the streets, a guy came up to them saying, ‘Yo! Yo! Can you pray for me?’ Another person driving by slowed down and asked, ‘I need a job, will you pray that I get one?’
Ralph remarked, “Some will come up and talk to you but others will simply read our shirts. The Word is planted in their hearts and the Word does not return void.”
Consistency is key. Every week before they head out, they worship, pray and enter into the presence of God. People have come to expect them and many follow up or know to ask for prayer. They are always lead by the Holy Spirit when they pray and always refer to “Jesus says…” They never argue but rather encourage and love people.
The team has an agenda: to build people up; share information and resources; pray the Word of God with them; hand out Bibles; teach them about the name of Jesus and ultimately lead them to salvation. Instead of tracts, they leave prayer cards of encouragement. Thus far, the cards have had a greater impact. After praying for others, the team gets phone numbers, emails, and names and follows up.
Evangelizing and sharing God’s Word with people was far outside of Ralph and Stan’s comfort zone. But, through Pastor Jack, they caught the church’s vision. They got a revelation of their hearts for the lost and understood it was critical.
The team encourages others to trust in the Holy Spirit and His leading—they suggest stepping out in faith. Another way they encourage the congregation is by sharing videos and testimonies of being used by God and seeing the results of prayer. They have focused on creating a fun and relaxed environment.
Just Do It!
Divine appointments await daily. Don’t allow distractions to deter you. Do not wait for someone else to do what God is calling you to do.
“You are more than able,” says Ralph. “Open your mouth, God will fill it and the Holy Spirit will take over.”